The moment I became a mother I felt like I entered another realm of existence. After Taylor was born, I specifically remember texting my friend Christi and telling her I was shocked at my new heightened sense of awareness. Had I just been walking through life on auto pilot? I felt like a bear that had just come out of a long hibernation. I noticed all sorts of new things—how moms interacted with their children in public, where all the bathrooms with changing tables were within a 20 mile radius, which stores had private areas to nurse babies, how loudly family members talked on the phone (hello! the baby is sleeping) and the amount of violence in TV shows, music and other media.

My self awareness also heightened and caused me to reflect on how I’ve changed since motherhood. Looking back, motherhood helped me grow in many ways. I had to let go of old belief systems and fears that weren’t serving me anymore. There were also positive traits that grew exponentially after becoming a mom.

Growth area one: Appreciation for my own mother                                                                                              It’s difficult to really and truly appreciate your mom until you have a child of your own. After my daughter was born I immediately regretted every mean thing I’d ever said to my mom. I was in awe of just how much she loves me–after seeing how much I love Taylor. All those times I got mad at her and she said, “I was just trying to help.” SHE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH. She wasn’t trying to be a mean and spiteful lady like my teenage years tricked me into thinking. For the first time, I understood how heart wrenching it was for her to leave me at daycare while I was screaming for her to stay. I understood how sad and sick she must have felt when I told her I played by myself at recess in Kindergarten. I can see now how everything she did was to benefit me somehow.

Growth area two: Expressing emotions                                                                                                                     I never used to cry in public, in fact, I saw crying as a sign of vulnerability, and in my mind vulnerability = weakness. Pregnancy was a rude awakening for me and crying became a weekly occurrence. It’s tapered off a bit but it still happens way more than pre-motherhood. I don’t only cry because I’m sad. I cry because I’m happy, angry, tired, scared or worried. Heck, I might even shed a tear if a touching song comes on the radio (cue this song or this song). In the past, I thought crying meant there was something wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with expressing your emotions–in fact it feels really good!

Growth area three: Asking for help                                                                                                                           If crying was a sign of weakness for my pre-mom self, you can bet asking for help was also weak. Motherhood sure has a way of making you swallow your pride. I think I’d ask for help from a random passerby if it meant a warm shower and a nap (jk). I’ve sought out more help in the past 2 years than I ever had in my prior 29 years of existence. I’ve asked for help from old friends, new friends, relatives, medical personnel and other professionals more times than I can count. I even created a Facebook group for moms solely because I needed some help and advice!

Diminished belief one: Physical appearance is a priority                                                                                        I was self-centered and shallow before I became a mom. I was always concerned with what other people thought of me–especially my appearance. I think it stems from elementary school where I used to get made fun of for my “Dumbo ears”. I thought if I looked pretty good in general, people might not notice my ears. These days it’s not out of the ordinary for me to go to work with my hair in a wet pony tail or “rat’s nest”, as my husband calls it. Sometimes I only put mascara on one eye because I forget the other one. I may even end up wearing spit-up or poop stained clothes. I still like to get dressed up and look nice when I have time, but it’s not at the top of my ‘to do’ list.

Diminished belief two: Judging other people is okay                                                                                               I used to be pretty judgmental of other people –their beliefs, attitudes, appearance, etc… After experiencing post partum anxiety and depression I feel like I can empathize with almost every person, no matter what their situation. Going through a troubling time has a funny way of helping you realize that most people are just doing the best they can. I don’t know the story of the disheveled woman in the grocery store line–maybe she’s depressed, struggles with addiction or only has enough money to make it through tomorrow. Maybe she cares for her elderly mother struggling with dementia, maybe her spouse just died or maybe she’s just been diagnosed with cancer. The point is–I don’t know her story and I certainly am not helping lift her or my spirits by silently judging her. When I find myself wanting to judge someone I think of this quote by Plato, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

In what ways has motherhood changed you? If you don’t have kids, in what ways has a challenging time in your life changed you?