20 Ways Becoming a Parent Can Change Your Personality and the Way You Think

Self on 08.24.11
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: Roger Wollstadt / Creative Commons

Becoming a parent changes you and your mate in ways you never expect, sometimes in opposite directions from each other. Once you have a child, you might find yourself veering either towards or away from the following traits and ways of thinking:

1. Definition of Well Rested
I used to think that "well rested" meant I had a full nine hours of sleep for several days in a row and I could wake up in the morning with no alarm because I had enough sleep.

These days, well rested means that I'm not making obvious mistakes caused by sleep deprivation. Now when I'm well rested, I don't have bruises from crashing into furniture, my concealer reasonably covers the permanent dark circles under my eyes, and I don't nod off when I sit down.

When I'm well rested, I'm able to understand and remember something I just read, and I can form a coherent thought and speak in full sentences.

2. Concept of Success
I used to be the corner-office, cigar-chomping type who thought Scrooge McDuck's pool of money was the ultimate prize. Then I had a baby and was promptly laid off, which forced my mind into a 180 degree turn.

Today success looks more like being happy and healthy in mind and body. My best days are when I'm with my family enjoying the weather, which doesn't cost a cent.

3. Forward Thinking
Before becoming a father, my husband never even owned a calendar. Now that he's keenly aware that he's responsible for another human being, he finds himself creating future-oriented goals for himself in his career.

He's beginning to plan out where he sees himself in 5, 10 or 15 years, rather than daydreaming about dangerous jobs in faraway lands, a la James Bond.

4. More Spontaneous
Becoming a mom had the opposite effect on me. I used to be the big long-term planner in our relationship, obsessed with far-off goals like retirement.

Lately I find myself more likely to live day-to-day, moment-to-moment. The farthest out I plan on a regular basis is one week while I make a grocery list. Now I live for those funny moments like when my daughter lies on the floor and rolls around so I can lie down next to her.

5. What Neatness Means
I used to think that for a home to be neat and tidy, there was a sterile, Zen quality to it. Now if my living room isn't covered wall-to-wall with a multicolored smattering of toys, then it's neat.

I'm sure I won't feel this way for all eternity, but I currently think making your bed is for suckers.

6. Idea of a Good Time
My idea of a good time has broadened. It used to involve a late night at a bar with a group of friends. While that still sounds fun, the whole sleep deprivation thing makes late night social calls a rarity, because the pay back the next morning is so hideous.

Now a lunch date with a girlfriend or a family brunch is my idea of heaven. Daily walks outside with my daughter are a favorite activity. Taking a walk or going to the pool with my husband and daughter at the same time gives me an intense high, like all is right in the world.

7. More Compassionate
Having a child has made me aware of how fragile and vulnerable everyone in the world was at some point. When I hear tragic stories about someone losing a child, my heart breaks into a million pieces.

When I find myself annoyed by someone who has a grating personality, rather than automatically thinking, "What a JERK," I feel sympathy and find myself wondering what happened in that person's life to make them that way. I'm more emotional in general, and I cry more easily.

8. More Forgiving of Myself
I used to feel completely intolerant of my own short-comings. Lately I'm trying to understand why I have certain behaviors and traits, rather than simply trying to beat them out of myself.

While I remain on a self-improvement journey, I'm currently in the habit of reflecting on how we all have built-in defense mechanisms that our brains have implemented following impactful life experiences.

9. Awareness of What Makes Good Parenting
I used to think that "good" parenting was easy and obvious. Now I realize that the definition of good parenting can change by the second, by the child and by the situation. Never say you'll never do something, because you might surprise yourself.

10. Being Silly Becomes a Way of Life
Being around a smiling and giggling kid who will do anything for a laugh can unbunch even the bunchiest knickers. My husband, Steve, who used to consider himself a fairly serious individual, is now embracing his silly side.

The other day while we were having a dull conversation that involved the packaging of a single chicken breast, I began singing "All the single boobies" to the tune of Beyoncé's Single Ladies. Last night, Steve said he had "All the single boobies" song in his head all day at work.

11. Faster
My friend Rebecca observed that toddlers have the attention span of sand fleas, and she's learned to move at warp speed to compensate for the rapid shifts.

She says, "Following 20 minutes of prep time, activities might only last for 5 or 10 minutes. This means that packing up to go out cannot take any longer than absolutely necessary, or things start to get unpacked."

12. Slower
I used to think that it took me forever to do anything. Now with a child to think about, my efforts are doubled and everything takes me forever times two.

13. More Prepared
Rebecca says her diaper bag is always packed, and juice boxes, water bottles and snacks are always ready to be grabbed to go, "except for those times when I really lose it," she says. "Emergency quick dinner supplies are always on hand."

15. Less Prepared
I often find myself out and about with no water, no binkie, no clean diaper, etc. I somehow manage to have everything with me that I don't need, but that one thing I forgot becomes the most important item.

16. More Judgmental
I judge parents who publicly judge other parents. Wait, did that make sense? Let me explain: as parents, we all judge. It's endemic to our position as humans to assess how other people parent and compare ourselves. It's fun to speak with other likeminded parents who share philosophies and techniques, and it's a learning experience when we get the chance to hear how other people parent.

We hope that by sharing, some parents can relate, while other parents with contradictory opinions offer their own viewpoints so we can be exposed to different experiences. It's the insulting way in which some people express differences in parenting styles that can get my back up.

I don't understand why some parents think it's okay to openly demean and criticize others' parenting -- either to the victim's face or via an online comment for the victim to read. When I witness a parent judge others harshly in a public forum, then I pass judgment on their judgmental behavior. Harshly. Mostly I think about how stupid and mean they are. Oh, the irony.

17. More Sharing
Rebecca says her husband has become great about sharing, whether it's his time, snacks, or the responsibility of household chores.

My husband shares dinner duty with me, and he still does all of our laundry. He is the undisputed champion of the nighttime routine, even after a long day at the office, and he watches Alex on the weekends while I get out of the house to do whatever wasn't accomplished during the week.

18. Less Sharing
My friend Juliana says, "The house gets messier faster. The husband gets grouchier faster. I realized that almost all kid-related things are up to me -- self actualized mega-monolithic responsibility: childcare, food, clothes, cleaning. Men are just missing a hunk of brain that is labeled 'childrearing,' which is unfortunate because up till then, it seemed like that 1970s fairytale about us all being equal was somewhat true."

When all of the nighttime responsibility fell on my shoulders for feeding and comforting, I absolutely felt like I got the short end of the parenting stick. When I was working full-time and struggling to take care of Alex every waking moment and some non-waking moments, I echoed Juliana's sentiment exactly.

Now that I'm working part time, I feel much better about these compromises (even though many people feel that compromising a career is not a positive development.) Plus Steve and I trade off the opportunity to sleep in on the weekends, which has gone a long way towards softening me up. But there are some things, especially while a baby is tiny, that only a mom can do.

19. More Worry
Before kids, my own mother would tell you that my motto was, "What, me worry?" She used to say, "Well, you're not going to worry so I'd better do enough worrying for the both of us."

My answer to that was, "Knock yourself out."

Let's just say that, while I'm not a professional worrier like my mother, I've probably worried more in the past year after having a baby than I had in my entire existence leading up to that point.

On the flipside, my friend Julie says, "I have become more patient and relaxed. There is a sense of peace in my life, even though you can't always tell with my 4 and 2 year olds running around crazy."

20. Less Vain
While I still care about my appearance, I find that my drive to lose weight and maintain it has become compromised. I know I'll lose the weight soon (or some day, whatever) but my dress size doesn't have the same hold over me that it once did.

Having another person to take care of makes me pay less attention to myself. As a result, I need to use fun tricks and tools to sustain self control and keep me motivated. After all, staying healthy is a big priority to me as a parent so that I can better take care of my child, and "skinny" doesn't always equal healthy. I know, neither does "fat." Life with kids makes you think, sometimes a little too hard.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

Top Articles on How Parenting Changes You
Giving Up: 5 Ways You Can Lower Your Standards and Become a Better Parent
20 Far-Out Fears I Developed After Giving Birth
The 20 Biggest Surprises of Parenthood (So Far)