The first, and often the only, thing that friends, family, colleagues and even total strangers said to me when they found out I was pregnant was “Everything changes”. I always felt like replying, “No shit, Sherlock.” But I didn’t because let’s face it, that would be rude.
Most my close friends were already mothers by the time I conceived so I had witnessed first-hand the monumental shift in their daily routines, but also in their priorities. I got it. It would be a big, life-altering, non-refundable and apparently messy left turn in my otherwise highly organized, perfectly scheduled, outwardly “shiny” life.
As the months rolled on and my bump inevitably grew, this warning of the transition to come began to change tone. Whilst no doubt well-meaning, it became somewhat menacing—and was often reinforced by a side comment about how I would no longer need to care about my career/the Net-A-Porter sale/an episode of The Bachelor. That worried me, and began to fill me with genuine fear about my life post-birth. I wanted to still care about those things—as frivolous as they undoubtedly seem (and are) in comparison to bringing a child into the world. Who would this new ‘mother’ version of me be? And why didn’t she care about The Bachelor? She didn’t sound like someone I’d want to share a wine with, let alone be.
I was terrified of losing my identity to this new life—one that apparently, I had no choice but to lead. The thought of morphing into a woman devoid of passions or interests outside of her own offspring filled me with dread.
But now, as my daughter approaches four months old I’ve discovered that your personality, core values, and motivations actually don’t change one bit. In fact, they do the opposite. Sure, life around you might look a little (or a lot) different, and chemically there is some impressive data about the rewiring of the postpartum brain, but I believe that after having a baby you are actually more yourself than ever. Oh, how I wish I’d known.
The love and responsibility that you feel (in equal measure) towards this new little person can be overwhelming, but it’s also handy to use as a benchmark to measure other things against. When faced with the choice to spend energy or time on something, or someone else, it’s suddenly easy to identify that which you’ve previously done out of habit or—more importantly—those things that simply no longer serve you. That’s not to say that everything pre-baby now pales in comparison. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Since becoming a mother I’ve a new found appreciation for things I previously took for granted; impromptu dinner dates with friends, or long phone chats with my mum who lives interstate. Put simply, I can now see the wood for the trees.
I surveyed some first-time mothers who came to a similar realization. New mum and director for Impact Investment at New South Wales Treasury, Anna Bowden, sums it up by saying, “Don’t get me wrong, my day to day *looks* totally different, but my core, fundamental values are stronger than ever. Having a baby has this way of making you trim off all the unnecessary rubbish around the edges and focus you.”
Mira Comara Alexander, a PR manager, agrees, adding “There is a great deal of confidence that comes from the ability to master a skill in a short space of time. That confidence enables you to become better at dictating who and what occupies your time and energy.
I have found that I largely still do the same things that I did before I had my little boy, but in order to do this I have had to become more organised in prioritising the important over the trivial. I am more efficient because time is a more valuable asset than it was before. My identity as a result has been strengthened by the process of motherhood, rather than defined by it.”
Thinking now about the future I’m excited to return to work and flex my newly-honed, laser-sharp focus. No fluff. No distractions. No excuses to not do my best work. Just a more concentrated, more centered and more motivated version of who I was before baby came along.
I now know what really lights me up, professionally and personally—and I’m okay that shopping the Net-A-Porter sale and The Bachelor debriefs are on that list. But the best bit? When I come home from the office, I know I’ll have the brightest little light of all waiting for me.