Before I became a parent, I was always told by other parents just how much life changes once you have a child. All that time, I thought the changes were the big things, but when I gave birth, I started to realize that more than the big things, it’s the little things daily that really changes, hence I started a hashtag on Instagram: #HowParentingChangesYou (and other parents have started using it, too, yey!)
It could be as simple as choosing natural or milder (and safety-tested and approved) products for cleaning the house (so I won’t panic if my son accidentally discovers it), or accepting that even a King-sized bed will never be big enough when your baby starts moving while sleeping (and that you might have to sleep with half of your body on the floor sometimes), or packing two weeks before a trip instead of the night before (and saying goodbye to packing light, too!). I mean, it really depends in our lifestyles pre-child, but for me, it’s these little changes piled up that create that big change.
On a more serious note though, there are actual changes in my viewpoints and attitude when I became a mom…
First, being a parent made me realize fears I never thought I had. I wouldn’t say I was careless before I became a mom, but I was very carefree! I did all sorts of things from skydiving to traveling to relatively unsafe areas. I also wasn’t mindful of the things I put in my skin — the cheaper, the better! As long as it worked for me. Now, I’m more mindful of the places we visit, because I know I am responsible for someone else’s safety, my little one. While I’d still try some extreme sports/activities someday, I’d probably hold off for a long while. It’s really good that my husband and I did many of those kinds of things before we had P, so I’m not really itching to try them out now. When it comes to products, I am a lot more mindful now, not only for P, but also for me. I have stopped wearing perfumes unless I’m going to a very special occasion. I hardly wear lipstick (or just wear it when already needed) so I can kiss my son without worrying about transferring chemicals to his delicate skin. I also learned to check ingredients especially for products my son uses. It’s tedious to check each and every ingredient each time, but at least I know what comes in contact with my son’s skin and body. I changed my soap, too, because I’m breastfeeding, so I’m using milder soaps since my son is latched on me many times a day.
Second, being a parent made me realize that my life is now working on a new normal. I was the type of person who wanted everything planned. I wasn’t a perfectionist, but most especially for travels, I wanted to know beforehand what’s going to happen, so I could plan what I’ll wear, what I’ll bring, etc. Our traveling life is very far from that now. We write down the possible activities for our travels, but we don’t make big plans anymore. We just take it day by day and embrace the art of slow travel. For our son’s first birthday, we flew to Paris, and we specifically chose Paris because we’ve been there twice before P, so we knew we could afford not doing or seeing anything (and just slightly having a dose of the local vibe) and still be chill about it. And even for our daily life – I just follow my child’s lead. Before becoming a parent, I thought children needed a schedule for everything – gym classes here, language classes there, naps at a specific time, meals at a specific time. We are so far from that and you know what? I am totally loving it. I credit my son’s lack of tantrums to the fact that there’s no pressure on both parties. We let him discover things on his own at his own pace and time, and just enjoy what he can do instead of focusing on what he cannot yet do.
Third, being a parent made me live more in the moment, but also made me plan more for the future. Does that even make sense? The book I’m currently reading (The Montessori Toddler, Simone Davies) explains it best: Toddlers live in the present moment. Walking down the street with a toddler can be a delight. While we make lists in our heads of all the things we need to do and planning what we are going to cook for dinner, they remain present and spot the weeds growing up between a crack in the pavement. This is so true. When we went hiking for the first time with P, we made sure not to make it a goal to reach the peak or the end of the trail, but to just let him explore and let him lead us. It turned out to be a great hike for many reasons, but most of all, it’s an achievement we can credit to him – because he walked and explored. We did not carry him to the top so he can see the best view – for him, everything was the best. It was such a pleasure watching him in delight each time he saw a flower, a rock, or a pine needle. Children remind us to live here and now. But also, being a parent gives me the honor to take care of someone else here on Earth, and to be able to do that, I need to be responsible. Whatever my child will turn out to be is not only a product of heredity, but also the environment I put him in. This is why I have learned to plan more for the future. I did not feel that life and health insurance (and investments) were that important to me than when I finally had a son. Now that I have someone depending on me, I feel these are musts. I also did not really value my own health as much as I do now. Also, now that we have P, we are working harder so we can provide him a better future.
Fourth, being a parent made me realize that perspective can go a long way not just with adults, but also with children. P is a very sweet and loving child that is not hard to love at all, too, but you know how toddlers are – they have so much energy to burn, and so many discoveries to make – and I am thankful for having read up on Montessori and many other parenting philosophies in preparation for him, because my perspective makes all the difference. In all honesty, I feel that had I not read up, I would be crying for a yaya (nanny) by now. It’s been 1 year and 3 months since I’ve given birth to him, and I have not been away for him for more than 2 hours, but we are surviving and getting along just fine. I see though how some stages children go through can become so frustrating (or tiring) for parents. But seeing a child from a perspective where I see myself as his guide than his “boss” allows me to extend a lot more patience than I would have had I chosen a different perspective.
Lastly, being a parent made me realize that feeling safe, loved, and supported are basics each and every child needs. A child does not need rich parents; a child needs parents who are there to support and guide his/her development, and to remind him/her of their love no matter what. Like I have shared on my Instagram post, while P is not literally attached to me (aka carried) 24/7, his emotions are best expressed with me. He knows that I am his safe place to cry and let his feelings out. He knows that he is allowed to cry when he has a big emotion (sad, tired, hurt, scared, etc) – which we as adults can identify, but children his can’t yet. Respecting the child means respecting his/her emotions, no matter how silly it may seem for grown-ups. When things get tiring for me, I remind myself that my son matters more – more than the mess he makes, or the amount of time we have to spend in a parking lot so he can look at the cars, or the extra time we spend in our car so he can explore the steering wheels, or his early wake-up calls even if I’m still so sleepy. My son matters more than all those, so more than the life lessons he will encounter until his adulthood, I need to let him know that more than anything in this world, he is loved, and that no matter what happens, he is safe with us.
“The baby’s fundamental need – precisely because he is a human being – is to be loved. But it takes a mature person to love a baby, because love takes times, takes patience, takes fortitude, love even requires a certain kind of humility: to love another better than one’s self. The baby needs time to be understood: he needs time in everything he does.”
– Maria Montessori
Can you relate? How has parenting changed your life?
PS: Special thanks to Jamie Espadilla-Mapagu for our first photo (me kissing baby P) taken in Luang Prabang, Laos, June 2017.