Change. Evolution. Development. Growth. This is the fundamental essence of life and if we resist it, we make things a lot harder for ourselves. Why cling to a slippery rock in murky waters when the tide wants to take you upstream to crystal clear waters? The hard thing is to trust the rip and let go. We become so comfortable with our patterns and routines that define our very sense of self. So when change inevitably erupts we often associate it with fear and loathing. And it subconsciously seeps into the next phase of our lives.
On my 32nd birthday at 4am as I sip my tea in a quiet house, a particular scenario that comes to mind is parenthood. Becoming a parent is a time of immense change and a huge learning curve. Most people that know me are aware that I am somewhat of a control nut and generally quite stressed (note the word nut not freak as I don’t think I am quite in freak territory). Becoming a parent has taught me to embrace change, relax and ride the ride. It’s been such an important lesson to learn and while I am nowhere close to enlightenment and still blow my stack every now and then, our little family of three is much happier because of my newfound quasi-acceptance. Two years ago the word ‘change’ would have made my slippers shudder and my tea spill and scald my lap. But here I am, changing myself.
I have read numerous articles and blog posts on the topic of ‘losing a part of yourself’ when you become a parent. This concept saddens me and fires me up… just a tad. The subject is being framed in the wrong way (in my humble opinion). This notion suggests that when you come to focus on your children, you lose a piece of yourself, because you no longer have the same energy for work/the gym/social occasions etc. It also breeds a form of ‘online whinging’ from readers about their unhappiness with this shift of energy from me to baby. I completely support providing a space for discussion and venting. However I don’t support propelling new parents into a negative thinking space during a time of turbulence and change. As any sort of influence it is our (blogger/writer/fellow human being) job to encourage not discourage…. Surely?
If you drill into the argument the crux of it technically is true, it is just being framed in a very sour way. Try this on for size:
Life is liquid. Ever-changing and developing. We gain things, we lose things, move things and return to things. Sometimes it’s hard. But it’s imperfectly perfect. Parenthood is no different. When our little ones come along, we gain the most important gift of change imaginable. And sometimes it’s hard. But it’s perfect. We now have a little person in our care, to nurture for their whole lives. We are to help them become the very best they can be. We are responsible for developing their character by teaching them about our core values and the world around them. We get to see them smile for the first time, hear their first word, take their first step, tell us they love us and go on to become the people that we have helped them to be. We are lucky to step back from the whirlwind of our life before, experience their innocence and learn with them and through them. Nothing has been lost. Perhaps just shifted or put on hold. Our children, priceless and pure, have certainly been gained. It will feel hard at times. Really hard. But you are still you. With children.
To me, this perspective is a lot more apt and a healthier view than ‘I’ve lost a piece of myself’. Perpetuating the former view is a social injustice. Parenting is incredibly hard. In the first year, there’s barely time to sit and have a hot cup of tea, shower or watch a mindless episode of whatever brand of filth you like to zone out to (not afraid to say I am currently watching reruns of The Millionaire Matchmaker when I want to turn my brain off – god I love a reality show that’s so bad it’s good). So to perpetuate this idea is a touch irresponsible. New parents are likely already sleep-deprived, hungry, maybe covered in a little baby vomit, haven’t had a shower that day and are taking 5 minutes out for social media and a sweet sweet cup of delicious. Sounds like an ideal state of mind to cue the violins, swell the tear ducts and start a train of thought that didn’t need encouraging. Better post a picture of a kitten or puppy instead and release some much-needed smiles.
You haven’t lost anything when you become a parent. You are just getting used to a new chapter. And it’s going to change constantly. So embrace it, enjoy your tea, your showers and your crappy TV when you can and remember that those things that you aren’t fitting in right now will cycle round again… because life is liquid.
Nothing is ever really lost. We are never really stuck. Life has an ebb and flow that will always change tempo and bring with it a range of experiences and emotions. It’s up to us to steer it in the direction we want and process everything that comes our way in the best way we can. Otherwise, what are we really doing here?