Amazing Ways Parenting Changes You

11 Ways Parenting Changes You

Parenthood is one of those life experiences that change you fundamentally. No matter who you are or whatever demographic or category you fall into--whatever your race, gender, profession, etc.--becoming a parent will be a life-altering experience that has a seismic impact on your life.

Being a parent is also, without a doubt, one of the toughest, but at the same time, rewarding, jobs out there. Raising a child tests your mettle, reveals what you're really made of, and makes you stronger. It makes you open your heart and unlocks reserves of patience and love you didn't know you had. Here are some of the many big as well as small ways being a parent changes you.

You realize the true, full meaning of the phrase, “Time flies.”

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When you are a parent, one of the things you begin to fully understand is the phrase, "Time flies." One minute, your child is a tiny infant and you’re knee-deep in dirty diapers and desperate for sleep; the next, your child is a crawling baby who’s headed for the stairs or a wriggling toddler whose shirt takes 5 minutes to put on because she just doesn’t wanna get dressed that day. And then before you know it (and all too soon), your child is suddenly a lanky teenager and you’re handing her the keys to your car.

While the day-to-day demands of parenting can drag on (yes, sometimes a few hours with a cranky baby or unreasonable toddler can seem like weeks, especially when you’re sleep-deprived), parenting means suddenly realizing that all those long days have suddenly flown by.

You learn what it means to be patient.

girl getting dressed in messy room
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Your distracted, dawdling and day-dreaming child may take 10 minutes to put on a sock when you need to get out the door in time for school and work. Your lovely little one may hear you, but he may have trouble listening when you ask him to set the table or pick up his toys. For the seventh time.

These are typical kid behaviors, and it's common for young children to dawdle, move slowly, or just not pay attention. (Not listening to you may sometimes be a form of defiance, but kids may simply be daydreaming, too--which can actually boost their creativity and be a good thing.)

Younger kids are also often eager to do things on their own, which means that you may well be standing and waiting for your 5-year-old to zip up her own jacket for 5 minutes or have to mop the floors after your child tries to help you load the dishwasher.

Not only will you learn how to be Zen about delays and messes, but letting go of expectations and perfection will be good for your child, too, and will give her the time she needs to learn how to get better at doing things like age-appropriate chores and learning how to follow schedules and get ready on time.

You learn how to become a masterful juggler.

father cooking and working while watching baby
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Being a parent means that you will become the Jedi Master of multitasking. Cirque du Soleil? Hah! Professional jugglers have nothing on you. Let's see them try to sooth a cranky toddler, organize the schedule of a busy school-age child, meet a work deadline, and try to coordinate your busy schedule with your spouse's to stay connected and get at least a little together time--all at the same time. Oh yeah, and still make dinner and try to keep everyone and everything organized, day after day.

You develop the negotiation skills of a diplomat.

sibling fighting - sister and brother sitting back to back
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Some days, it will seem like your kids are fighting over every single little thing, from who will walk out the door first to who will sit where in the car to who will get to pick a movie for you to watch together as a family. Or your child may have a play date and proceed to have a meltdown over a toy that his playmate is not sharing.

Whatever the conflict or crisis, you'll learn how to help parties negotiate, resolve their differences, and shake hands before having their snack. And you'll smile proudly the next time your child tries to work out a problem on his own without your help and says something like, "Let's not fight," or "Why don't we take turns?" the next time he has a problem with a sibling or a friend.

You develop the ability to marshal the troops like a drill sergeant.

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Teeth brushed, breakfasts eaten, buttons buttoned, hair combed, and shoes and socks put on. These small tasks can turn into chaos without the right sergeant at the helm: you. Becoming a parent means you learn how to coordinate everyone and make sure they do what they need to do, and more importantly, get kids used to doing things they're supposed to do like chores and getting ready for school on their own, without being asked.

You learn how to survive on limited sleep.

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Being a parent means learning to live with the fact that you need a 30-hour day to get everything done and knowing that you'd probably still not be able to get enough sleep even if that were possible. While the first weeks and months after the baby is born are usually the most intense and the toughest for most parents when it comes to not getting enough sleep, the truth is that once you become a parent, your days of sleeping in and having a lazy weekend morning or having the time to finish the things you need to or want to do are pretty much over, even when your kids grow up to be big school-age kids.

There's the fact that young kids tend to wake up early in the morning, wake up during the night from nightmares, accidentally wet the bed, or need a drink of water. School-age kids also often get sick (which means parents have to nurse a feverish and cranky and crying child and sometimes have to call the doctor in the middle of the night) and have trouble getting to bed on time or use screens way too late in the evening, which is one of the top things that can interfere with kids' sleep. All these things can add up to parents often not getting enough sleep at night. (And when kids get older and start going out without you, good luck trying to sleep until they come home and are safely tucked in their beds.) Bottom line: Parenting is a job that requires a lot of time and attention, and that means that we are all very tired.

You learn to appreciate the little things in life.

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Stopping to look at a backhoe in action or at a fire truck for 10 minutes? Watching a squirrel run around the park? Build with Legos or have a tea party with stuffed animals? Check, check, and check. Being a parent means you get to get down on the floor and play and see the amazing things around you through the eyes of your child.

These moments are not just an opportunity to connect with your child--research has shown that playing with kids is good for their development. And having fun with your child is a great way to nourish your spirit, too. C'mon, admit it: You know you love building with Legos or having a tea party. 

You can watch movies and read books for kids and not feel guilty.

Mother and daughter reading
Mother and daughter reading. Dreamstime

Speaking of having fun, being a parent means that you can watch or Star Wars for the 20th time without any guilt. Reading with your 7-year-old? It's to build his reading skills--nothing to do with how much you love the books. (Okay, maybe it has a little to do with how much you love these books, too.) So belt out those songs with your child and let your inner kid enjoy kids' movies and books and shows with abandon.

You learn what's important--and what isn't.

two boys walking muddy in house with mother
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Spending some downtime with your child reading or playing tag or other games outside, eating dinner together as a family as much as possible, and making sure your child is learning to become independent, kind, and well-mannered and disciplined will be on your list of must-dos. Keeping the house looking like it's out of a magazine spread will not be. Parenting means you will quickly sort out what matters and what doesn't. There are only so many hours in the day--worrying about things like whether or not your child is wearing matching socks will take a backseat to whether or not he's belted in his car seat or booster seat properly or is growing up to be a responsible and nice person.

Does the house need to look perfect and neat all the time? No. (And yes, there will probably be times when it looks like a cyclone went through it.) Is your child covered in mud and dirt but he had fun playing outside and got lots of fresh air and exercise? Awesome. And you'll be not only okay with dirt and mess and stickiness everywhere, but (hopefully) smiling as you have fun playing with your child, and then cleaning up together after you have fun.

You understand that your mind will never be far from your children.

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You will realize that you will never stop thinking about your children and that you'll always wonder if they're safe or happy or okay, even long after they become independent and older. No matter what you're doing or where you are, your mind will always go to your children. As kids get older, you'll naturally spend more time apart and have more things that occupy your thoughts that don't have to do with your children. But the fact remains that your children started their lives with you, and you will have a bond that's stronger than distance or time spent apart. 

You realize you didn't know your own strength--or the power of your love.

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Before you became a parent, you may have heard friends speak about how amazing it is to raise children, and about how powerful (and exhausting) the experience is. But until you held your own beautiful child in your arms, you probably didn't begin to understand just how big that love is or how strong it would make you.

While you may have been strong mentally, physically, and emotionally before you had a child, the maternal and paternal instinct that's powerful enough to defend your child against any threat, be it a bear or a bully, is something that you realize you can tap into in a moment's notice when you become a parent.

You'll also find yourself always wanting to do your best, and will try to make choices that are good for your child and for yourself, like getting exercise and eating healthy foods. You'll want to eat better, try to fix your parenting mistakes, and set a good example in your daily life so that your child grows up to be a happy and healthy individual.

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