If you are a woman who has female friends, then at some point in your life, you have likely heard a woman say, "Having children is the best thing that's ever happened to me."
While I always kind of thought this was a bizarre statement, I never actively questioned its validity.
Looking back, this is probably because I was just waiting for this portion of the conversation to be over.
Even now that I'm a mother, nothing bores me more than abstract chitchat about the so-called joys of motherhood. I prefer fact, reason, reality and the cold hard truth.
The truth is, motherhood really has changed me for the better. I have become more responsible, healthier, more empathetic and less selfish.
I feel great, and, dare I say, I even look better. But, how?
How is that all even possible with less sleep, less contact with the outside world, more responsibility, more poop to clean up and more puke on my clothes?
Well, I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and here's what I have come up with: Having a child has made me a better person by default.
Someone once said if you want to change your life, change your priorities. For me, that's exactly what it has boiled down to.
Now, since I would never leave you with such a vague phrase without providing supplementary evidence, here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise."
Sound familiar? I've heard it for years, but it never resonated enough to inspire me to not hit snooze on my alarm clock morning after morning.
Well, not until I got a human alarm clock who (unfortunately) doesn't have a snooze function, and is programmed to wake up at the crack of dawn.
But, you know what? Those wacky early risers were right; the morning really is a sacred time of day. It's quiet, it's calm and the lighting is fabulous.
There is no better time to reflect on yesterday and set a calm tone for today. And you know what happens when you wake up early?
By 10 pm, you can't hold your f*cking eyes open, so you go to bed, which is awesome.
If you told me two years ago that 10 pm to 6 am would be my prime sleeping time, I would have thrown my vodka soda at you. But, times have changed, and I actually never feel tired during the day.
It's a miracle.
Related to the early wake up time (in conjunction with the fact I have no obligation to be anywhere at any particular time in the day), I am able to execute a pretty great morning routine, which includes (but is not limited to) snuggling with the baby in bed for 45 minutes, getting up, making coffee and cooking a huge, healthy breakfast while the baby goes wild in his bouncy chair.
I've always been big on breakfast, but maternity leave has definitely refined my morning meal making skills.
And you know what gives you sustained energy, revs your metabolism and motivates you to keep eating well throughout the day? A massive healthy breakfast.
I never thought I would ever say this sentence, but breastfeeding has actually contributed to the overall improvement of my life.
Since I know whatever I put in my body ends up in my baby's milk, I have become even more health conscious than I was before.
I'm adamant about eating organic foods when possible.
I try to consume at least two items of produce at every meal, and get my omegas, healthy fats and fiber in as frequently as possible.
I like being aware of what's going down the hatchet.
I also consume way less alcohol and drink way more water. (For some reason, nursing makes you feel like you're on a camel wading through the desert at all times. I have never known such intense thirst.)
This alone will make you look and feel healthier. But, there's also the added bonus to breastfeeding of burning approximately 500 calories a day just by producing milk.
That's right, 500 calories. Hello skinny jeans, my old friends. (I feel like some of you just had an epiphany about why women are so gung-ho about this whole "babies" thing.)
I walk a lot. I walk because I'm bored and can't sit around the house for hours on end without losing my mind completely.
So, guess what? I accidentally get at least an hour of cardio every day just trying to kill time until the baby's next nap.
Talk about a win-win situation.
When you have a kid, making social plans is such a bitch that it very quickly makes you realize who really matters to you.
For example, before kids, a moderately annoying acquaintance bugs you to go for drinks with her a couple weekends in a row. Finally, you cave.
While it was a bit of a waste of time and energy, you had some time and energy to spare, so no biggie. It's a different story when you have a kid.
The amount of energy it takes to arrange for a babysitter, pump breast milk, organize all the baby's stuff, then get yourself ready and out the door has made me extremely picky about the people I make time to go out with.
Yes, it's a huge pain in the ass, but my social life has become much more concise. I now only spend time with people who I genuinely like.
Getting rid of "sort of friends" has been a major perk of motherhood.
I am a lean, mean, cleaning machine. I have always been a pretty tidy adult (and was an adolescent disaster), but oh man, ever since I had a baby, my cleaning skills are next level.
I think it has something to do with the limited amount of time I have to get sh*t done.
You know when you get home from work and have a 30-minute window to clean your house before your friend comes over, and you can't believe how efficient you can be when you have a cleaning deadline?
Well, welcome to my life now. Except, instead of a social engagement providing the timeline, it's the dreaded end of nap time.
I was pretty good at multitasking before, but now I am a bloody expert.
Not only am I able to do a million things at once, I have also discovered anything you previously thought required the use of both hands really only requires one, a little finesse and a lot of patience.
I guess it would also be useful to discuss the positive emotional effects becoming a mother has had on me.
First, there's empathy. Having a baby has made me see every person as somebody's child.
Violence, discrimination, bullying and harassment all make me absolutely ill because I see them all as happening to people who were born just as innocent and just as perfect as my little boy.
I have also become less selfish and more disciplined.
You see, having a child means having to develop and (here's the hard part) stick to a pretty mundane routine.
No more spontaneous days exploring the city or spur-of-the-moment girls' nights. It's sleep, eat, play and repeat all day, every day.
But, that's what it takes to make a baby feel safe, secure, loved and happy, so that's just what you do, plain and simple.
There's a new king in town, and he's about 2 feet tall.
I think above all else, what makes people boldly declare having a child is the best thing that has ever happened to them, is that babies are incredibly adept at humbling their parents.
My son has forced me to face the fact that I often don't know what the hell I'm doing, but for the first time in my life, I know, without a doubt, I'm doing my best because I'm doing it for him.