Before having a kid, I told myself motherhood wouldn’t change me. Of course, I knew that motherhood would change my life, but in my woefully naive brain, I believed that I could still very much remain the same person. It didn’t take long to realize that was not going to be the case.
Motherhood changes you emotionally, physically…in just about every way a person can be changed. My heart now lives outside my body, and I am fully responsible for raising another human being. And what made that a little more terrifying as someone who grew up around all boys is that I’m raising a girl.
When I found out that my husband and I were having a girl, my first reaction was shock. I was raised as the only girl with three brothers in a household very much focused on sports, sports, and more sports. While I love my family, as far as interests are concerned, I never really had much in common with them.
Coming from a family with so many boys, I think I had always assumed my life as a mother would mean being surrounded by more boys. After all, after years of wishing for a sister, it seemed unlikely in my mind that I would end up with a daughter. So, when I found out at the 20-week scan that we were having a girl, I was met with shock…followed by fear.
I became terrified of passing on decades of low self-esteem and body confidence, of being a role model to someone when I often have trouble showing kindness to myself. Of course, these are fears I’d have regardless of gender, but I felt it more acutely as a mother raising a daughter.
What I’ve Learned From Being a ‘Girl Mom’
However, in the year that my daughter Sadie has been in my life, something unexpected happened. I began seeing myself through her eyes, and I learned more about myself than I ever could have expected. Here’s what I’m learning in my first year as a girl mom:
Learning to be kinder to myself
Going back to those motherhood changes, let me just say it. The physical changes after pregnancy were rough. Over a year later, my body still just looks different than it did pre-pregnancy. Even my face seemed to change from how it looked before Sadie (is that a thing?!).
All that to say, I was pretty unkind to myself about how I looked after my daughter was born. I hated looking in the mirror and absolutely loathed pictures of myself to the point that I was missing out on pictures with Sadie during a pivotal point in her life. What taught me to be kinder to myself was the thought of how I would feel if Sadie were having these same thoughts of herself later in life. In my eyes, she’s the most beautiful creature on Earth, so the thought that she’d ever see herself any differently boggles my mind.
That realization made me reframe my way of thinking. Instead of allowing myself to dive headfirst into a shame spiral over how I looked postpartum, I tried to think of how I’d want Sadie to feel. How I’d want her to feel strong and proud of the incredible things she had done. It’s all too easy to be cruel to yourself, but that is not something I want to pass along to the next generation.
Celebrating uniqueness and changing how I think of societal beauty norms
Along those same lines, I’ve begun trying to celebrate uniqueness and changing how I think of societal beauty norms. We live in a beautiful, diverse, unique world, and having a girl has made me recognize just how much of my life I’ve spent buying into what the societal idea of “beauty” is.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t plan to wear makeup or that I am against beauty treatments. But it does mean that I want to only do those things for myself and not to fit into a box. It’s a hard concept to grasp, but I want to celebrate what makes me unique to show confidence and appreciation for myself both inside and out. I know that I’m inherently the first role model that my daughter will have, and I want to make sure she knows that her uniqueness and kindness are what make her beautiful.
Teaching her to be the person I wish I was
If I were to fit the thesis of parenting into one sentence, it would be that it’s trying to raise someone better than who you are. I want my daughter to grow up confident, I want her to be kind, and to love what makes her different. I want her to see herself as I see her, as the girl who brings overwhelming joy to every person she meets. I’ve spent far too many years of my own life not seeing myself in the way that my own mother probably saw me, and I don’t want the same for her.
I say all of this as she is still freshly a year old, with a lot of years ahead of her. But even in these early times when she has no concept of any of this (she’s too busy trying to figure out how to fit a square block in a square hole), I’ve found that the biggest changes have been for me. Because every day I’m trying to teach her to be the best person she can be, I’m also learning how to be the best version of myself.