“I’d be curious to see what you’re doing in a few years.”
There was a pause and a sort of knowing glance in my direction. I sat in the passenger seat 24 weeks pregnant with baby #1. “Motherhood changes you,” he said.
I took offense to this, felt my face flush with annoyance, stuttered something unintelligible, and immediately began collecting facts for my case against this person. This person who assumed I’d be less capable in my work once I became a mother, the tone implied (or the tone I perceived) was that I’d be less dedicated to my career once I saw how cute onesies could be on tiny bellies. It felt as if this comment undermined my years of learning and work down to one assumption: that after a bit of motherhood, I’d probably take an easier route, a soft exit and leave the field altogether. I’d abandon my career and stay home because babies, or perhaps work at a bank.
It’s been nearly 2 years since that sentence and it still bothers me. Both from the perspective that I know I am a bad person for being such a hoarder of grudges, a habitual collector of cynical thoughts and from the perspective that perhaps I’ve interpreted the conversation wrong for the past 26 months.
So now, two years later, with two under two, and six weeks into maternity leave perhaps it’s the right time to reflect on that statement.
“Motherhood changes you.”
It’s made me softer in my approach with people. I’ve actively worked on not immediately venting about a rude email from a service facilitator or a text message sent way too late from a parent. I try to roll my eyes less, and breathe a bit more. And while I’m softer with others, and I’m harder on myself, because motherhood changes you. Every parent and especially mothers can relate to there not being enough time to get everything done. (Whatever everything is…) There isn’t enough time to accomplish this mystical everything, and there’s even less time to be bitter about emails or texts or a sentence that’s pestered you for two years…
I have two visible and adorable onesie-clad reminders at home at how fast time moves, how quickly life passes, and by bedtime, there’s just not enough time left over to do the godforsaken dishes let alone to be angry. There is certainly zero energy left to stoke the fires of annoyance throughout the night, to keep vigil the grudges.
Scientifically, it’s true. The maternal brain is changed in complex neurological ways. It is chemically wired to respond to the needs of another. “Those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.” The brain becomes wired to love and care for another in ways you physically and neurologically were not able to before. I am better at what I do because of this, because motherhood changes you.
I am so, so tired. There are tiny hands smelling of peanut butter and blueberries and crayons and milk touching me all.the.time. And cries and whimpers from one room while shouts of mama and giggles ricochet from another.
I am constantly multitasking while reminding myself, that for these few short weeks this is all I really need to accomplish. Being present, being here. Wiping little noses and butts endlessly and snuggling and cuddling, and absorbing on my never-clean-for-long shirt toddler tears of jealousy and newborn tears of frustration.
The fatigue of learning to be okay with just being with each other, day in and day out, and slowing down long enough to just be together with someone (even little someones) has made me better at my work. I’m better at waiting while listening, and better at accepting some days are grand beautiful days and some days are “is this day over yet?” days.
I am working on being a better person in my life and not just a better staff in my work, because motherhood changes you.