A thousand years ago, when I was young and wasn’t planning on having kids, my mom said to me, “You know, you should do what you want. But I will say that having kids made me a better person.”
I scoffed at that, but I have a baby now and I sort of know what she means. Only, I think it would be stretching it to say that I’m a better person now. It’s more like I’m less of a mess, because someone is counting on me, and that someone has edible cheeks but no ability to earn a living if I can’t hold my shit together.
A few examples, if you’ll indulge me:
1. I’m cleaner.
You can’t tell it to look at the place, but I clean a lot more with a baby. This is entirely out of necessity. I vacuum a couple times a week now, because I got tired of picking lint out of her mucus membranes. I do the dishes every night because she might poop up her back during the night and need a bath in the morning and our kitchen sink is her bathtub. I clean the kitchen sink really well, because poop.
2. I have clearer priorities.
Basically, I have two: take care of the baby and don’t go crazy.
Almost everything is under the first one. I work, eat, sleep, clean, etc. in order to take care of the baby. The rest is under the second. I exercise, see friends, do my own writing, etc. so that I won’t go crazy. That also better enables me to meet priority No. 1.
3. I think I’m more compassionate.
I used to have a lot of opinions about the best way to do things. Some of these opinions, hilariously, were about parenting. (That’s right: before I had kids.)
Now, my feeling is that we’re all doing the best we can. Even when people do bad things, my first reaction is: “I bet they’re having a hard day.” Like someone could drive their car into a deli on purpose and I would think, “I bet he’s not getting much sleep. That would make anyone tense.”