You dress them, feed them and ultimately, give them the education, values and skills they need for adulthood. But it’s not a one-way street. If you can see through the haze of sleep deprivation, somewhere between the witching hour and the peacefully sleeping baby there are some valuable life lessons to be learnt. Although I didn’t realise it when I signed up for a baby, my three tiny teachers have helped to make me a better human being. How?
- Patience. Your baby is crying and the third little old lady in Coles has just confidently told you that he must be hungry, despite your assurance that you just fed him half an hour ago. Take a deep breath, smile and dig deep into that reserve of patience which is essential for motherhood. If it wasn’t one of your virtues before baby, patience will get you a long way in life, or at least save you a few grey hairs.
- Trusting your intuition. Never before has being a mother been so confusing. You are told that if you let baby cry for longer than a minute she will be emotionally scarred for life, but if you don’t let her cry she won’t be able to sleep through the night until she is 18. There is contradictory information about everything and research to back up every school of thought. After a while, you will stop reading the books and listen to your heart and your baby. The answer to almost everything really does lie inside you when you trust yourself enough to listen.
- The power of now. Pre-baby you would have laughed at yourself for describing a successful day as doing two loads of laundry AND making the dinner. But with a baby, it is all about enjoying the journey instead of ticking off a long To Do list. So if you enjoy spending half an hour every day blowing bubbles with your baby to make him laugh, that is a good investment of your time. And it is undoubtedly more fulfilling than listening to the same old office politics anyway. Look at your baby’s perfect little fingers and toes, see the way his face lights up when you walk in the room and his delight when he manages to shake his rattle. You made this little miracle so take time to enjoy every moment of your time together – and apply this to everything you do in life.
- Connection to others. Having a baby in tow opens up a whole new way to connect with other people. It starts when you are visibly pregnant – suddenly everyone, everywhere, wants to talk to you. And most of the time it is surprisingly pleasant to be able to connect so easily to complete strangers. You also develop empathy for other parents. Like that poor mum with the screaming kid at the checkout. One day, sooner than you are ready for, you will be the one with toddler throwing a tantrum! You also get a whole new appreciation of just how much your own parents did for you. With any luck, these insights can help you to form deeper, more meaningful relationships.
- Unconditional love. You accidentally cut your baby’s finger when trimming her nails. There are tears of pain and you feel like you’ve just won the Worst Mother of the Year award. But then…a beautiful smile spreads across her face as she looks deep into your eyes. It never crosses her mind to be angry with you or hold a grudge. Likewise, you have never known love so strong and deep. There is not a nappy too dirty or a feed that takes too long – you would do anything for this precious little bundle. Now try applying this feeling to your partner, your neighbour or your boss – ok, that could be stretching it too far but you get the idea…the world would be a better place if we could love like a baby.