When I was battling infertility while my friends had already become mothers, I had a lot of time to observe the way they took on parenthood.
As I see it, there are two types of new mothers. Some women were just born to be moms. They are the naturals, those nurturing women who adore every second of motherhood. They relish late night feedings and relentless diaper changes. They have never raised their voice. They are unfazed by tantrums at the supermarket or having a dozen eleven year olds sleeping over their home. They always have the right snack on hand. Their kids have never forgotten to bring an apple to school on Johnny Appleseed day and always arrive at school prepared for the day.
You know the moms who I am talking about, right?
Then there are the women for whom motherhood is not exactly second nature. With every diaper change and tantrum they are taking in the reality of parenthood. They are a little freaked out by the possibility that they are giving up their sense of self and their sense of control to those new human beings in their care.
I bet you know a few of those people too. Don’t you?
This is not to say that the first group makes better mothers. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor does it mean that these women adore their children any less. The first group of moms, at least in my opinion, have an easier time becoming child-centric, putting the needs of their children before their own. The second group is simply trying to balance being “mom” with being themselves, too.
There has been much said in the media about child-centered parenting versus parent-centered parenting. There has been criticism over the Tiger Mom and helicopter parenting. Newly released research in response to this frenzy found that parents who put their children’s well-being over their own, are happier and get more meaning from their child-rearing responsibilities. The findings show that child-centric parents were happier and a felt a significant sense of purpose in life derived from having children. In addition, child-centric parents showed better well-being during moments of the day when parents are not taking care of their children.
It is interesting news, though not all that earth-shattering to me personally. As I see it, parents who become more child-centric are those who fall more easily into the role of parenthood, becoming consumed with their children from the get-go. If they fall into that role more easily, doesn’t it make sense that they would report higher levels of satisfaction?
Do my friends who are more child-centric parents feel more of a sense of purpose in life because of their children? Perhaps they do. Does that mean they love their children any more than the rest of us? Heck, no. As someone who falls into the latter group, my children’s well-being still always comes first. Always.