Can Having a Baby Make You More Confident?
Sasha Brown-Worsham | February 27, 2015
The first time I really lost it as a new mom was about an hour after bringing our newborn daughter home from the hospital. My husband had driven 30 mph on the way back from the hospital, me in the backseat with my hand on my new baby’s head. When we finally got home, we unpacked it all — my suitcase, the flowers, the car seat, the baby — set it in the living room, and I started to cry.
I had zero confidence. I remember wanting to go back to work. At least I knew what I was doing there. That was my low point of motherhood.
Kelly Clarkson told People magazine on Wednesday that motherhood has given her more confidence in her life. When I was at my lowest, I would have scoffed. Now, eight years later, I couldn’t agree more.
Clarkson told the magazine that her career had provided her sense of self-worth up until the birth of her now 8-month-old daughter River. Now it’s all different. “I’m a mother and a wife and have this whole other thing going on,” Clarkson said. Suddenly, her work matters so much less.
And she isn’t the only one to make this claim. In August, mother-of-two Jessica Alba told People, “When I became a mom, I just kind of opened up and got a new perspective. I have a fearlessness and a confidence that I think you can only get with experience and age. Some people get it earlier, but it took me a while. Motherhood made me fearless.”
I get it. By month three of my new daughter’s life, I was someone else entirely. By then I had conquered nursing, helped my baby regain her birth weight, and figured out that nothing on Earth made me happier than her smile.
I quit my job without thinking twice. And I began writing essays, something I’d been afraid to do before, for fear of rejection. But they got published and suddenly my career was moving in the direction I’d always dreamed it would.
Somehow, this 12-pound massive responsibility helped me gain the strength to pursue what I really wanted in life.
“Becoming a mother shifts one’s focus from self to ‘other’ and gives many women perspective on what’s important in life,” Erin Olivo, PhD, an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at Columbia University, tells Yahoo Parenting. “The minute you focus on someone else’s needs, negative emotions, about career and self doubt, become much less powerful.”
I used to tell friends that becoming a mother felt like making a reduction sauce. All the essential ingredients were there, but they’d all been boiled down to the parts that made them most delicious. Having a baby gave me the confidence to pursue new goals, shed old friends, and form new relationships.
“When I became a mother, I suddenly had a burning desire to become someone my son would never look at and think ‘She didn’t live up to her potential,’” Freyja Balmer, a mom-of-two from New Jersey, tells Yahoo Parenting. “After six years, a second kid, a divorce, major weight loss, and finding peace through yoga and meditation, I feel connected to myself.”
Or, as Ellen Bradley-Windell, a Los Angeles based social worker, tells Yahoo Parenting, “The need of your child is a different type of need. Without you, this human will not survive. This fulfills a need that has never been felt before and provides an ego boost to know you’re succeeding at the job at hand.”
Of course, not every woman has a rosy experience with motherhood. Ericka Souter, a mom-of-one from New York City, says her confidence took a nosedive after the birth of her son. “I had no idea what I was doing…no one really warned me,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “When you’re pregnant, everyone talks about all the great parts and jokes, ‘better get sleep now.’ But there is so much more to it.”
Motherhood has no universal truth. But for those who did experience a confidence boost, it may have revealed a new, undiscovered version of oneself.
“Your focus and attention changes and you are forever concerned about what really matters: family and health,” Melissa Gerstein, co-host of the Sirius XM radio show The MOMS, tells Yahoo Parenting. “After you have a baby, you clearly see the purpose of life and all the clutter and insecurities slowly disappear.”
I’ve had two more children since my first so I’ve had eight years of diapers, tears, nosebleeds, and career highs and lows. I’ve quit two full-time jobs, been a freelancer, worked part-time, and not worked at all. But I’ve always put my kids first. Sometimes that means pushing back hard on work. And that’s been OK. My kids have made me fierce that way.
After all, I know what’s most important, thanks to a confidence I never imagined before having children.