8 ways having children drastically changes your outlook on life, according to psychology

As a man who doesn’t yet have children, I’ve often heard friends and family say that “having kids changes your perspective on everything.”

Even those who didn’t expect to change much as a result of parenthood or hadn’t formerly thought of themselves as dads or moms, underwent huge shifts as a result of having kids. 

I wanted to investigate further:

How does this transformational event in life change a person’s perspective on life and relationships? How does it change their relationship with themselves?

Let’s dive in.

1) You have a keener sense of responsibility 

Becoming a parent brings a much keener sense of responsibility

Your life is now about protecting and guiding an innocent new being, and if you fail at that task or focus only on yourself, they will suffer harm and pain. 

You feel that weight – and also that opportunity – on your shoulders. 

It’s you who will influence and guide your child more than anybody else, and that responsibility hits home in a big way.

As the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) notes:

“Psychological research and practice show us that parents are the most important influence on their children. As rewarding as it can be to be a parent, it can also be a difficult job at times.  

“To be a good parent takes knowledge, a great deal of practice, a lot of flexibility and openness to keep learning.”

2) Your priorities shift to your kids 

The sense of responsibility and potential you feel for the new life you have created is enormous.

It leads to a shift in priorities:

Optional and non-necessary tasks for your own self-care sometimes have to fall to the wayside, and the needs of your infant and growing child take precedence. 

Even when you may not fully live up to this goal and ideal, your emotional center becomes very much about your kids and a new paradigm opens up where your life is being lived as much for somebody else as for yourself. 

“For many parents, when their first child is born, it’s the first time in their lives that their number one priority shifts from themselves to another person,” observes cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Christian Jarrett.

3) You become more attuned to practical things

Becoming a parent makes you much more attuned to practical matters. 

You learn about how to care for a new growing life:

What the baby needs to eat, what calms the kiddo, what makes them cry. 

This is especially true in a relationship in which the mother is the primary caregiver or in which a person is single parenting. 

Nothing will happen spontaneously, and you take on the need to arrange practical things and become as efficient as possible in every area of your life.

This includes in your scheduling and managing what you need to do as an individual or for work with your parenting duties.

4) You become much more patient

There’s no way to be a functional and competent parent without being patient. 

For many folks patience is not a quality they possess in great measure, and so parenting is a crash course in being much more patient. 

Even for strict individuals, this means refusing to react impulsively, doing your best to keep your calm and seeking support for children who present more challenges or difficulties you don’t know how to deal with. 

“Whether parenting with a partner, in one or two homes, or as a single parent, parents need support from family, friends, and their community,” the CPA points out

“Parenting some children poses additional challenges that can tax the patience and the skills of even the most devoted parent.”

5) You see the immense value and uniqueness of childhood

Time is short, and life is full of suffering. But the beauty of childhood opens up a sincerity and tenderness of heart in many new parents. 

Repeated studies have shown that becoming a parent causes individuals to get more in touch with their emotions and inner feelings. 

It’s a time for you to reflect on your own childhood and perhaps some of its shortcomings and wonders. 

Your own child’s upbringing isn’t going to be perfect, but it’s a beautiful time and you feel grateful to see a new being enter into the world and play and learn in it. 

This ties in directly to the next dramatic shift that takes place in you as a new parent: 

6) You become much more emotionally raw and vulnerable…

helicopter parent 8 ways having children drastically changes your outlook on life, according to psychology

When you become a parent it can feel like your heart opens up and is flooded with intensified emotions. 

This is particularly true with women who’ve given birth and are flooded with the bonding chemicals and hormonal changes of post-partum motherhood. 

But for fathers also, the rawness and emotional aspect of parenthood is highly impactful. 

This ties into brain chemistry and endless epochs of human evolution:

Now you have “skin in the game,” and the fragility and value of life is not something you can ignore or pretend is no big deal.

As Psychology Professor Vanessa LoBue, Ph.D. observes:

“A group of researchers found that becoming a parent for the first time activates what they call a ‘parental caregiving network’ in the brain, engaging areas most responsible for emotional processing, social understanding, and empathy….

“So while becoming a parent can turn you into a sappy, emotional wreck, these emotional changes might actually be a really good thing, helping new parents become extra sensitive and quick to respond to their babies’ needs.”

7) But you also become rock-solid tough in ways you didn’t expect

While your emotions open up and become intensified, your ability to withstand the regular jolts and disappointments of life becomes heightened. 

You don’t lose your cool as easily, and you’re able to shrug off an unkind comment from a colleague without thinking twice. 

You deal with a scraped knee or a bad mood from your partner as effectively as possible, doing your best to communicate.

The priority is the child, not the bumps in the road that formerly would have thrown you off or sent you into a sulk. 

8) You’re driven by a strong sense of purpose

Finding a purpose in life isn’t easy and can be enormously confusing. 

But there’s no shortage of purpose once you become a dad or mom: 

Your purpose is the survival and well-being of this child. Full stop. Your analysis of that or deeper reflections are always secondary to the fact that the child needs you. 

Whether you had a child at a younger age or older age, you adapt and do your best to keep up with this intense new responsibility. 

As psychologist Mark Travers, Ph.D. writes:

“No two parenting journeys are ever the same. As long as you’re entering with a plan and for the right reasons, there’s never a wrong time to have children.”

9) You reevaluate your morals and principles

What kind of role model are you?

It’s often a question that folks don’t think too deeply about before having kids, apart from trying their best not to swear around younger kids and not hurting the feelings of their nephews. 

But when you become a parent, such questions take on a burning importance. 

It’s not theoretical or abstract in any way: it’s a matter of what impression and lessons your behavior, words and actions are having on the youngster who looks at you as their ideal (or at least as their norm). 

As psychology professor Tony Evans, Ph.D. notes about a large study he conducted with new parents in the Netherlands, parents gradually became more trusting and ethically-oriented as they settled into being a parent. 

To cut a long story short: they tended to become better people. 

What kind of parent do you want to be?

Becoming a parent changes you in many ways, transforming you into a more responsible and loving individual but also challenging you not to embrace your dark side of reactiveness or withdrawal. 

Children will challenge you and always bring up the question of what kind of parent you want to be. 

Even if it’s something you don’t consciously ponder, or your parenting style is instinctual and based on the way you were raised, the choice is always there.

As developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind notes, parents tend to fall into the categories of permissive, authoritative, neglectful or authoritarian. 

Many parents alternate between these parenting styles, finding a balance and adjusting to their child’s needs. 

It’s never easy, but it’s worth it, and the changes you undergo in the process are nothing short of remarkable.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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