​How motherhood changes you: The data on politics, work, religion and family

When you are going to have a baby, people are quick to tell you about how much your life is going to change. That is, if they’re not busy trying to touch your belly or asking you awkwardly personal questions. And after my son arrived, when strangers aren’t coming up to us in the grocery store and trying to touch him, they’re asking me how much things have changed.

Of course, having a baby did change everything, but not in the ways I expected. Yes, there’s less sleep, but it’s not like I was sleeping much the last two months before my little guy’s arrival. And there’s the laundry. So much laundry.

I talk about poop more. I sleep less. I’ve learned to eat meals with one hand, and found out floorboards squeak the least in my son’s room.

But, for me, the biggest changes have not been the ones I was warned about. The biggest changes were the ones I didn’t necessarily see coming.

How does motherhood change us? Here’s what the data (and our own experiences) show:

  • Politics. With the birth of my son came more passionate political opinions. It wasn’t that my opinions themselves changed but how I understood the issues. Violence, vaccinations, child care, maternity leave, racial inequality, education – issues I’d worked on over the years suddenly became more real and more pressing.

Although a 2008 study found that having daughters makes parents, especially dads, more likely to be liberal, Jill Greenlee, an associate professor at Brandeis University and author of The Political Consequences of Motherhood, said in a 2014 interview, “The act of carrying and caring for a child allows women [to] think about issues in a different, more personal, more powerful way. While their stance on an issue may not have changed, the knowledge and emotion underlying their position does.”

  • Career. Before my little guy was born, my plan was to return to a full-time job. It’s what my mom had done and what my mother-in-law did. Only it’s not what I did. Instead, I work from home, for myself, part time. I’ve realized that what’s best for my family – and for me – right now is a flexible work arrangement that allows me to work from home.

The research is a little murky when it comes to moms who opt to work from home as surveys still draw a thick line between working moms and stay-at-home moms. But, many moms – especially Millennials – want to be at home early in their children’s lives. With 21 percent of employed adults doing at least some of their job at home, 10.1 million women-owned business and employment sites geared towards moms who want to work from home, signs point to more women finding new and creative ways to balance a career and family.

  • Faith. I was raised in the church and there are Bible stories I’ve heard thousands of times. Yet, with my son’s birth only a month before Christmas, I found myself wondering more about Mary, Jesus’ mother. On another Sunday, my heart stopped as the story of Baby Moses in Exodus was read: “The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.” Moses was three months old when his mom put him into the basket. Three months old – the same age as my son at the time.

While half of parents report having kids had little or no influence on their connection to church, according to the Barna Group, many experience a change of relationship with religion after becoming parents. For example,17 percent of parents said they reconnected with a church after a long period of not attending once they had kids, and one-in-five parents say they become more active. One-in-10 even said that for them, parenthood spurred them to go to church for the first time.

  • My Mom. On one of the days my usually happy little guy was not so happy and I was feeling particularly bad about the state of the house – baby toys strewn across the floor and dirty dishes taking over my counter – I found a new sense of awe for my own mother. I’m pretty sure I picked up the phone and called her to apologize for every time I was a brat and gave her a hard time. I’m pretty sure she laughed.

While there is also some strain on mother-daughter relationships for many new moms, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling more in awe of my own mother. Even Drew Barrymore, who has a rather complicated relationship with her own mom, recently noted that while having a kid didn’t fix their relationship, it did cause her to be more empathetic toward her mom.

Those supermarket strangers were right, everything has changed in the past six months since my son was born. But the biggest changes weren’t the ones in the books or the ones they asked me about. Rather, they’re in the ways that my little guy is helping to grow my heart. He’s helping to make me a better person, too.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less