After nine months of carefully tending to your growing belly, then perhaps hours of life-altering labor, you get a big prize to take home: a baby to nurture and cherish. But the benefits don’t stop there. Here are 10 ways pregnancy and motherhood can reward you physically, mentally and emotionally for years to come.
1. A Better Body Image: After experiencing pregnancy and childbirth, you may regard your body with a more forgiving eye. “I no longer think, ‘My thighs don’t look right, my feet are kind of ugly, and my pores are too big,’” says Heather Sullivan, 28, the Oxford, Miss., mother of 2-year-old Fiona. “Pregnancy helped me look at myself as a whole person rather than a collection of sometimes-flawed parts.”
“I have a new appreciation for fuller breasts and a padded hip,” says Tanya Tabachnikoff, a 35-year-old media relations director from Brattleboro, Vt. “There’s something about knowing the flesh and warmth of my body is the most secure and comfortable place in the world for my child
2. A Broader World View: “Having children gives you a whole new capacity for feeling,” says Genevieve Belfiglio, 44, a mother of three in West Windsor, N.J. Suddenly, the evening news hits home. Seeing men and women go off to war, for example, is difficult to ignore. “You think, ‘They’re somebody’s children.’” Likewise, a school shooting reported in the national media makes you want to get involved to prevent similar tragedies from happening in your area.
“I have more interest in what’s going on around me,” says Sue Reddy, 39, a public relations consultant in Plantation, Fla., and mother of a 6-year-old. “It’s my home and my son’s home, and I care about what it looks like and how it functions and what businesses are near the school,” she says. “Before, I never paid attention.”
3. A New Career Perspective: Juggling motherhood and work is a constant struggle for many women. But ultimately, one can benefit the other. “Having children helped me in my business because I’m more understanding and flexible with my employees,” says Beth LaBreche, 34, owner of a Minneapolis public relations firm and mom to 3-year-old Sam. “I can also relate on a new level with my clients, most of whom are parents.”
Because you’re not dependent on your career for your whole identity, becoming a mother can give you a deeper feeling of job fulfillment. By becoming a mother, you often gain a sense of balance, explains Shellie Fidell, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., a therapist with Women’s Health Care Partnership in St. Louis.
You’ll also learn how to juggle many tasks simultaneously and fine-tune your time-management skills. “Before I had children, I went into tizzies about work,” says Debbie Lum, 36, a marketing director in Tampa, Fla., and mother of two. “Now, my children are my first priority. I maximize my time so I don’t bring work home unless I have to. It’s amazing — when you slow down, everything still gets done.”