How Becoming a Parent Changes You

Lessons in humility, contentment and relying on God.

BY PAUL PERKINS LIFE April 08, 2016

A few weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our first child—a beautiful little girl.

It was one of the best days of my life. From the moment my wife woke me with a quiet moan late at night to the soft cry of our daughter as she slid into my hands shortly after the sun peeked over the horizon—every second seemed like a miracle.

Never in my life will I forget the joy of looking into my daughter’s eyes for the first time—and then meeting my wife’s eyes. If I ever doubt God’s love, I need only remember those few seconds.

Of course, a lot has happened since that dramatic day. There have been countless diaper changes, feedings, spit-ups, baths, and late-night soothings. And while these might seem like unremarkable activities, they’re anything but. Which is surprising, because prior to my daughter’s arrival, I didn’t think I’d enjoy caring for a newborn. But I do.

That’s not the only thing that’s surprised me about becoming a parent. In fact, in some remarkable ways, having a child has already changed me.

Life Is No Longer About Me

Almost every weekday morning for the past 11 years, I woke up early and headed to the gym. After exercising, I returned home, cleaned up, and ate a big breakfast. Then I headed off to work.

I suspected having a child might butt into my cherished routine. And sure enough, it has—every element of my daily schedule has been thrown out the window.

But here’s what’s surprised me—I don’t care. It doesn’t faze me that my daughter has taken over my life. For instance, when I get home from work, my wife and I no longer chill for a few hours. Our evenings are now consumed with caring for our daughter.

Why do these sacrifices not feel like sacrifices? Why are they blessings instead of curses? Because life is no longer about me. Now it’s about caring for a beautiful and wonderful little girl. And that changes everything.

Joy Is Found in the Little Moments

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I once thought the first few years of my daughter’s life would be pretty boring. Between crying and sleeping and feeding, I didn’t see much excitement or adventure. It seemed so dull and ordinary.

Maybe my addiction to distraction—the 21st century epidemic few people are talking about—is to blame. Or maybe it’s just because I’m more of a doer than a thinker. Either way, I didn’t have high hopes for the beginning of parenthood.

And while my daughter is far from playing sports and carrying on a conversation, there’s still great joy in everything before these milestones. The truth is, my heart melts every time she smiles. Her coos fill me with overwhelming happiness. Holding her is the highlight of my day.

It’s surprising, but I’m learning that joy isn’t only found in the big and bold. It’s also found in the little moments. The day by day, moment by moment interactions with my daughter—even if all she can do is look me in the eye and smile.

My Relationship With God Is More Important Than Ever

The Bible often refers to God as our father. Until recently, that title carried an obvious analogy—like my own dad loved and cared for me growing up, God too loves and cares for me. But now, the title of father has taken on an entirely new meaning, because now I’m a father. And just like God loves and cares for me, I’m now called to love and care for my daughter.

There’s no greater challenge or responsibility. In a sense, I’m a representation of God the Father to my daughter. It’s my job to show her who God is—not simply by what I teach her, but how I treat her, how I love her, how I care for her, how I protect her, how I provide for her, how I discipline her.

It’s my greatest job. And I can only do it with the help of my heavenly Father.

Now more than ever, my relationship with God has taken on more importance. Being a nominal Christian isn’t an option. Praying every so often isn’t going to cut it. Reading the Bible every month or two isn’t enough. Authentic relationships with Godly men cannot be an afterthought. Worshiping God, whether through song or praise or awed wonder, isn’t a matter of convenience. Listening to God during quiet mediation cannot be ignored.

Why? Because by growing closer to God, I will become a better father. And there’s nothing I want more than to be a great father to my little girl.

Paul Perkins

PAUL PERKINS

Paul Perkins is an attorney, former White House staffer and author of the spiritual memoir, Unexpected Journeys. Read more at PaulPerkins.com.

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