Has becoming a parent changed your values?

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I recently finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (the same guy who wrote Everything Is Illuminated). Regardless of your opinion of eating meat, it’s a fascinating look into the animal agricultural system in the United States. Foer began writing the book after the birth of his son prompted him to re-examine the food he and his family were eating. Since Foer began the process as a very happy omnivore and ended it as an even happier vegetarian, it got me to wondering what kinds of changes in priorities and values other parents have made.

For example, while we’ve always been pretty solid volunteers, Sean and I have upped our community participation since Jasper was born. We’ve both found ways to volunteer through our careers (I take photos for a few local organizations, and he’s organizing Earth Week celebrations through his engineering department), which I think is cool — hopefully, we’ll keep doing this, and Jasper will see that all kinds of professions can have a meaningful impact on the people around you.

Something else that we’ve taken a marked stance against is discrimination — neither of us have ever been big supporters, but in the past if a friend or family member said something offensive (and we live in the South, y’all), we’d usually choose silence over vocalizing our dissent. Once Jasper was in the picture, we started speaking up every single time, even at the risk of becoming Those People (you know, the ones that you can never tell a remotely offensive joke around, because you know we’ll say something).

So tell me! Have your values or world views shifted since the birth of your kid(s)? If so, how are they different? Did the changes surprise you, or do you feel they were a natural evolution of yourself in the first place?

Comments on Has becoming a parent changed your values?

  1. I think things have shifted for me for sure. They aren’t too different, just a lot more… important to me, I guess. Like Food. It’s really important to me now to eat quality food and support local farms. Also, I’ve been a vegetarian for many many years and it’s kind of become my default setting, somthing I haven’t really analyzed in years. Having another person rely on me has definitely made me reconsider WHY exactly I’ve made certain decision and if I think they are important enough to enforce. In this case, I plan on introducing meat to my son, and have starting eating a bit of chicken/turkey once in a while. We know what we’re eating and we know what it ate. We’re also country dwellers and plan on having animals one day….animals that will eventually have to earn their keep… However, Finn will value vegetarianism and will follow vegetarianism when clean, ethical meat isnt an option.
    Community involvement too, is becoming more important to me. And charity…both things I will admit I rarely spent time on in the past.

  2. Yes. I had thought of gay rights as “none of my business,” and gave nothing more than lip service to the unfairness of it all.

    Then I had my son, and it occurred to me that he might someday want to marry a man. Because of my religious upbringing, I was surprised to realize that not only would I not *care* if he married a man, but that I deeply wanted to fight for his right to do it if he so chose.

    We joined our first equality protest a couple weeks ago, when he was four months and two days old.

    I realized that regardless of what gender he loves, or what gender he identifies as, I want him to be free to be himself and to know that the laws of his home country truly support his right to pursue happiness.

    25 years in the future I don’t want to be in the position my (gay) friends’ parents are in: 50+ years of life and having to admit they used none of that time to make a difference for their children.

  3. I don’t know that much has changed for me. Because I have siblings that are much much younger than me I’ve always been fairly observant of my behavior, because I wanted to set a good example.
    My husband, on the other hand, is looking at things a litte differently. He was raised in an environment where health really wasn’t a big focus. His family eats HUGE unhealthy meals every night. They eat out a lot, don’t exercise, and are really skeptical of doctors. Since I got pregnant, however, he has become much more aware of what he eats, he is going for yearly physicals, and has agreed to start Weight Watchers with me after the baby is born. He says he doesn’t want our son to have to make such drastic lifestyle chagnes when he is older. I’m very excited.
    I would like to volunteer more. I used to do it a ton before I went away for college. Now I’ve moved back to my home town (just last summer), and I haven’t really gotten the chance to get involved in anything yet. I hope to soon though. My husband and I are pretty politically aware (we both have degrees in Political Science), but we live in a VERY conservative area of our state (republicans run unopposed in our district), so it’s hard to find things to be involved in that way.

  4. Oddly, I’ve found myself making a point of following rules a bit more around my son. I’m kind of a scofflaw who doesn’t follow many rules, but when it comes to certain things (like, say, crossing a busy street) thanks to my son being around, now I feel like I need to show him how to do things safely and “correctly.” I don’t want him to be like, “But mom just runs out into the street!”

    I hope that someday my son will be an outside-the-box thinker like his ma ‘n’ pa … but for the toddler years, I want him to learn how to use a crosswalk!

    • Absolutely! I went from say in f*** the police to THANKING a police officer for my seat-belt ticket (“thanks for keeping us safe, I’ll remember next time…”). In an emergency, I want my kids to be able to trust the folks that are there to help them.

  5. Really interesting topic. In general, I am definitely more deliberate in the way I do things from how I talk to and treat others to how careful I am with a pair of scissors, since I know that my daughter is watching me and learning. A more specific change has to do with chemicals. I never did give a whole lot of thought to the products I was using and how they affect not only my home, but the environment. Since having my daughter, I have turned into a vinegar-for-everything, essential oil loving, no ‘pooing hippie. I’m sure there are other things – motherhood has turned my world upside down (in the best way), but those are two biggies.

  6. I kind of worry about the attitude-changing, actually. I have an aunt who used to be a super cool semi-hippie, and when she settled down and had kids she became pretty conservative and rather dull. So I have these moments of paranoia where I worry that’s going to happen to me when I have kids, even though I know it won’t.

    I think even considering having kids has definitely made me think about certain things a lot more–my lifestyle, my dysfunctional family, my values, nutrition…I don’t think it’s necessarily made me change my mind about anything, though.

  7. We don’t have kids yet, but have just started trying to conceive, albeit in an awesomely lazy kind of way. We are making some lifestyle changes, like buying more local/organic food, eating less meat, and using more natural cleaning products (hooray for vinegar! hooray for ridiculously hot water). Both my husband and I feel good about making these small yet meaningful changes in our lives, as we feel the impact is both meaningful and long-lasting.

    One of the biggest changes that we went through was the decision to start going to church again. This came when we were first engaged. We both had childhoods centered around amazing church experiences (junior choir, sunday school, youth group, serving, super involved parents, lots of friends, etc) but this had fallen by the wayside during university. We started attending our local United Church and found community: people of all ages and walks of life and experiences. It was like finding family, but with a kickass spiritual, arts-driven, social justice component. When we moved from the Maritimes to Ontario, we did our research and found another United Church with a similar focus, and one that is also an affirming church (everyone is welcome and can be married regardless of their orientation).

    It’s not always easy, since I was raised Anglican and some of the traditions are different. There are times when I get frustrated or sad, but I’m okay with that. Our church has helped us grow as a family, and I imagine it will play an important role in the lives of our children, too.

  8. Becoming a parent was the catalyst for re-examining a lot of my values and how I express them. Part of that was leaving religion, becoming more (obnoxiously) vocally liberal and cutting meat out of our diet. I think I have a new kind of empathy as a parent; I imagine my child in all these situations, not just myself.

  9. Since the birth of our daughter Dylan, my fiance and myself have become infinitely more conscious about what we eat. We have switched to as much organic as we can afford, we eliminated fast food and sodas, started eating more fruits and veggies and almost entirely cut out red meat. We want to set a good example of the right diet for Dylan.

  10. That’s interesting. I have been a vegetarian for years, but my husband gave up red meat soon after our son was born.

    I am a control freak by nature. I like everything my way and up to my standards. Motherhood has forced me to embrace spontaneity and chaos in a way nothing else could. I am still learning and am often anxious, but no longer have issues with the fact that my life’s needs are changing and I need to roll with them. Two years ago I would have judged me 🙂

  11. It’s pretty interesting how many of you have changed your diet/eating habits. My fiance has crohn’s disease, so he has to watch his diet most of the time anyway, but I am really lazy about my eating habits. I have gotten more conscious of how my habits will influence my son’s and so I am on the road to eating healthier options, less soda, and not eating out constantly. Diabetes runs in both sides of our families so this is another thing that concerns both for my son and my fiance and I.

    Becoming a parent has changed me in other ways too. I am fairly young (just turned 21) and so I think having a change of heart about things is normal anyway, it’s just /more/ because I had a child that I now think of in any given situation. I guess I feel more like I have become a better version of myself… like a purer, unadulterated awesome version. 😀 Having a child has made me come out of the box and I care about almost everything now instead of saying “eh live and let live.”

    I think having a child has made me appreciate the world around me so much more and inspired me to get involved in new activities. It’s hard/expensive in our small town to get local produce unless it’s in season, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’m planning on hitting up every produce stand and the farmer’s market once they start up. I also plan on using a bicycle to get around town instead of using the car all the time. My family thinks I’m crazy, but I think my son, fiance and I will love it and it sets a good example for our son.

    I’ve also thought about going to church or temple again. I’m Jewish and my fiance is Baptist. We have decided not to raise our son in any one way but to keep him informed and let him make his own decisions when he understands. The thing is sometimes baptist churches scare me and the closest temple is about 45-60 minutes away. D:

    Being a parent changes things, but sometimes they are changes just waiting for the right catalyst to come along.

  12. Definitely. I’ll be a swear_word_loving_over_user right up until my little guy starts to speak. After that I’ll be a swear_word_lover, but not a user. Although I don’t object to kids swearing, I wouldn’t want him to say something at a ghastly inappropriate time – say, a funeral or something.

  13. Oh GOD yes. I wasn’t raised in any sort of offbeat fashion and I was 18 and in college when I became pregnant with my son Ryland, so admittedly I drank caffeinated soda and ate junk food to get myself through late night labs and a full-time class load. I didn’t really view the world differently until he was born. Actually there in my arms. Then it was as if a light switched on and suddenly we had to use cloth diapers (wish I knew then what I know now so we could have avoided the smelly, bulky mess of the old-school flat-fold diapers with plastic covers), eliminate all toxic chemicals from under the sink (I learned the beloved trick of cleaning with dilluted vinegar–now I don’t even buy household cleaner except Borax, I make everything with baking soda or vinegar or lemon juice), eat EVERYTHING organic (I’ve slowed down a little on that since learning more about it, such as the “dirty dozen,” the 12 fruits and vegetables that contain such a high level of pesticide they’re really only good for you if organic, vs things like oranges and pineapples that have a tough, removable skin to protect them), we had to recycle and compost and volunteer and single-handedly make the world a better place. I still live by most of these principles, at least the fairly green lifestyle, but as I said, over time and with lots of research, education, and trial and error, I’ve found a good balance.

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