1. She was born with the social skills I never had. If it weren’t for her extroversion, I’d probably be sitting in the house watching TV all day. Instead, I’m approaching people at the park and even started my own group on Meetup, Carlsbad Village Moms. When she’s outgoing around strangers, I feel like it’s okay for me too. Her interest in people gives me an excuse to say hello.

2. She’s revived my imagination. I’ve always loved my dolls and stuffed animals, but she challenges me to come up with new ways to pretend. I watch her feed her panda in her play kitchen and I remember my own childhood. My sister and I would play birthday party with our bears and spy on neighbors from our side yard. As adults, we think adventure is elsewhere when kids know it’s just a matter of make-believe.

3. I now know the true value of a good night’s sleep. Before Baby J, the optimist in me believed that the barrage of sleepless nights and interrupted sleep cycles wouldn’t have much of an impact. Truthfully, it altered my mood and even changed my personality. At 19 months, when I’m still coming up for air yet facing a new host of nighttime issues, I realize that I can’t trust my thoughts without the right amount of sleep.

4. I’ve learned to use time resourcefully. Now, I’m aware of things that just aren’t worth doing. I know when I have the energy to write or clean and when I don’t, I choose to relax. I pick TV shows wisely, not wasting free time watching something bad. I look for vegetables that are quick to cook (like broccoli) or one-pot dishes that cut down on the number of things I need to watch at once. Before this, I’m not sure I had any concept of time except waiting for the clock to hit 5 p.m. at work.

5. My looks are not center-stage anymore. While I try to keep from looking too sloppy, I’m proud to say that I rarely get a chance to agonize over some imperfection. It’s more about being reasonably presentable. If you’ve shopped with a toddler, you know that you can’t stare at yourself in the mirror forever—you’re either buying it or leaving it. Maybe this is a sign of maturity too. (Let’s hope!)

6. I have empathy for new moms and awe for moms of 2, 3, 4 and 5. I’ll never again be irritated by a crying kid on an airplane (or at least, until I’m way older and crankier). I know that the mom feeding her kids Cheetos is either doing it for five minutes of peace and quiet or to avoid the embarrassment of a public tantrum. It’s time to stop judging when you do something you’ve made fun of, like talk in that insincerely sweet voice that masks total frustration.

7. I worry less and act on genuine concern. I’m determined not to follow the paranoia in my genes and only do what is within the realm of possibility to ensure my daughter’s safety. Ever since she was born, I stopped worrying about the rare chance of a home intruder sneaking up our stairs and started worrying more about the things I could control. When it’s so easy as a parent to feel overwhelmed with anxiety (especially with a premature newborn), I’ve learned to think about my fears rationally and then act within reason. Still, there’s no better time than when my baby’s safe and sound in my arms!

I hope you read this list and realize that your baby has made you a better person too. However, no warm and fuzzy parent post would be complete without a reminder of the bad ways I’m just like my toddler.