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Will You Be a Good Mother?

Are your priorities flexible?

Soon after your baby's born, he nestles into your psyche permanently. Psychiatrist Daniel Stern, M.D., in his book The Birth of a Mother, calls this mental shift "the motherhood mindset." This psychological rebirth marked by new fears, hopes, and priorities is virtually impossible to imagine beforehand. But being willing to make room for it can spare you later frustration over the inevitable (and never-ending) push-pull of your child versus the rest of your life. Frances, for example, worked 12-hour days as an account manager for a managed health care organization, a job she loved. "It was as if my customers were my children," she says. Now the mother of a toddler, Frances still works hard nurturing clients,but on a four-day-a-week, 9-to-5 schedule. She's learned to delegate more and work more efficiently. "I figure I have another thirty years of work life ahead of me, but my son won't be little forever. Taking the long view helps me keep mypriorities straight."

If the need to roll with the punches catches many women by surprise, so does the discovery that, somehow, you'll manage. "When Sara was born, she was colicky and I was up all night for two weeks," says Kim, a nurse who has two children. "But somehow you work through things. I've learned a lot about myself. For one thing, I never knew I had a temper! But I also never dreamed I'd be able to focus so much on anyone besides myself or my husband."