One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was that it’s important to learn to accept a changing self-image. Letting go of the old you is easier if you can more readily accept the new you.

When I received this advice I understood it to mean that I should love myself no matter if I gained weight, or if my boobs got smaller, or if my hair turned grey. And certainly that’s a big part of self-image, and is especially important when you go through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum changes. But as more time has passed I’ve realized that self-image goes far beyond the physical.

Motherhood has changed me, and it’s not just that soft skin around my belly button, or the wrinkles between my eyebrows that suddenly seem deeper. There are a ton of tiny changes in my behavior that have been revealed, and they seem especially obvious now that I’m back to work and learning to balance life, a job, two kids, and a newspaper column. I can see a new me emerging, and while I do miss so many aspects of the relaxed, easy-going, well-rested me, the new me is certainly improved.

For one, I meal plan now. I sit with a notebook at the beginning of the week, write out what our meals will be, what the kids will eat, and shop with those plans in mind. I don’t waste time browsing the aisles, instead I order everything online and pick it up. Gone is the old me who liked to pop into the grocer to pick up fresh ingredients and browse for inspiration a few times a week. Gone is the me who was fine with an hour of cooking producing two nice portions of one carefully crafted entree. An hour of cooking now needs to make six to eight portions of two different meals. Bonus if they’re good for the freezer.

Old me was not big on makeup, but new me has invested some time into figuring out how to brighten up my dark circles. I want to at least appear well-rested, even if I’m not. Speaking of mornings, I used to dilly-dally in my closet, preferring to choose what to wear based on my mood. I now pick out an outfit the night before, and hang it neatly, so it is ready to quickly put on. New me also likes to change into track pants when I get home. I tell myself this is so I don’t get puke on my work clothes, but honestly, spending months at home in loungewear has given me a real appreciation for comfort.

Nine thirty at night is now what I consider to be “late”. A former night-owl with a deep and enduring love of the midnight hour, I now worry if I’m up past ten. Gone are the Netflix binges. Watching one episode in an evening feels like an accomplishment.

I could go on, but time is of the essence. I am writing this column in the treasured hour between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m., the full hour each day that I can spend on myself. Do I organize my closet? Read a few chapters of a book? Spend some time texting with friends or family? The list of things I’d like to achieve in this single hour each day is massive, and I think the new me will probably achieve them all, eventually. The new me is efficient, organized, and gets things done. The new me is a working mother.