What They Don't Tell You About Being a Mom
Becoming a mother is a defining moment in a woman's life. Many women spend months or even years preparing for the birth. You have baby showers and paint the nursery and pick out a car seat.
You go to birthing classes and parenting classes and pick out cute outfits. Reading every book you can get your hands on, you feel ready for motherhood.
And then it happens. That tiny, wriggling baby comes into your life just as all the rules leave. It starts with the exhaustion---not just tired but falling-asleep-on-the-toilet tired, and it gets harder from there.
While there are undoubtedly joys that come with motherhood and a life-changing depth of love and devotion, it's time we're honest about the not so pretty side of it as well, without glossing it over or pretending that it's not life-altering, sometimes ugly, and just plain hard when you do it right.
Exhausted Is the New Normal
You think you know tired, but you don't know tired until you know taking care of a baby tired. Because there is no catching up on sleep----ever.
Day after day, month after month, you become familiar with all hours of the day and night. Zombie-like you go through the days as they blend into one another.
You discover that sleeping through the night seems to happen for every kid but yours. But the truth is that even when they're asleep, you're sleep is light and fitful. Your body anticipating the slightest sound or cry.
You celebrate 2 or 3 hours of straight sleep. A victory! Bliss! You can run a marathon with that kind of sleep. And eventually you just adjust.
You learn to function on sugar and caffeine and fumes.
Your House Will Never Be Clean Again
And it's not just the toys and clutter that keep your house from truly being clean. You just lack the time, energy and sleep (see above) to really scrub, clean and make it shine.
And as your kids grow and you discover a bit more sleep, you still find that there is a lack of time as you take them to and from their many activities and obligations.
And don't be fooled by that family's house where everything looks perfect. There are really only three explanations for a family with kids that also have a clean house.
- It's hidden somewhere. Don't open the closets or the garage.
- They have 24/7 housekeeping service, one for each kid.
- They are aliens from another galaxy.
Your Friends Are All Parents
If you have friends that don't have kids, they are not likely to remain your friends after you have your first child.
People without kids have different lives. They get to go out places whenever they want. They have money because they don't have to spend it on braces and soccer uniforms. Their homes are neat and quiet and they aren't covering any marker stains on their couch with a strategically placed pillow.
Parents are friends with other parents because misery loves company. Plus there is the hope that maybe the mutual kids will entertain each other fro 15 minutes, giving the exhausted parents a small break.
Reasons Parents Are Friends With Other Parents
Since every parent experiences some aspect of misery, parents like to be friends with other parents so they can wallow in that misery, together.
Is my kid normal? Are they ahead of Mrs. Jones' son? Should I sign Katie up for piano and ballet so she'll be a prodigy like Maria's kid?
One of the small joys of parenthood is to brag. No one else will listen to us brag about our kids but other parents who are probably too tired to get up and move away from us anyway.
Sometimes You Won't Like Your Kids
When you become a parent, you discover exactly what they mean when they say that love and like are not necessarily two sides of the same coin. A good parent always loves their kids. You can't help it. But you don't always like them.
Every parent is tempted to just walk away from the melt down in the middle of the grocery store or hide behind a bush as they watch in shock as their "precious angel" not only hits the toddler at the park but then steals her toy and takes off.
When you've seen your kid every hour, on the hour, because they won't go to sleep, it's all you can do to walk in there one more time instead of just walking out the door.
Sometimes you just want five minutes to yourself. But you know that's not happening. So you take a deep breath, count to ten, and claim that red-faced, screaming kid as your own.
Sometimes You Won't Like Yourself
But because you're human, sometimes the exhaustion and the frustration may get to you. You may yell when you don't want to. You may lose your temper over something stupid. You may even pitch a big mom-fit complete with stomping and slamming doors.
And in a few moments, after you've started calming down, you feel like an idiot. You beat yourself up because you lost it.
Only you shouldn't. Just like anyone else, you're human. You're tired. You're overwhelmed and you are not supernatural.
You're going to make mistakes. You're going to screw up and then you're going to spend days, months or years second guessing it.
Here's my advice: don't.
Forgive and move on, even if it means forgiving yourself.
Your Relationship With Your Partner Will Never Be The Same
There are several reasons that your relationship with your partner will change. For one thing, you're tired. You're both tired. Suddenly sleep sounds a whole lot better than a late night at the club.
And intimacy is not quite so intimate or spontaneous. Besides wishing for sleep above all else, you are also having to carve out time and space--both precious commodities when you have kids.
And those long conversations you used to have for hours on end? Now you're lucky if you can get in half sentences:
Wife: "I would really love to go.....Joey quit pulling your sisters hair."
Husband: "Yes honey I'll read Goodnight Moon again....for the 10,000th time....what was that."
Wife: "To see that new romantic comedy......for the last time, to your rooms, leave each other alone!"
Husband: "Who forgot to flush the toilet? Yeah, honey that would be great but when? And who would we bribe to babysit?"
Wife: "Let's just get something from Redbox and fall asleep in the middle like usual......no more slamming doors!"
Focusing on each other is harder and sometimes there's very little time left at the end of a long day of parental duties.
You're Worried All The Time
Not only has your relationship with your partner changed and you're exhausted and screechy but you're also worried.
All. The. Time.
When they are a baby every fever, every startle makes you cringe. You check on them all the time to make sure they're breathing. And that doesn't stop when they get older. But then you add in all kinds of fears real and imagined: illness, abduction, accidents, finding the right kind fo friends, finding the wrong kind of friends, doing well in school, being true to themselves. The list is nearly endless.
It's amazing that all parents are not completely insane by the time their child grows up and moves out into the world. Because even then the worries and the fears don't stop.
Here's The Kicker
But the really funny thing about motherhood and about being a parent is that most of us would do it all again if given a choice.
We love those little creatures of ours with an almost insane amount of emotion and devotion. And though our worlds were turned upside down, likely to never be the same again, we wouldn't trade it for the long ago peace of our child-free days.
So don't feel bad if you're less than perfect or if your house is a mess and your idea of a good time is putting pajamas on at 7:30 PM.
You're not crazy. You're just "mom."