10 Things I Actually Believed Before Becoming a Mother
I’d like to give a humble bow to all the people who raised kids before me. To everyone I silently scoffed at when they did something “I’d never do with my kids.” To moms who complained they were “so tired” with whom I would half-heartedly attempt to sympathize. To those parents for whom I harbored any form of smug superiority.
I’m sorry. I had no idea. Here’s what I thought:
I thought I’d be bored.
I still don’t know how I believed this, but I clearly remember thinking it. Wouldn’t it be boring to just be at home with your kids? What would I do all day? Little did I know, it takes literally every ounce of my energy to keep them alive and to keep our house from falling apart. This involves making sure they are not putting small objects in their ears, trying to find the missing mitten in the snowbank, watching them wash their hands so that the sink doesn’t overflow, cutting up avocados and peeling apples and getting food on the table for every snack and meal, which each last only about 15 minutes. At which point, said prepared food is embedded in everyone’s hair and on their clothes and on the table and the floor, ready to be cleaned up again. I can only WISH to be bored.
I thought I would let my kids just “sleep when they’re tired.”
My husband and I would always roll our eyes when our friends with kids would freak about sleep schedules. Live a little! Who cares if they stay up, they’ll just sleep in tomorrow morning. When we had kids, we were not going to be beholden to bedtimes and naptimes. If they’re not tired, don’t make them sleep. If they’re tired enough, they’ll fall asleep. Yeah…every parent reading this knows exactly how that experiment goes. If you have any chance at keeping your children from being maniacs, you hold that sleeptime sacred. You do not let anything mess with it. You do not care what anyone without children is thinking.
I thought my mom friends were exaggerating when they said they couldn’t get anything done.
Again, I have to humbly apologize for not believing you. I thought you were being dramatic when you talked about not having time to reply to an email or make up the guest bedroom or go grocery shopping. What do you mean you can’t exercise? Or read a book? Or clean the bathroom? It’s like I actually believed that the kids were just sitting there, playing all day, and the parent was just there to be a token adult – free to do whatever they pleased.
I thought kids were picky eaters because they were allowed to be.
This one still holds a grain of truth for me, but I’ve drastically expanded my interpretation of the rule. Sure, you can give your 8-month-old curried cauliflower, pickled herring, and jicama sticks and watch them gobble it all down with abandon, proclaiming that you have cultured a child that will eat anything. But I’ll be willing to bet that at some point in those toddler years, your cultured eater is going to take a stand. They’re going to scarf carbs. Or fruit. Or only red foods. Or they’re going to refuse meat. Or spit out anything that takes too much effort to chew. They’re going to discover Goldfish and Pirates Booty and gummy snacks and macaroni and cheese. And they’re probably going to love it more than anything else. And it’s not your fault. And it’s going to be ok.
I thought you could parent your kid out of having tantrums.
Nope. Turns out, good kids have tantrums. Good parents have kids who have tantrums. Every child will have tantrums. The sooner it becomes comfortable for you, the easier it is for you to get over yourself.
I thought I needed at least 8 hours of sleep to function.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting have taught me lots of things about my physical abilities. Things I didn’t think were possible, frankly. But one of the biggest things I have learned is how little sleep you need to function. My husband once said during the infant days, “I didn’t realize that when moms said they were up all night, they were ACTUALLY up all night.” It’s a scary discovery. I’m not saying it’s healthy, or desirable in the least. But it’s possible. There have been many days where I think, “There is no way I can make it through this day on that little sleep.” And then, you do.
I thought staying at home with kids would be more relaxing than working.
I remember thinking how lucky moms were that “got to” stay home with their kids. And yeah, it’s lucky for lots of reasons, but not because it’s more relaxing. I had not even CLOSE to an idea about how utterly exhausting it is to spend a day at home with kids. Everyone should be required to do it for a week just to fully understand how very NOT relaxing it is. My mom friends who work full time tell me they look forward to going to work so that they can have a chance to relax, drink coffee without spills, order things online, and go to the bathroom alone.
I thought being a nanny, an aunt, and a camp counselor was going to give me a leg up.
I was not one of those people that went into parenthood without a clue about children. I was raised by a nursery school teacher, I was a daycamp counselor, and I babysat for every family on the block. I nannied straight through college and my twenties, then worked in a school and as a child social worker. I thought I had a pretty solid handle on what to expect when I became a mother. Nope. Turns out, there are things you just truly CANNOT understand before you’re experiencing parenthood yourself.
I thought we wouldn’t watch Daniel Tiger and Caillou or use words like “potty” and “boo boo.”
Why did I think I’d have a child with sophisticated tastes and without the childish tendencies that every kid before him exhibited? I thought we’d speak only in adult language and not cater to baby talk. I thought we’d watch movies with real people and avoid animation. Know why parents do all those things? Because they work. Because they make kids happy. Because it’s how we relate to our children and how they relate to us. Because once we have kids, it becomes the
most consuming, incredible experiment in our entire lives, and we just go all in. And we totally forget why we said we’d never do things.
I thought everyone was overselling how awesome it is.
You know that doe-eyed look that every parent gets when they start talking about babies? That tendency parents have to not be able to stop talking about kid things even when there are no kids around? That annoyed me. I spent a lot of time with kids and I was definitely considered a “kid-person,” but I honestly wasn’t sold on the idea of having my own. I was not someone who always dreamed of being a mother, and I wasn’t eager for it to define me. So when I heard parents declare that having kids was “the best thing they ever did” and that it introduced them to “a love unlike any other,” I had my doubts. This, hands down, is the feeling that is almost impossible to remember.