Friday, August 1, 2014

Motherhood and What I Wish I'd Known

I wasn't always sure I wanted to be a mother. There are a lot of reasons for this. Mostly, I was commitment-phobic and couldn't see a reason to engage in something so confining. I liked school. I liked work. I didn't really like waiting on little people or cleaning up messes. I figured I'd eventually do it because... well, it's like, the crowning experience of womanhood, right? Then I fell in love with my husband, lost my senses, and found myself thinking in the middle of a biology lecture that I would regret it if I didn't see how our genetics played out together. Seriously though. I had an overwhelming feeling that I would regret it if I didn't take the opportunity to have babies.

From there, the decision was based on faith. Faith that the lives of generations of women before me weren't wasted or lost. Faith that I would love my children enough to change me.

As they say, faith leads to action. So I poured over every piece of information I could find on pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. I read about everything from genetic defects to financial considerations to personal stories of motherhood from friends and writers. I found a lot online about how hard it is to raise children, but I also found a community of bloggers that gave me hope. I guess that's why I felt like writing this post.

Motherhood is such a unique experience for everyone. So much of it is shaped by our prior experiences and expectations. You can find lists of horrible experiences, and stories of beautiful ones. Still, each experience is only a possible outcome. Yours might worse, but it might be better. It comes down to that beautiful/horrible embracing of the unknown that we deal with so much in life.

After almost three years of motherhood, here are some things that have surprised me about having children.

I always got the impression that I wouldn't get to do anything once I had kids. What I didn't know is that I would still have choices about my time. If I couldn't hire a babysitter, I could swap childcare with a friend. My husband and I can communicate and figure out how to support each other in doing the things we need for ourselves. I'm not in this alone. 

I was told that other women would criticize my parenting. It took time for me to realize that other mothers were my some of my biggest advocates and the key to curing the horrible isolation and loneliness you can feel as a new mother. 

I was told that having kids would provide tax deductions, but nobody ever told me that taxes plus childcare would equal more than I would make with my teaching degree. No one ever suggested that I crunch those numbers. I just figured that since my mom did it, and since I graduated from college, I would still have a choice about staying home or working. The thing is, the numbers are different for every situation depending on your spouse's income and the cost of childcare and transportation where you live. If you want to work during the years before your child goes to school and daddy isn't staying home, figure out how much you will need to make and get the necessary experience before having babies. If you plan to freelance once baby is born, realize that you will be taxed about 15% for social security in addition to income tax. The numbers... review them.

I knew that kids get sick, but I didn't know that they might get one cold after another, after another. Maybe once per month. Maybe twice per month. Maybe with another infection on top of it. You won't be able to send them to daycare or a sitter during these times. Someone will have to be home with them.

I knew kids liked to read books. What I didn't know is that they want the same stories over and over and over, day after day, week after week. They do this with toys too. Adult brains crave variation. Children's brains crave repetition. You will spend a lot of time trying to negotiate an acceptable middle path here.

I knew that toddlers threw tantrums, what I didn't realize is that you will have entire days and weeks consisting of one long tantrum... or maybe it's a lot of little tantrums with interspersed whining. Toddlers can lose it any time, any where, and you can't reason with them or even bribe them when their little brains are on emotional overload.

I knew that kids had to learn to follow directions, but I didn't realize what it really meant to have a little person with their own will that constantly contradicts yours. Constantly.

I was told that breastfeeding was hard. That it was painful. That it wasn't always instinctual. That it was easier the second time around. No one told me that I would be bored out of my mind for months as I spent days sitting on a couch nursing a newborn. No one told me that it would come naturally with my first baby and be difficult with my second. No one told me just how amazing lactation specialists are. That they really understand how babies learn, and that you should make meeting them a priority before you leave the hospital.  

I was told that my body would never be the same after having a baby, but nobody ever told me that, for the first time, I would really love my body. No one told me that I would feel so powerful and amazed by my body's ability to birth, carry and care for a child. 

I was told that the two's are terrible. What they didn't tell me is that they are also delightful, hilarious, a roller-coaster of emotion, and always full of surprises.  

I was told that I would be more exhausted than I had ever been. I was surprised to find out they were wrong. College was more exhausting. Depression and anxiety were more exhausting. With a new baby, I had an overpowering feeling of purpose that made the sleep deprivation bearable. 

I was told that I would love my babies more than I'd ever loved anything. More than my independence. More than life. They were right. I just couldn't have imagined it without experiencing it myself.

Also, no one told me how much fun my husband would have with Photoshop.


  1. Thanks. It's always good to read encouraging posts like this while I'm anxiously expecting my first kid.

    1. You will do great! It's a major life change, so it will stretch you, but you will figure it out a little at a time. You will probably have a lot more material for writing as well. :)


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