Before I became a mom I knew there was lots of stuff I didn’t know about motherhood. I mean, there were more books than anyone can count written on the topic, more blogs than I cared to read and billions of women who were mothers before me. What did I know? While I did a fair amount of research on the subject, though not as much as most women due to the lack of an English ‘Parenting’ section at my local Hungarian library, I was relatively clueless when my daughter came into the world that frosty January morning. I knew I was embarking on a steep learning curve, I didn’t appreciate just how steep it would be. Some things I’ve learned along the way haven’t surprised me, others seem somewhat random and downright ridiculous. Here are my 10 favorite unexpected lessons about motherhood:
1. You will almost always have an audience when you shower. This is one thing the baby books don’t tell you will happen. I never read anything about how you will need to shut your small children in the bathroom with you so they won’t fingerpaint the walls or injure themselves or each other in the five minutes you have to devote to personal hygiene. Now when I talk with other moms it’s a given that showering is a spectator sport.
2. You will get holes in the knees of your pants. Shortly after Eleanor became mobile I noticed something strange: the knees on my jeans were fading from blue to white. Eventually I had a matching pair of holes, a first since elementary school (except in middle school when I bought jeans with the holes already there). Just like spit up on the shoulder, knee holes are a badge of motherhood.
3. You had SO much free time before you were a parent. I’d heard parents say, ‘What did we do before we had kids?’, usually in reference to activities outside the home. But I didn’t appreciate just how hard it can be to maintain regular activities inside the home. While we do plenty of non-kid things in our house the kid stuff definitely takes precedence, which at this stage is just playing, feeding and basic hygiene. But oh man, does keeping a small being happy and healthy take a lot of time!
4. You had SO much free time when you only had one kid. Before Edward was born a friend told me that after you have two kids, taking care of one feels like taking care of none. And it’s true: two kids are more than double the amount of work (at least for a while – I’m told that when they can play together it’s actually easier). When you have one child you can get a lot done during nap time or one parent can take care of the child while the other does something else. Not always so with two — my kids are world champion tag-team nappers and one kid always wanders into the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner even when Ryan’s playing with them.
5. At some point you will probably question if having a baby was a good idea. Sometime in the midst of sleepless nights, teaching a baby (and myself) to breastfeed I felt it; a twinge of regret. Not the kind that made me want to give my dear baby back but it was a voice that said it would have been easier to not have kids. Yes, that is true but it’s not better and it’s never what I wanted. Or you might be like my friend who said that the task of motherhood seemed overwhelming and felt discouraged. But when that little baby looks at you, you can’t help but feel love and that maternal instinct to do everything you can for him.
6. Children don’t have to take over your house. Before I became a parent every message I got said: surrender, just convert your whole house into a playroom. Well, that doesn’t fly with me. While from the moment you walk in the door it’s obvious children live in my house it’s not overrun by toys, piles of coloring pages or plastic. If you do want to convert your house to a playroom, go for it! (and please invite us over for a play date!)
7. Kids programs are torture. The first time I took Eleanor to Story Time at the library I wanted to gouge out my eyes with a spoon and stick forks in my ears. Seriously? Why do parents willingly put themselves through this?!?! Apparently, the more obnoxious something is the more kids like it. Fortunately Eleanor has good taste and in living in a small town the past year has made it easier to attend a minimal amount of kid’s programs. However, it is really fun being at places like the zoo with kids and seeing joy permeate their faces as they sing ridiculous songs at the library.
8. Silence is not golden. Almost every mom has a moment of panic when her sleeping newborn goes quiet just a little bit too long in between breaths. And when that baby is a toddler no sound is more suspicious than silence — you know they’re concentrating way too hard on something they shouldn’t be doing. I mean, I don’t enjoy the yelling and screaming but at least I know what’s going on.
9. Hanging out with your friends is call ‘play dates’. It didn’t hit me until after Edward was born that 95% of the time I spend with my friends is at one of our homes overseeing our kids. I get to see friends more often than when I was working but it’s not the same as sitting across from someone at a coffee shop for an hour of uninterrupted conversation (even well-behaved kids are distracting). Thus the ‘friend date’ was born and I’m more intentional about spending time with my friends at places where our kids at not within earshot.
10. Raising children is the most difficult and beautiful thing you will ever do. I heard this cliché so many times my ears translated it into blah blah blah every time someone said it. Well, turns out it’s true. While there are things that could be harder, there’s not many and none of them would have the same payout. Because no matter how insane my kids drove me all day when they need their mommy to snuggle them to sleep, it’s worth it, it’s totally worth it.
What lessons has motherhood taught YOU that you didn’t expect? Do you relate to any of these lessons? If you’re not a mom, are any of these surprising or did you already know them?