You know who I mean by “they.” The perfect moms, the moms who lunch. They, who seemingly have it all together. You will encounter said miracle workers in every stage of womanhood. The ones with the perfect social media pictures and cute anecdotes of when little angel-faced Livingston the Third “accidentally” spilled his milk on his sister. The horror! Whether single, engaged, married, pregnant or deep in mom mode, young or old, you will see these lovelies perusing the Target aisle with their Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (no whip) and wonder “How does she do it?” You will envy these ladies as you pass by them and their seemingly perfect cart full of toddlers and Cat & Jack accessories. They smile politely at you and your stain covered yoga pants, and as your smart-mouthed 6-year-old argues with you about what’s NOT for dinner, their polite smile quickly turns to pity.
If you are anything like me this makes you either embarrassed or angry, but most days you will just laugh at yourself because deep down you know that everything, including perceived perfection, is not what it seems. Motherhood, in fact, is a lot like high school. We don’t know what we think we know. With that, I dive into my list of 8 things you will hear on your journey into motherhood and the realities behind each.
- Motherhood is a sisterhood. This is a lie. While you may find yourself lucky enough to have a mommy-tribe, motherhood can be lonely. You will have a lot of time to anxiously analyze every choice you make before, during, and after you make it. No one journey is the same. Which actually can sometimes be beneficial. Lean into those around you. It is nice to have other moms to turn to, each with their own unique perspective, but you are your child’s mother. You know the ins and outs, the real cries from the fake cries, the “I’m pooping myself” face from the “just gassy” face. You know your kids in a way no one else ever will. Motherhood is the sisterhood of the traveling tantrum.
- You will figure it out. Lie. Well true, kinda. You may figure it out eventually. Or, alternatively, you may figure one thing out. Meanwhile, five more challenges will arise in rapid succession. Do not fear, mama, you set the pace on what is happening around you. Take your time, do some research, talk it out. Parenting is going to be one of the hardest things you do, and it should be. You make the tiny humans, and you want them to use their powers for good, not evil. This will take work, patience, and prayer. A lot of prayer. And all the coffee.
- It gets easier. Big lie. Yes, those first few months are hard. You are a sleep deprived, baby feeding, diaper squishing lunatic. It’s true. However, each year will bring new stages of development and they come with a whole new set of rules. Don’t even get me started on potty training. More like “let’s see how many times we can get Mommy to clean the bathroom, or carpet, or car seat.” Am I right? By the time I got the nap time schedule down, my daughter decided naps weren’t for her. Just go with it. It doesn’t necessarily get easier but eventually, they can tell you what you are doing wrong. Or right!
- You will love your children more than you love yourself. This is, in fact, true, but they will test this, and you, all the time. Whoever coined the term “terrible twos” was a bit short-sighted. What about the terrible threes and fours? Maybe skip 5, because they start school and their kindergarten teachers turn them into sweet social butterflies. But what about the sassy sixes or the stubborn sevens? My point is your kids will have tough moments. They will push you. They are little people just trying to grow up in a world full of crazies. Just give yourself a timeout and find perspective. Deep breath.
- “This” works. Nope. One size parenting does not, in fact, fit all. You will find yourself surrounded by loving well-wishers who will provide you with thoughtful advice and stories of success. Hug these people, and then ignore them. Well, maybe don’t ignore them, but don’t blindly follow their path. What works for their family may not fit within yours. And that’s okay. I feel like a great example of this is breastfeeding. Should you? Will you? Why not? How long? So many opinions about a very personal choice. Just feed them, in whichever way you can. Our name tags, business cards, and email signatures don’t end with or categorize us as “breastfed” or “formula-fed.” So, do what you have to do. And let the guilt go.
- I will be “this” kind of parent. Good try, but don’t lie to yourself. You know that saying “make a plan and God laughs?” I firmly believe this was about a mom trying to keep her household in order. We all have a plan right? I know I did when I was becoming a mom. This beautiful picture of my life as the perfect (laugh) mom with endless patience and energy. “I will never yell, or have any need to punish my kids because they will be well-mannered and polite at birth. They will never know what technology is or what sugar tastes like,” I said to myself. What a joke. Motherhood, along with so many other things, is nothing like I expected it to be. It’s definitely more. You may not be the Mom you thought you’d be, but you are the Mom your kids need you to be. You will quickly hear yourself saying things like “go to your room” and “don’t make me turn this car around.” Your husband and you will laugh about this later and like your mom said many moons ago, your kids will thank you for it one day.
- It goes by so fast so cherish every moment. True, but that’s what iPhones are for. I joke about social media, but is it not the best time capsule there is? We are (debatably) lucky to have the ability to share pictures and stories of, and with, our families and friends both near and far. And darn it if I don’t tear up every time a timehop from 5 years ago appears on my Facebook page. That can’t be my kid. That seems like it was forever ago! And was it? Probably not, but how striking are the changes to their little faces?
- Motherhood is magical. True. So true. For every sleepless night, there is a chance to cuddle. For every tantrum, there is a laugh. For every tough moment, there is wine, I mean a win. It’s going to be hard, but it will be magic. You will remember some of the hard times, and some of the good times, most of the funny times, but what really stands out are the sweet moments of motherhood. Cherish those. Document them and look back on them every now and then.
I am only 7 years into motherhood and I certainly do not know everything. My daughter teaches me something new every day. What I do know is this: what works today most certainly may not work tomorrow. Stay on your toes. Hug your kids. Keep an open mind, a listening ear, and a grateful heart. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Don’t compare your parenting style to others, one size does not fit all. Do not judge other moms or assume “they” have it all figured out. You don’t know what they might be struggling with. “They” do not pity you, “they” smile like that because they see you for all that you are; a mom who is doing her best. And they are too. Be forgiving. Lean into your support system. It might be a parent, a sister, a partner, a mommy-tribe, or all of the above. They say it takes a village, and that is the truth.
Thanks for reading, L.
P.S. Shoutout to Coffee + Crumbs book The Magic of Motherhood. It’s a great read about the same struggles and special moments I’ve been talking about in this blog. Check it out!