If I could pick one word to describe my outlook on parenting before becoming a mother for the first time, “clueless” would be that word. I had a 9-month-old niece at the time I got pregnant, and while changing her diapers every once in a while was fun, so was giving her back to her mom when she cried.
I underestimated a lot of things while prepping and planning for a family, including how long it would take me to get pregnant. But that was just the beginning. Here are a few other things I underestimated…
1. What it means to be “tired.”
Have you ever known exhaustion like the first two years of your kid’s life? Then add a kid or two. I don’t even know if I’d call it exhaustion anymore. I mean, I’m f*cking delirious!
Before kids, “tired” was the morning after a wild night out, or pulling an all-nighter, cramming for an exam. I nursed myself back to my spunky, energetic self by sleeping 12-14 hours straight. I’ve never, ever seen that kind of sleep since having kids — and likely never will.
I WISH I could just be “tired.”
2. Having “nice things.”
Look, I don’t know if I’ve ever had nice things. Well, actually, I do know — and I HAVEN’T! I met my husband in college and before I ever got a job that paid decently, we were engaged. He knocked me up three months after we said “I do.” So, if I wasn’t paying for a wedding or saving for a baby, maybe I could have bought myself something “nice.”
Now that our kids have arrived, DAMN, they’re expensive! And the few things I have bought that I thought were nice have been turned into a target for urination, a vomit catcher or a surface to wipe Hot Cheetos-covered fingers on.
3. The power of backwash.
Before I had kids, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the eerie similarity present between drinking from the same juice container as my son and a mommy bird feeding her baby bird its breakfast.
But I now refuse to share a beverage with any human under the age of 4. Not because the little varmints carry more germs than rodents, but because their ability to suck and swallow through a straw at an acceptable rate is non-existent. Like, I will literally stay parched and dehydrated for however many hours necessary before sharing or consuming any drink that my 2-year-old is regurgitating his last bit of PB&J into with a side of grape chunks.
4. The term “lazy days.”
Lounging on the couch with my honey bunny, wrapped up in a blanket together while watching five movies back-to-back with make out sessions in between was a reality once. It feels like a lifetime ago and yes, sometimes I cry about it.
The term “lazy days” now means staying home because I’m too lazy to deal with my children in public. It’s the day we all stay in our pajamas, the kids run around screaming and wrestling (as usual), and my husband and I share glances throughout the day communicating our shared pain and exhaustion.
Then we order pizza and eat our feelings. It’s worked so far. We’re all still alive.
5. The power of a cardboard box.
Do I really need to explain? I’m embarrassingly pained when filling out the birthday invitations each year, knowing the amount of junk we are about to receive will either be played with once then abandoned or be donated on my next Goodwill haul.
Invest in cardboard, people. It’s the best jungle gym, race-car, fort and imaginary anything for the first three years of life. I used to actually store things in them before having kids.
What a waste. They could have been birthday gifts!
6. The act of “self -care.”
Before kids, my manicures and pedicures were done every two weeks directly on my way home from work. I didn’t have to race home to cook dinner and get first grade homework done.
Long, hot showers were a thing back then, too. Well, showering in general was a thing. Ah, I miss it. I should really try to work shaving back in as a habit. My husband would appreciate that, I’m sure.
Before kids, I spent one Saturday every three months as my $130 (with tip) cut and color days. Let’s just say these days, I’m really milking the ombre look. Now, Saturdays are reserved for soccer practice and budgeting our finances where my husband reiterates that we still can’t afford my “pre-baby self-care.”
“But maybe next year, honey,” he says.
7. To be “inconvenienced.”
It was inconvenient when my college courses clashed with my work schedule. It was inconvenient when I had to take a longer route to my boyfriend’s dorm because of the construction on Hwy 1. And it was inconvenient when I was forced to watch my sister’s dog the one weekend I wanted to go party with friends in San Diego.
What I didn’t know was just how inconvenienced my life would feel once I popped babies out.
Now, to be inconvenienced is to have stitches in your vagina that refuses to heal, because there’s no such thing as “rest” for a new mom.
Inconvenienced when you don’t eat dinner until 11:00 p.m., because your child wanted to eat your food instead of theirs.
It’s when your world revolves around the needs of another human being and you come second, or third or fourth…
…well, you get the idea.
8. What love is.
Before my boys were born, I thought I knew what love was. I thought love was the ache in the pit of my stomach. I thought love was the adrenaline rush I felt when I saw my husband as I walked down the aisle. I thought love was the willingness to give the shirt off my back to my family in order to help them out during a rough time. And while love is all of those things, I hadn’t experienced all that love could be.
I never knew that motherhood would bring me an all-consuming euphoria of love, followed by a punch in the face that said, “WAKE UP AND GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!” This feeling was foreign, yet the most familiar thing I’d ever felt.
What felt like far-fetched ideas before motherhood now didn’t seem so unrealistic. Walk in front of a train to save my child? Of course! Run 500 miles without stopping for water to save my child? Without question! Walk on hot coals to save my child? DUH! Dramatic? YES! But my point is, as mothers, we would do anything. No matter how crazy it sounds, if it will save and protect our children, there is no question that we’ll do it.
This love is so intense, some days I’m certain my heart will explode. This love is innate. The instinct to protect, care for and nurture my children is the most natural thing I will ever feel.
Motherhood is SO hard, but the love, the love is so easy.
Originally published by Scary Mommy.