We’ve all read the well-meaning posts about motherhood. How we should cherish the moments. Lean into the tantrums. Focus on the years, because they’re short. Drink more coffee. Do more yoga. Take more photos.
This is not that post.
Nearly 15 years ago, I became a mom for the first time. Fast forward and now I have six kids. Am I an expert? Hardly. I do, however, know how to nurse a baby, scold a preschooler, set up a stomp rocket for the elementary kid, work a math problem for the middle schooler, cook dinner and yell at the teenager to get off the computer – all at the same time. That should be an Olympic sport.
No, this is the letter I wish someone would’ve given me all those years ago. I probably wouldn’t have read it as the Gospel truth, but perhaps a few nuggets might’ve stuck. I’m living this motherhood gig with few regrets, as should you. But, to all the new moms out there, this one’s for you, dear.
Dear New Mama,
Let’s get a few things out on the table. No need skirting around the elephant. You’re tired, you’re squishy in the middle, you are in love (or not yet) with your baby and the last thing you want to do is have sex with your husband.
People will tell you that these days, they are long. But the years, they are short! You will want to punch them. You have my permission. Many years ago I became a mom for the first time, and because I’m a glutton for punishment (kidding), I’ve had six babies. That right there should be proof that motherhood won’t kill you. I did not, however, say anything about it sparing you from wrinkles, gray hair and having to get new underwear after you sneeze.
These are the practical things I wish I’d known about being a mom.
Don’t buy new Lego sets. For real. It’s a conspiracy, like the hot dog and bun people. Just buy a box of them at a garage sale, put it in someone else’s Lego box and tell your kids to “be creative.” They only build that fancy set from the stores one time, then they disassemble it and spend the next 10 years trying to recreate it. Only to have you step on the pieces 1,562 times. Ask me how I know.
Skip organized extracurriculars for longer than you think you should. When my sweet girls turned two, I immediately enrolled them in dance class. Save yourself the gas, the expense and the tears come recital day by just buying them a tutu from Costco and taking photos in your living room of them dancing to 80s on 8. More entertaining, way less expensive. The same goes for organized and select sports. If you have a backyard or a playground, go there. It’s free and also? It’s enough.
No one has parenthood figured out. You know that mom who brags about how good her kids sleep? Or, the one who says she never has to help her kids with their homework? I have three words: hills and valleys. That’s pretty much the secret to parenthood. Some days you win at the parenthood gig. Your kids are kind and helpful, gracious and joyful. Those are the days you post on social media. Most days, you’re just figuring out how to get back to the hills kind of days from the valleys. But, I will tell you that’s where the work of parenthood happens. In the trenches. My best advice? Find a parenting buddy. Hopefully both of you won’t be in the valley at the same time. But if you are? Buy wine. And drink it.
Avoid getting sucked into the parenting fad of the month club. If you really want to get someone riled up, just ask their opinion on medicating, feeding, schooling, vaccinating, breastfeeding or diapering their child – and then tell them they’re wrong. We all read something on Facebook and suddenly we have our MD. Different strokes, different folks. What’s worked for our family won’t work for everyone. Your way won’t work for everyone either. Chances are, I might even (gasp) change my mind about some of those things. All that leads to this…
Believe in what you’re doing. Believe that the way you’re choosing to parent is the right way. For you. Some of our kids come out with special needs and some develop them later on. Some kids are Yale-bound, others struggle with learning disabilities. Some have addictions. Some have accolades. It’s a crap shoot, really. None of us know when we spin the kid lottery wheel what we’ll get. But I can tell you this, we all get a winner. It’s how you choose to view it, that matters.
Organization matters and kids should fail more than we let them. Does this even need more explanation? Decrease your blood pressure by leaving your car keys and cell phone in the same place (or, if you can’t, offer your kids $1 to find them!). And, let your kids fail more than you think you should. Natural consequences teach great lessons.
Rather than losing yourself in your kid, discover who you were meant to be. With each baby, I’ve learned more about myself than I thought possible. The thing about having kids is they change you – either you become more self-centered, more neurotic OR you become more self less and more grateful. I think this process of giving up control happens every morning at 6am, when someone taps on my arm because of a toilet-accident, a kitchen-accident or a sibling argument. Hey, life in a big family. I believe it was St. Catherine of Siena that said it best, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.” You have a life, better get to living it.
Welcome to your most exhilarating journey – motherhood.