Why Didn't Someone Tell Me?
You can read all the parenting books in the library and still be far from prepared for the roller coaster that is motherhood. I remember advice being thrown at me constantly when I was pregnant with my first and second child, but the majority of my learning came directly from the trenches of motherhood. You can read every book, listen to every motherhood podcast imaginable but until you face hands on motherhood you are undeniably clueless. Motherhood can be truly humbling, just when you think you have it all figured out and you start getting just a little too cocky...BOOM your kid transitions to a new phase and you are once again trying to navigate.
Today is my birthday and I always like to take some time each year to reflect on lessons learned. I'm reflecting on the realization that I have spent over a quarter of my life navigating motherhood...HOLY SMOKES! On one hand, I feel like I JUST became a Mom, and on the other hand I feel like I've been doing this forever. Motherhood was really a shock to my system, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt completely overwhelmed. If I'm being totally honest most days I'm still overwhelmed. In my time of reflection today, my thoughts drifted to the numerous things I really wish I had known going into motherhood. Im sharing my list with you because perhaps you struggled with some of the same things. Maybe just knowing someone else was fumbling through motherhood in the same way you were will bring you a sense of community.
Firstly, I wish I would have known how little a baby really needs to survive. I remember pinning hundreds of pintrest lists for baby essentials and making shopping lists a mile high for this teeny tiny human. The reality is baby gear is ridiculously expensive but it's incredible how little a baby really needs. As a first time mom, you automatically get wrapped up with every tiny adorable outfit and every must have baby toy (honestly...no one can blame you). I wish someone would have sat me down and helped me navigate my massive shopping list to just the necessities. I wish someone would have encouraged me to save the rest of my money for postpartum take out meals and stocking the freezer. I wish someone would have convinced me with my first that second hand items are perfectly acceptable. When I was pregnant with my second child, I bought 90% of the things she needed second hand. I quickly came to realize with my first baby, those expensive adorable outfits didn't fit longer than six weeks. I quickly learned that practicality was the biggest selling factor with baby clothes. I quickly traded all my snap and button sleepers for zipper versions which made for quick diaper changes.
I really wish I knew how difficult parenthood would be on our new marriage. The parenting books I dove into didn't even scratch the surface about the havoc a baby can bring to your home. They don't tell you that the lack of sleep can create a foggy state of moodiness within your home which can lead to many misunderstandings and arguments. In our case, we conceived an unplanned baby on our honeymoon and the pregnancy unfortunately resulted in our first miscarriage. Even though we weren't planning to have kids immediately after we got married...after we lost our first baby, conceiving became our entire world. From the time of the loss, everything revolved around trying to conceive another baby. Looking back nearly ten years later, I realize we really didn't have any time together as newlyweds before we jumped into parenthood. I wish someone would have told us to go on lots of weekend trips and date nights before we became parents. I feel like even simple date nights are pretty rare these days for us (even without a pandemic).
I wish I would have accepted more help that was offered to me with my first and second babies. I think my stubborn independent personality really pushed me to feel like I HAD to do everything myself. It was as if I somehow had this messed up idea that if someone helped me it made me less of a mom. When I had my third baby, it seemed as if there were less offers to help... perhaps because by this point everyone assumed I was a supermom who had it all together flawlessly. Weeks after delivering our third baby, my husband went back to working on the road. It didn't take long for my super mom complex to completely crumble as I sunk deep into postpartum depression and anxiety. My mental health was a ticking time bomb that ultimately exploded. My husband and I both recognized the warning signs fairly early and I was able to get the medical help I needed. It wasn't until a serious wake-up call that I realized asking for help didn't make me weak, in reality asking for help showed strength and courage. If you are feeling overwhelmed and don't have family to lean on, consider booking yourself an experienced sitter through Little Einsteins for a break. If you have never used Little Einsteins before feel free to use as my booking code to save on your first booking. You don't have to do this alone...it's ok to accept help and give yourself a break.
I wish I would have really taken time to soak up every single moment with my son because this time with only one child is so incredibly precious. Take thousands of photos and videos because after your sleep deprivation and brain fog clears you will love watching those home movies on repeat. My son (who is now nine years old) rolls his eyes at the home movies and he tells me they are embarassing...but I know he secretly loves watching himself sing and dance in a diaper. Taking pictures and videos seemed so insignificant in the moment but babies change so quickly...we want to hold onto those memories forever. One day they are begging you to have a kitchen dance party and the next day they won't want to be silly with you anymore. One minute you're playing zoo animals and then you suddenly blink and they are running off down the street mad because you insisted they wear mitts to school in January.
I wish I would have done as we much snuggling as I did housework. I know what you're thinking, and yes the housework still needs to get done but those teeny tiny babies grow every single day until they no longer want to cuddle anymore. I wish I had realized my husband didn't need five star meals after he came home from working away. I wish I had realized my husband was just happy to be home with us. I worried so much about the house having to look flawless everytime he got home from work. It was as if I somehow thought he would think I did nothing all day if the house wasn't spotless. I think as mom's we often downplay the idea that taking care of a baby isn't in itself a big job.
I wish I would have known that it was normal to feel overwhelmed. I remember sitting there in the hospital bed holding this brand new baby boy. I felt completely and utterly terrified of screwing up this kid. I will never forget the look of confusion on our faces when we got into the vehicle leaving the hospital with our baby. We both couldn't believe they were actually letting us leave with this kid, didn't we need another crash course or a nurse to come home with us. I was completely overwhelmed and stressed over every single milestone and timeline. Looking back I should have had a little more faith that he would do everything on his own terms. I wish someone would have encouraged me to let go of the crazy expectations of learning and simply focus on teaching them to be kind humans.
There are so many things I wish I would have known heading into motherhood, so many things I would have loved an advanced heads up about. Ultimately...I wish I had known that I wouldn't like every day of motherhood. I know some of you are reading this and just split out your coffee. Buckle up mama's, im about to drop some knowledge on you...it's ok to have days where you don't love being a Mom. It's ok to have bad days, days when you absolutely can't stand your own kids. I think I went into motherhood naively thinking it would feel natural every single day. I'm here to tell you that there are definitely days when I run in autopilot and I question whether I'm cut out to take care of a goldfish let alone four living breathing children.
I know there is so much you too wish you knew before you took on the biggest role of your life. There are so many details and timelines you wish you had advance notice about before you brought that baby home. I want you to know that when it's all said and done... you are more than enough. Please remember that even on the days when it feels like you are failing miserably...you showed up for your child and that right there makes you an amazing mom.
📸 HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: Age of Grace Photography.