I remember watching an episode of Oprah several years ago that featured a bunch of women talking about how hard it is to be a mom, in particular the stay-at-home variety. They were venting about the resentment they felt toward their children and husbands, how exhausted they were, and how they often felt unfulfilled as stay-at-home moms. Basically that being a mom was not what they expected, mostly because no one told them about all of the parts that suck. More than one mom said there are days when she really felt like she didn’t like her kids.
It wasn’t that long ago, but that sounds like another world. One where moms talked about nothing more than how much they love their kids and are so glad they stay home and can’t imagine life any other way. Now I’m sure there were groups of moms who hung out and bitched about their kids and the spouses and laundry and dishes and dinner and how tired they were. However, the idea that a lot of women were ‘suffering in silence’ was a big enough topic that Oprah spent an entire episode on it, so I have to assume there were a lot of women out there who felt like they couldn’t complain about any of it…and who shed more than a few tears thinking about waking up the next day and doing it all over again.
Obviously it’s not all bad, and that should go without saying. But I’m glad that I live in a time where my friends and I aren’t afraid to talk about the downside to spending day in and day out with our kids. A time when I can update my Facebook status with whatever annoying thing my kids are doing today and in one shot get it off my chest and find out I’m not the only one feeling that way. Not to mention blogging about it.
Some things are universal and every mom-to-be, mom of one, mom of eighteen knows: we love our kids. The love you feel when they are born is indescribable and unlike anything else.
There are some other things that you won’t know until you have a baby. And more things you can’t know until you have a toddler or a pre-teen or a teenager and so one and so forth. What would you tell someone who wanted you to be 110% honest about what life is like with kids? Here’s my list for now (and I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: these are my opinion and I am not speaking for every mother out there. If you are reading this and think you have your shit together and shower everyday and never feel the need to complain, good for you. I don’t believe you, but whatever.):
- There will be days that you don’t want to get out of bed. You will want to pull the covers over the head and wish you could disappear and someone else will magically show up to take care of your children.
- You might think that your child will just blend seamlessly into your life with barely a ripple of disruption. If that works out for you, great. I suspect you are being more selfish than anything else and putting your needs above your child’s, but maybe I’m wrong. Only you will know for sure. For most of us, the freedom to do the things you want to do is gone. With kids you can’t go anywhere or do anything without ten additional steps or issues. Will you/can you bring the kid(s)? If not, who will baby-sit? Now you have a baby-sitter but you need to make sure everything is set-up so that they have an easy day with your kid. And you often have to pay them, so make sure it’s in the budget. If you do bring the kid, when is a good time to go? Before the nap, after the nap, during the nap? Will he/she need to eat while your gone? Make sure you have enough diapers and a change of clothes. Be aware they might melt down – will you muscle through whatever activity you have planned or just go home?
- Nap time is the best time, but beware: it’s not always as relaxing for you as you would like. When you have a new baby everyone will tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” and “the housework can wait.” Good luck with that. Sleeping when the baby sleeps seems like a good idea, but unless you are a person who can fall asleep instantly, you will lie there trying to fall asleep but will be distracted by thoughts of the baby waking up early and ruining you nap. You will hear him/her even when they aren’t making any noise. You will think about the laundry that needs to be done or the dishes piling up in the sink (all that housework that can wait). More times that not you will say screw the nap and get up to do something else. Then you will be annoyed that you even wasted time trying to sleep because you could have gotten so much more done.
- Unless you have a baby that starts sleeping through the night right away (I hear they exist, but not in my house) you will be TIRED. ALL THE DAMN TIME. There are not enough hours in the day to get enough sleep to actually feel well-rested. You will probably feel this way until your last child is three years old (that’s me being optimistic. There is a good chance this feeling lasts much longer.)
- Showering takes on a whole new meaning. Before you had kids you could shower whenever you wanted – morning, evening, middle of the night. It was your world. Now you have a lot more to consider. You can (a) wake up before the kid(s) and shower. This assumes you can accurately predict what time they will wake up, and that you are not so tired that literally every second of sleep is mandatory. (b) Wait until they fall asleep for the first time that day and take a shower then. This is a great option if your child takes a long nap because then you might actually be able to do something else too. Like eat or drink a hot cup of coffee. If your kid is like mine, you will barely have enough time to shower and get dressed. (c) Shower at night. This works for a lot of people. Personally I don’t have good hair for this option and I like the assistance I get with waking up when I shower in the morning. (d) Shower only when absolutely necessary. Usually after going more than one day without one.
- Kids can be really annoying. Yours and everyone else’s. There is no other word for it. They cry, whine, require a ton of attention. Your patience will be tested in ways you can’t imagine.
- Cherish the time you have only one child. No matter what you think, it really isn’t that hard. Unfortunately this one is a lot like losing all of your freedom – you can’t really understand it until it happens. Having two is more than twice as hard.
- You will want people to understand what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, but unless they do it, they won’t know. Just like we don’t know how hard it is to go to work outside of the home and take care of kids. Your friends who don’t have kids won’t get it, you friends with jobs won’t get it, your husband won’t get it. Accepting that they don’t get it must be a nice feeling, but I don’t know.
- Finally, coffee is your new best friend. You might have thought you had a great relationship with caffeine before kids, but it really can get to a whole new level. Drinking an entire cup while it is still hot will feel like an amazing accomplishment.
So, is there anything you would share with someone who is entering parenthood? The good, the bad and the ugly. I’m mostly interested in the bad and the ugly. Again, the good goes without saying.