I’m feeling very…lesson-y tonight. Bear with me. Parenting is, by far, the hardest job on the planet. I could never do it alone, and by the grace of God (and Shawn’s patience) I will never have to. In fact, parenting is so hard sometimes that I literally have no idea why anyone would do it voluntarily. I mean, who in their right mind would sign up for a life void of sleep that includes a little person ( or two/three/four/five!!) following them around asking them a million and one questions about the most inane things ever, crying, screaming, talking back, and just in general being a pain in the ass? WHO?! I know not one person who, if that were on the label of the EPT as a side effect of the plus sign, would say, “Damn Skippy! Let’s DO this!”
However, luckily for us (and our kids, if we are all being honest here), those moments are fleeting. Or just a phase. So I am told. And the real reason why we all have dreams of those little tiny feet running around the house is because with those feet, come countless blessings. We get to see the world through the eyes of an innocent child. We get to be the kind of parent we always wanted to be, taking lessons from our parents (or not, depending on who you were raised by). We get to watch tiny humans grow up into little people, and then those little people become us. Only they are better versions of us. My daughters are smarter than I am, and I have decades on them. Having children not only brings us closer to the kids, but it brings us closer to our spouses/partners, closer to our God/Higher Power, and for me closer to my love for wine. It is the moments that take my breath away, that I cannot believe that God would trust me with the lives of these two precious girls, that remind me exactly why I wanted babies and all that comes with them.
But, this is not about those moments. Here are the things I have learned as a parent the hard way. The little things that I have learned on my own, without parenting books or magazines. The things no one tells you, unless you’re talking to me because I believe that warnings are always welcome in this world. And there is no such thing as oversharing.
1. Sleep is something that you will miss dearly. But not until it is gone. And sadly, you can’t ever really “catch up” on sleep. There is no magic button that you can push and be well-rested. You just have to mutter through (or bitch and gripe at each other like we do here at my house) the terrible nights and snore through the good ones.
2. There is no such thing as privacy. Or real relaxation. Ever. It does not matter what you are doing and how well you lock the door. Because you know what? On the other side of the door, there is a child screaming and banging on the door because you locked it. So that blissful ten minute shower to unwind and collect your thoughts becomes an anxiety-ridden, steamy bowl of soap-smelling crap because privacy does not exist. You might as well remove all doors… you’ll seethe less.
3. There are such things as stupid questions. And they are the ones that get asked a billion times, in a small, high-pitched voice. Over and over again. Until you catch yourself saying, “I WILL NOT PLAY LITTLEST PET SHOP WITH YOU ANYMORE IF YOU KEEP ASKING ME TO PLAY WITH YOU WHILE WE ARE PLAYING!” Whoa. You just saw my Saturday afternoon. That got really real there for a second.
4. Your pain tolerance for the big stuff enhances after birth. The little stuff, like a stupid paper cut from a coloring book in between your fingers? No that pain is worse than labor. And I know. I had a natural birth with an epidural. *shudder*
5. You will grow to love kid music. And TV shows. It doesn’t happen right away, but slowly you will find yourself listening to the cds in the car without the kids, or watching their shows while they nap. And you realize you know every word. And if there is a show attached to their favorite music, you know all the dance moves. It happens. Embrace it.
6. You will spend an inordinate amount of money on things just to make your tiny humans happy. Even if you buy second-hand, you will spend more money on them in three months than you get to spend on yourself for a whole year. And that’s okay. Leading me to….
7. You CAN spend money on yourself!! See, I am of a different breed of mom than some other moms I know, and that’s okay. I still like to get stuff for myself. I like a nice handbag. I like nice clothes. I like being able to still do those little things for myself that I did before I had kids. I don’t see why getting my hair done and carrying a nice bag should have to be forfeited because I brought tiny humans into this world. I have sacrificed a lot for my kids; let me have my New York and Company outfits and my Miche handbags. And see that!? Those aren’t even “really nice” brands. Awesome, yes. High end? No. AND! I go to an amazing barber who charges me pennies for doing my hair. So, again, I don’t see why I can’t have what I want in those respects. Some moms say that makes me a bad mom. A selfish mom. Well, friends, I am here to tell you that it makes me a mom who knows that I need to be able to still feel like myself in order to be a GOOD mom. And I am a good mom. That is not the point. But it is the truth.
8. Motherhood is WORK and it doesn’t matter where and how you choose to work. For some reason, mothering has gone back to being a pissing contest of sorts. Stay at home. Work out of the home. I am here to tell you that you can do WHATEVER you want and it is no one else’s business. Mothering is hard. It is all work. And it is 24/7/365(6). I didn’t have a choice for a while and had to stay at home. And it drove me batshit crazy. Like Mary Todd Lincoln crazy. I NEED to work outside of the home. Because I am a better mom and wife when I get out of the house and focus on things that do not involve my husband and children. It makes me who I am. I give all the credit in the world to Stay at Home moms. Their job is ten times harder than mine. Except, I need to remind some of you, that we working moms…we are MOMs, too. So, we understand both sides of it. It’s not like we go to work, come home to an empty home, throw on the sweats and watch Jon Stewart (yum-o!) until we have to eat dinner and go to bed. Our jobs are just as 24/7 as SAHMs. Working outside of the home does not make being a mother any easier, or make our contribution domestically carry any less weight.
9. Your kids will have the power to annoy the ever-loving piss out of you, and then wow you in the matter of five seconds. Focus on the wow. Not the annoyance.
10. Your kids will make messes. Life is messy. Get over it. And don’t buy really nice furniture or flooring until they are in college. Save the money. You’ll need it for Littlest Pet Shops.
11. Your kids will have the power to scare you senseless. They will fall and hit the ground so hard that you cannot believe that they aren’t disfigured. Somehow, for my kids anyway, they have really strong bones. In their faces and heads. Those are typically the areas my girls hit the most. I have lost my breath and sleep over my girls and worry about their pratfalls so often I can’t even number the times. But I have to remember this: I will know if something is truly wrong. My instincts, as yours, are very strong. And they don’t lie. If it seems important and pressing, get it looked at. If not, don’t. Save the money on the copays. You’ll need it for Weebles.
12. Kids are the world’s cutest freeloaders. They do not come with a pay raise and you will not get a stipend for having more. Your boss will not give you a raise because you have five kids. Children are not a collection of Pogs. (Remember Pogs?!) Anyway, don’t have a ton just because your mom and dad had a ton, and you’ve always wanted a big family, and God will never give you more than you can handle. God also gave us the science for birth control. And that’s advice coming from a Progressive Catholic who plans on getting fixed very, very soon. I have seen so many families have a ton of kids and they look MISERABLE (except the excessively cheery Duggar family). And when I talk to them, they give me the same laundry lists of reasons.. and it’s good for some. But not for all. Do what is best for YOU, and your financial situation. Don’t overstretch your means and lifestyle because you’ve “always wanted to have 11 kids like your great-grandparents.” I have two. I used to want four. Now, I want no more. For many reasons, but the biggest is I want to be able to do things financially with my family that involves more than grocery shopping at Aldi’s and shopping consignment sales (And I LOVE both of those things, and will do them probably forever, do not get me wrong). Don’t feel the need to follow along with traditions if they make no sense for your unique situation. Great-grandma wants to see you happy, with or without your own soccer team.
13. Kids rule. Parents are totally not in control. And we think we are. That’s called denial. The sooner we all accept that, the happier our lives will be.
I leave you with these funnies. I laughed. A lot. Because they’re TRUE!!