Saturday, March 5, 2011

Don't say you weren't warned.

Today I read a fantastic post from a fellow blogger about how they never tell you the truth about parenting and how it's partially a matter of forgetting and partially the fact that we're sort of sworn to secrecy about the truth.  And I walked around today thinking about this and realized that I WAS actually told on several occasions.  But not directly. 

(Here is a link to the post)

So for all you parents to be and new parents out there (and those of us who are still working out all the details), I am going to provide this little handy interpretation of what was told to me, and what I now realize they meant when they said it.

1.  Motherhood is the hardest job in the world.

The Truth:
It is the WORST job in the world.  I would be lying if I said that I know what it's like to be a worker at a third world sweatshop, but I suspect it is a lot like being a new mother.  First off, the hours will kill you.  You are basically ALWAYS on call, even when you are sleeping. And then for the first few years you are lucky if you get to sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time.  There are NO BREAKS.  You do not get a lunch break where you can take off for an hour and run errands, you do not get to go to the bathroom (at least not by yourself) and you do not get to sit down without having someone scream at you.  There is no vacation or sick leave and the pay is pretty much nonexistent. 

2.  Colic is really awful but it does end.

The Truth:
It ends.  But while it is happening, COLIC IS THE WORST THING YOU WILL EVER EXPERIENCE.  It seems like it is going to go on forever and  you are trapped with this little helpless being who you can do absolutely NOTHING to make stop screaming at you.  And before the colic ends, you will realize that you are the worst parent that has ever walked the face of the earth because your only job at this point is to keep the little one alive and comfortable and you become convinced that you cannot manage to do this.  Colic will make you want to die.  Colic will make you realize that those posters all over the hospital and the reminders everywhere about how you are not supposed to shake your baby are serious business.  Because there will be at least one moment where you think, "now I understand why people shake babies".

3.  Having a baby will fundamentally change you.

The Truth:
Yes.  Completely.  But not in the ways you think.  You know that you will love this little one in a way that you never imagined (something else they tell you that is only half true) but you will no longer be able to watch movies that involve kidnapped children without becoming EXTREMELY uneasy.  You will want to avoid any books or episodes of CSI where awful things happen to children and suddenly all those jokes about punching babies and kiddie porn will not seem funny (yes, I used to have that kind of sense of humor).  Real actual news stories about children who are hurt or taken will terrify you and you will need to repeatedly check on them while they sleep at night. 

You will tell anyone who will listen about your child's poop.  There will be at least one hilarious poop story that every friend and relative hears at least once.  You will know all the words to every song Dora the Explorer (or your kid's hero of choice) has ever sung.  You will allow things that you always said you wouldn't (sure, let's have Fruit Loops for dinner).  You will beg your child to eat.  You will bribe them to behave in public even though you hate that kind of thing.   People who don't have children will tell you that it's all terrible and bad parenting and that they will NEVER be "that parent" but trust me, they will.

4. All kids throw fits.  All kids aggravate their parents.  It's how they learn limits.

The Truth:
There will be moments where you completely understand why wild animals eat their children.  You will have moments of sheer anger where you have to force yourself to walk away because if you stay in the same room with your child, you will end up hurting them.  This does not make you a bad parent (actually staying put and hurting them makes you a bad parent).  You will be amazed at the manipulative ability of a three year old, who has the ability to read your weaknesses better than any con artist ever could.  And you will fear that you are going insane because you will seriously consider the pros and cons of checking yourself into a mental institution "for the vacation".

You will have days where you really don't LIKE your child.  It does not make you a bad parent. On at least on occasion (and probably on many), you will think, if not actually say this:



5. They don't call it "the terrible two's" for nothing.

Truth:
My kid went through this phase from about 18 months until she turned 3. Then she was a normal kid who could behave for about 3 months, then came this bizarro 3 and 1/2 year old thing.  Most of the parents I talk to tell me that 3 is WAY worse than 2.  And it is.  The terrible twos are defined by the word "no".  They will tell you NO for everything, even if they mean YES, and then they will get mad at you when you think they meant NO because they said it.  The terrible two's want things to be just so.  They get frustrated and throw fits if the ketchup isn't on the right spot on their plate.  

But three and a half is KILLING ME.  Suddenly no matter is too small for a full blown, screaming, yelling tantrum.  Bath time = tantrum.  Bedtime = tantrum.  Getting dressed = tantrum.  Time for dinner = tantrum.  It isn't the big things that bring on the fits.  It's the regular routine things that you do at the same time EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Why bath time after dinner and bedtime after bath is always a huge ambush to my child, I will never know.  But every moment of every day seems like a terrible surprise to her. 

6. Listen to your gut.  You know your child best.

Truth:
Don't read every parenting book you can get your hands on because every one will tell you something different. Parenting "experts" seem to never have their own children at home.  Instead, you should call your mommy friends and/or relatives who have experience with kids.  When I listened to my gut, I thought Lila was just bright red because she was hot.  She had a cold or something and she should just sleep it off.  My mother told me that it didn't seem right and encouraged me to call the doctor and it turned out she had Scarlet Fever and a nasty strep infection.   


7. Your child will want to watch the same movie/listen to the same song/read the same story over and over and o
over.  It's perfectly normal.

Truth:
You will come to want to murder the creators of Dora the Explorer and you will fantasize that all the Disney Princesses (or whatever the boy equivalent is) are being maimed, tortured and executed.  If you are LUCKY, your kid will take to a movie, song, or character that you LOVED as a child and you will encourage this because you think it will be more tolerable.  But after the first 4,000 times, you will hate your childhood and everything you associated with that memory because your child will have worn it out beyond imagination.  Mine actually made me hate Joan Jett.

8. Motherhood is the most rewarding job in the world.

Truth:
This is totally true.  You will likely never be as proud of anything in your life as you are when someone tells you how smart/beautiful/well-behaved/creative/talented/incredible your kid is.  Seriously.  Your kid will do things that make  you want to pull your hair out.  They will make you scream into pillows until your throat hurts.  They will disappoint you and make you question your worth as a person.  But there are those moments where you look at them and your soul swells with happiness and you think, "I made that!"

17 comments:

  1. hahaha, I should have read this before I had my two little munchkins!

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  2. Okay - i LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS POST.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    You definitely have a new follower.

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  3. Oh, my! This is adorable...and so very true!! I'll be back for more!!

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  4. AWESOME!!!
    Thanks!!
    You just laid out everything I've ever felt guilty about and I'm not going to anymore!!
    I'm starting to not feel like such a loser mom anymore!!
    :)

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  5. I have a friend who is having labor induced today. I want to tell her these things but I know it would be bad form. I did link to this on her facebook page. :-)

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I will eventually get around to visiting your blogs as well!

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  6. Thankfully my two have made it to a point where "Despicable Me" is their favorite. I can listen to Steve Carell all day. Which is good. Because I do.

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  7. One million percent true and not being a mother I still know this. And of course your last point is the most important. As much as you want to rip your hair out, it's still the most rewarding thing.

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  8. Love it! Your descriptions on each were perfect. I relate to it all. Colic sucks big time. Went through that and happy to be alive. Number 3, I was so surprised by all the anxiety that watching Oprah would cause after the baby was born!!!! (child molesters, etc.)

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  9. I followed you over here from somewhere.....Motherhood, WTF? Maybe? I don't know, I got sucked into reading your page and now I don't remember how I got here! LOL

    Anyway, I love your blog and this post in particular is so. So. SO true. I posted something similar to this awhile back titled Seven Truths but if I recall correctly it wasn't funny at all. Dammit.

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  10. I'm so glad you sent me this link! I loved this post...because it is so true. Good thing our kids have our hearts...otherwise it wouldn't be worth it!! Love this post!

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  11. I already know I will never have kids--I have a dog and a plant--but I do have poop stories and wonder exactly what those moms that are always (always) smiling and happy are smoking. I'm convinced their children will grow up to be Unibombers in revolt.

    Love your honesty. Love this post ;)

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  12. I wish I'd read this AND believed it before I went down the kid-path. I wasn't sure I wanted kids, but figured so many women seemed happy with theirs and it couldn't be so terrible or they wouldn't have more, right? Sigh.

    And I'm still not 100% sure of the 'most rewarding' part. I still spend my days with an 80 to 20 ratio of "this sucks and I hate my life and need something to change before I snap" to "maybe it's not all terrible". 80 to 20 -- maybe even more like 85-15 or 90-10 sometimes. Not what I consider "rewarding". Yet, anyway.

    Thanks for the honest blogging. I've spent - literally - months looking for other people out there like me, and was overjoyed to stumble upon your blog the other day.

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  13. OH ANONYMOUS...I wish you had left some contact info.

    I started this site when I was less than a year into it, and at that point it was about a 95% suck thing. I loved my baby, and felt like she was mine, but really didn't LIKE her AT LEAST until she talked. Up until that point I remember thinking "what the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?" and "Do I love her because she's mine or just because I now have so much energy invested in keeping her alive?" If you've ever read "The Little Prince" the way he describes his rose was how I felt about the baby. For some of us, we just can't be thrilled and overjoyed all the time. As they get older, they do more stuff that you can be proud of. Don't jump ship just yet.

    Go back and read some of the earliest stuff. And check some of the links I have added. Not all mothers are all happy and full of rainbows.

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  14. Hi Selena - "Anonymous" here. Thank you for the reply to my comment. I was sitting on the couch next to my husband last night, scrolling through my blog reads, and the tears poured out the second I saw it.

    I'm so frustrated and confused and tired of hiding the fact that I don't love being a mommy. It's fine, some of the time. It's got some nice things going for it in general, but mostly I'm just bored, angry and frustrated; I feel cheated and confused and so alone.

    I don't like who I am anymore or the person I'm becoming every day (Someone who suddenly yells and who loses their cool! Who forces someone to do things they don't want to. Who feels selfish and ugly and foreign in their own skin!) I don't like being responsible for a whiny, difficult person all day (and that "day" lasts a life-time, no less!). I don't enjoy finding things/ways to entertain her... The list goes on.

    I've said to the few people I trust with my dark secret (that secret being that I DON'T find motherhood to be the 'most amazing thing'/'most rewarding experience'/'best thing I've ever done') that if I could JUST - please, please! - fast forward to when she's 4 or older and start there, I'd be on board. I can handle a semi-reasonable, mobile and VERBAL small person, but this baby and toddler crap is NOT for me.

    But, since life isn't a (bad) Adam Sandler movie (ahem, "Click"), I'm stuck.

    Treading water; trying to keep my head above the surface. Groundhog's Day-ing my way through life. Becoming a hermit. Spiraling down. Unhappy.

    I've not read "The Little Prince", but I will pick it up at the library next week thanks to your suggestion.

    I will absolutely be going back through your blog and look forward to learning more of your story. I need to keep finding out more about others like me out there. I can't believe how incredibly isolating feeling this way can be! (For example - and not surprisingly - it doesn't exactly endear you to other moms/friends when you tell them you not only don't "get" the 'new baby smell' thing, but that it occasionally even makes me nauseous.)

    Anyway, I'm waiting for the good stuff to start; as you say to "not... jump ship" (reading that line makes me laugh, smile, and get nervous all at the same time). THANK YOU for responding to me and making me feel less alone and, more than that, to feel less "Anonymous".

    P.S. - I really can't say thank you enough for this reply.

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  15. Dear Juj312, I read your comment and I'm so sorry you've been feeling alone. It's an awful feeling to have, especially during a time when your life has been totally turned upside down. I hope you don't mind, but I just had to reply. I meet so many moms through my job... first time moms, moms on their 4th child, military moms, single moms. You are SO not alone in your feelings. I wish more people were open to talking about their thoughts and struggles with motherhood. Feeling depressed and overwhelmed is so SO common after giving birth. But what people also don't realize is that it can linger for a really long time, simply because parenthood is so difficult.
    You know, I love kids. That's why I'm in the profession I am. But boy, did parenthood run me over. In my brain, I knew I loved my baby. But my heart was just sad, mourning over my life and freedom as it once was and never will be again. In many ways, it's like an identity crisis and in the midst of all the needs of a child, you also need to figure out who you are again. Find a new groove now as a family.
    A few things I had to do and I encourage you to do: Don't withdraw from people. Being alone will only make it worse. Find one or two people you can trust and ask for help, for a hug, for a meal, for a listening ear. And then just cry your heart out. Try to avoid people who aren't helping, even those who accidentally say things like "isn't being a mom the most wonderful thing". For some time, I actually stayed away from Facebook because I was connected with too many moms who were constantly raving about how they adored their children. It just made me feel awful. And do whatever you can to give yourself a break so you can have a breather. If you think feel like the emotions are really overwhelming, consider talking to a doctor about depression and whether a medication might help. you know, medication won't fix everything and make parenthood go away, and it's not a sign of weakness. but medication may get you to a place where you can at least take a few steps forward during this difficult transition.
    And don't be hard on yourself for not enjoying this stage of your child. Some people are baby people, some are not. I am totally not a baby person. I love the 5-10 year old stage when you can interact and talk with them. And there are others who love the teen years. So Selena is right, it will get better. There are still tough things ahead and parenthood never gets "easier", but you WILL find your way through this and you WILL discover joy again.
    Oh, and one last thing... I have NEVER loved the way baby heads smell. And I have told all my friends this. It just smells like greasy scalp grime with a hint of breastmilk and spit-up. I don't get it. So again, you are not alone.
    Hang in there. I really wish you the best. I hope your husband is helping to support you through this. There is never a more important time to be a team. Hugs.

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  16. juj312:

    Please email me. Sgirlfab@yahoo.com

    We can "chat" that way. I don't check it compulsively so it may be a day or two before I get back to you, but I will give you my facebook page and all that.

    When I first had mine, I was out in Arizona and had no family there. Since I have always been kind of a loner, I also had very few close friends. Lila's dad actually signed me up for Gymboree classes with her just because he wanted to make sure I got out of the house. I used to go sit at the play area at the mall just to not be stuck home with her (I was terrified of her...seriously).

    When I was going through this, I couldn't find ANYTHING on the web beyond Post Partum Depression that I identified with. I had been treated and was no longer feeling truly depressed, I just hated being with a baby all day.

    I do vaguely remember watching an episode of Oprah like 10 years ago where moms were on there who came out and said they didn't LOOOOVE motherhood. A few months later she did a second show where "rainbow and butterfly" moms were really pissed off at those "I live in reality" moms and they faced off...

    I tried to get a video or transcript of those shows and couldn't. Then I started keeping a blog about it on Myspace...I later created this one.

    Get in touch. We'll chat.

    Selena

    p.s. I always felt like I was f**ked up because I totally didn't smell ANYTHING when I skiffed my kid's head. I guess I kept her too clean. :-)

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  17. Just found this blog! I agree, 3 is worse than 2, partly due to increased memory length!

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