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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"