You came back! Or you’re here for the first time! Either way, thanks a bunch for making it this far.
As I mentioned in my first blog post (check it out here) I’m a mom to two pretty cute kiddos: Lily, age 8, and Felix who is turning 2 this week! I wanted to take today’s post to talk a little bit about my experience becoming a mom and some hard truths I’ve learned along the way. Here we go.
Let’s start with some honesty: I didn’t think I wanted kids. My brother is significantly younger than me and I was essentially a 3rd parent to him until I went to college. I love him, but that wasn’t super appealing…”Oh sorry friends, I actually can’t go out and do [insert fun teen activity here] because I have to watch my brother…” I even quit jazz band because getting him ready for daycare in the morning made me miss rehearsals so often. Not a huge deal, but you get the picture. I’d had over 10 years of mom experience before I even got married.
It wasn’t until I became an aunt that Dan and I looked at each other and said, “I want that.” And so, we made it happen. I’ll spare you the details, you know how it works.
My pregnancy with Lily was great, she was a smooth sailor and labor and delivery took a while but sometimes that’s how it goes. Breastfeeding with her, now that’s another story. That child would not latch, and we spent our first few days at home both crying endlessly (and always during Game of Thrones). We got some help from her ped and looking back on it, what I thought was the longest period of time in my life was really just a minor blip on the radar of her life. With the exception of a few things (I’ll save those for future posts) life with her has been pretty easy.
By the time we got pregnant with Felix, Lily was very self-sufficient. On the weekends she would wake up on her own and just watch TV until we got up, and towards the end of my pregnancy with Felix she “made us breakfast” by pouring bowls of cereal. Pretty awesome kid.
We essentially started over, going from a life on autopilot to a life with a newborn all over again. I was nervous about the age difference between them, but honestly we couldn’t afford to have kids closer in age and work at the same time; daycare is a real bitch like that.
My pregnancy with Felix was great; I worked out this time around (I gained 40 lbs with Lily and just shy of 25 with Felix) and I really attribute my physical fitness to my ability to survive his labor and delivery. The contractions were intense. My labor with Lily was calm and relaxed, and with Felix I felt like my abdomen was being shredded but also crushed with a hydraulic press. I honestly can’t even describe it. With Lily the contractions were uncomfortable but nothing horrendous, but with Felix I remember looking at Dan, thinking I couldn’t do it much longer, I didn’t think I could survive it. When I got admitted with Felix the doctor checked me over and said to page him in 6 hours and they would look at induction. I knew, there was no way I could endure that for 6 hours.
Luckily, I didn’t need to wait that long. I tried doing the things that made me comfortable with Lily, opting for the big bathtub. I tried relaxing and when I said to the nurse, “I think I need to push,” she told me to do whatever my body needed to do, all while entering information into the computer. Well I pushed, and I guess the noise I made told her that it was really go time, so she hustled me out of the tub and couldn’t find the doctor. I literally almost squatted Felix out right next to the tub but managed to get on the bed first. With Lily I pushed for 2.5 hours and never really felt the overwhelming urge to push but with Felix, he was out in about 5 pushes. In the recovery wing the nurses would come to check on us and say, “Oh, we heard about you.” So, I was kind of a celebrity of the birthing center for a day or two. Humble brag 😉
Felix took to nursing within minutes of birth, which was a relief after the nightmare we had with Lily, and in general he’s been pretty easy. Except for ear infections. Oh and he sucks at sleeping. But other than that it’s fiiiiiiiiine.
So, here are some hard truths I’ve learned in 8 years of mommin.
- You will feel very alone at times. The isolation of being a mom (or a parent, really) can actually make a person ache, physically. I still get pretty resentful when I have to miss out on things because one of my kids needs me, I have to nurse Felix or we can’t stay out late with friends because our kids need to go to bed on time. Here’s the thing though, your kids will only be so needy for so long, and eventually their needs will change and therefore, what you have to do for them will also change. Remember, your feelings of isolation are valid, but temporary.
- Choose your friends wisely. Obviously having friends who are also parents is a huge benefit; you can commiserate, your kids can be friends, and you both just kind of get it. I’ve found in my experiences though, that sometimes non-parents can be just as awesome as fellow parents. We have quite a few friends who didn’t have kids at the same time as us, or still don’t have kids, and let me tell you, they have always been amazing allies to have in your corner. Our kids think of those friends as family, and unfortunately those friends are more involved in our lives than a lot of our “blood” family.
- Order the small ice cream cone. Not diet advice, but recently I’ve had to finish Felix’s ice creams for him and between the two of us, that’s a lot.
- Try not to sweat the small stuff. I know, easier said than done. But just think, when your kid is grown and moved out, what do you want them to remember about your time with them now? Do you want them to remember a parent so paralyzed with fear of messing up that everything was rigid, or do you want them to remember a happy, fun-loving parent. Now I’m not saying rules and structure aren’t important, but case in point: I used to lose my damn mind over Lily’s room. I hated that it was always a mess, she never put stuff away in the “right places,” and I couldn’t understand how she could tolerate it. Every now and then we would spend an entire day going through and organizing it and it was hell for both of us. One day I finally said, enough. It’s not my space, it’s not hazardous, she’s not allowed to have food up there, so I let it be. Is it a mess? Yes, and we ask her to clean it up from time to time. But I no longer have to sit up there hating cleaning it with her while she feels shame for being a kid. Occasionally we’ll talk about organization strategies, but for the most part we leave it alone and both our lives are better for it.
- Relish the clinginess. Like I said, Felix sucks at sleeping. He comes into bed with us at some point in the night, sometimes as early as 9:30 or rarely, as late as 5:30 in the morning. Last night was an especially early night but when he snuggled up to me and put his little arm around my neck, I just smiled, kissed his head, and told him it was ok and that mommy was there. Because ya know what? I can’t wait to sleep again, but he’s our last baby and before I know it I will be sleeping normally and I’ll look back on those snuggle times with longing. Our kids’ childhoods truly are fleeting, and while it’s easy to get carried away by the hustle and bustle of daily life, we have to remember that before we know it this will be a distant memory. I saw a quote once that said, “The days are long but the years are short.” True words, my friends.
- Put yourself in timeout. Yeah, you. Take a break. Go for a walk. Do something to clear your mind and give yourself some time. I’ve been doing this a lot, especially while in quarantine because, while I love my children very much, I’m not meant to be home with them. I’m meant to be around moody teens who get my sarcasm and make jokes that I’m not (technically) supposed to laugh at. I went to school for a long time, getting not just a bachelor’s degree but a master’s (good ol’ New York State making sure teachers are qualified but not wanting to pay them extra for it…) and while I have the utmost respect for people who stay at home with their kids, that was never a goal of mine. For goodness sake, when Felix was barely a few weeks old I convinced my mother-in-law to drive us to my school so I could sign some grade verification reports and see my colleagues. I thought about taking him to the spring carnival the kids had when he was 4 days old (Dan talked me out of that one). What I’m trying to say is, it’s ok to love your kids but need to get away from them for a while, and it’s crucial for your mental health that you take some time for yourself.
- Be prepared to get criticized. Literally, all the time. The mom shame, the parent guilt, everyone telling you “no don’t feed them that” or “oh my god you’re using ____ diapers?!” Everyone has an opinion (especially family) and a lot of them may have the best of intentions, but you doing what works best for you and your family is what matters most. Learn to nod and smile, even say “Oh I’ll have to look into that” and then go about your day.
I’ve learned a lot more than just those items above, but let’s save that for another time, shall we?
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I’d love to know what you think; if you’re a parent, what are some hard lessons you’ve learned or unique advice you would give to a new or expecting parent?
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