I’m on a trip by myself with the kids this weekend. Chad and his brothers are in Cancun, treating their mom to a vacation with her sons in celebration of her 75th birthday. (Remember that girls!)
Driving nearly six hours by myself while the girls watch movies with headphones on gave me time to listen to things on the radio I don’t normally listen to, especially if Chad is in the car. Things like Oprah Radio on XM radio. One of the shows I listened to today was an episode in which mothers got to confess all the dirty little secrets of motherhood. One of my favorites was a woman who said she had packed her child’s lunch entirely from snacks she had in the car. Another woman said that when she ran out of diapers in the middle of the night she and her husband crafted a diaper from a maxi pad. It worked so well that they didn’t even rush to the store the next morning. But the best one by far was the woman who had been traveling alone with her very small children, who had fallen asleep in the car – the holy grail of the road trip – but she had to pee and did not want to stop. This genius of a woman pulled out a diaper and peed into it. Brilliant, I say!
I listened to the show with greedy ears. It’s a relief to hear other mothers admit that this job sometimes really sucks. There are all kinds of things that no one tells you, which is probably good or no one would ever become a mother. Either that or you would not believe them anyway because I think we all have utopian ideas of how we will be as mothers.
The whole thing got me thinking of my own Truths of Motherhood. Lucky for you I’m going to share them right now. Believe me or don’t.
1. You will never again poop alone.
The opening of the bathroom door is like a siren song, irresistible to children. Even my 11 yo comes to talk to me while I’m going to the bathroom. She, at least, does it from the other side of the door. My 4 yo occasionally tries to sit on my lap. While I’m pooping.
2. You might not love your baby immediately and that’s okay.
You know that moment when your child comes forth, is laid in your arms and the angels start to sing? No? You’re not alone. When my first child was born I was thrilled and fascinated, especially by her puppy-like head that wrinkled up when I wiggled her scalp. But it wasn’t an immediate rapture of love. It was more like an immense sense of responsibility and awe, which was followed by love over the next couple of weeks.
3. Baby showers are boring.
But you should still invite me because A) I will come and B) I love giving gifts. Just please don’t ask me to play games.
4. The older your children get the later they will stay up, and the more you will want them to go to bed so you can be alone for god’s sake.
5. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and that’s okay too.
People are nuts about breastfeeding. And for the record, I am strongly in favor of it. As the mother of a premature baby, about the only thing I was able to do for her was pump breast milk that would help her grow and nurture her immune system. But breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily. Babies don’t latch on. Mothers don’t produce enough milk. Your nipples bleed. Or you feel a crushing desire to have your body back to yourself and the endless amount of milk you are producing makes you feel like you can’t leave the house, which is extremely irritating.
If you can breastfeed, great. If you love it, great. But if you hate it or it’s not working then just break out the formula and leave it behind, because in the long run it’s more important to enjoy the quiet time feeding your baby than to dread feeding your baby because it’s painful and hard. Happy mom = happy baby and that’s all there is to it.
6. Everyone has an opinion.
You don’t have to listen to them.
7. Even if your child will only eat pancakes and spaghettios they can continue to grow and thrive.
8. Playing house is excruciatingly boring.
Seriously. I can read to my kids, play ball, watch movies, do puzzles, cook, take walks, ride bikes, etc. But ask me to play tea party or house or restaurant and I will say no and get really busy cleaning the kitchen just to escape.
9. Nobody cares if you actually baked the cookies for parent-teacher conferences.
10. You will be tired forever.
When you have a baby you are so tired you almost can’t speak. I remember feeling like the most boring person in the world because either I had nothing to say or the only thing I had to talk about was what happened on Oprah (there she is again). My kids sleep through the night now, but see item #4 – you wind up staying up later than you’d like so that you can either A) have some freaking peace and quiet, B) have a conversation with your husband or some other activity, C) read a book, watch your favorite TV show or do whatever other thing you’ve been wanting to do all night long. But then you have to get up and get them to school. It’s an endless cycle of torture.
11. It never ends.
12. Loving your children is easy. Loving motherhood is not.
This is not my idea, but I heard it on the same Oprah episode that got me thinking about these things, and I think it’s a mantra worth adopting and reiterating. As mothers we all feel that if we complain we have to add the caveat that, of course we love our kids, but blah, blah, blah. Well of course we love our kids. That’s the easy part. And fortunately, loving them goes a long way toward raising reasonably well-adjusted, well-behaved and purposeful kids. But loving motherhood is a different story altogether. It’s the ultimate sacrifice of self and at some point we all find that we are trying to figure out who we are now that we’ve added these people and this role to our identity.
These are my truths. The key word there is my. They may not be the same as yours, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing them so that instead of feeling judged as a parent you feel embraced and not alone. Every complaint you’ve made, every feeling you’ve had, every decision you’ve faced has been experienced by countless mothers around the world. We just don’t talk about it much. But I’m putting it out there, dead hamsters and all.
P.S. The idea of developing your own set of truths also is not mine. It’s something I read on one of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project. Check out her Truths of Adulthood – it’s a good read.