Children make your life important.
Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was on all fours in a hospital bed, rocking back and forth and begging someone (anyone) to just “get this baby out of me!”? But the reality is here, my baby is no longer a baby. Reflecting on the first 365 days brings tears to my eyes. It flew by in a haze…an amazing, terrifying, validating, beautiful haze. It has been the hardest and the best year of my life.
In the last year, I have learned more than I could ever have dreamed. I’ve learned more about myself, about the world, about other people. It’s funny because lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been tapped for advice from some of my friends and acquaintances that are in the “fear of commitment” stage of becoming parents. They are considering making the leap, but are asking themselves – Am I ready? Am I prepared to give up my life? My friends? My body? My money? Am I selfless enough? Am I patient enough? Will I be mom enough? These are all questions I asked myself at one time and, to be honest, never really found the answer to.
Yet still they ask me, “How do you do it?”
My answer is always the same… “I have no fucking clue.”
And that’s the truth. After one year of being a mother, I still feel like I know nothing. But maybe that’s what it means to become a parent…it’s knowing that you know nothing. So you make it up as you go along. And just when you think you’ve learned something – that you’ve figured something out – it changes. And that’s okay.
I might look “together” on the outside, but on the inside I am anything but. Our house might looks clean-ish, but don’t open any closet doors. How do I know what my child needs and wants? It’s like learning to use a computer – you troubleshoot it over and over and over, and just pray to god you don’t get the blue screen of death.
I’ve documented many of my thoughts throughout my first year as a mother, and my favorite blog posts to write and re-read have always been my “Top 10s.” So in honor of this big 1 year milestone, I thought that there is no better way to share with you all of the things I’ve had to learn and accept in the past 12 months. Here it is: my top ten takeaways (and bits of advice) after surviving the first year.
10. I have never been so scared, and I will carry that fear with me forever. Prior to becoming a mother, I had your average fears. Fear of dying, fear of losing loved ones, fear of failing. Now that I am a mom I realize that never before did I have so much to lose. Author Elizabeth Stone once said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” No words could be more true. Every day, I wake up in anticipation of seeing that little face; of preparing him for his day of learning and thriving; of basking in my pride for all the he does and all that he is. I wonder how I ever lived without his inspiration, and how I could ever go on if I lost it. Now I understand why parents wait up for their teenagers when they stay out past curfew and do stupid shit. One day, Charlie is going to be reckless with himself… maybe I’ll sit him down and make him read this blog as punishment.
9. Many facets of my former life no longer exist, and that’s okay. I have lost my free time. I have lost my extra money. I have lost (some of) my friends. More than anything, I’ve lost myself. But not in a bad way. The ‘me’ in me is still there…I’m just different. Becoming a mother will change who you are. I don’t care what anyone says, for the better or for the worse, becoming a mother changes you. Becoming a mother changes everything. Because you go from being responsible for simply existing – just breathing, in and out, every day – to being responsible for another little life. And it’s a lot harder to make sure someone else is breathing in and out like they’re supposed to without becoming a neurotic mess. It’s a lot of pressure when another human’s sun and moon rise and set with you, when this tiny little miracle depends on you for its mere existence. Having a baby is bound to shake things up a bit. The sooner you learn to roll with the punches and come to terms with the loss of certain things, the better off you’ll be.
8. It’s okay to make mistakes. My child rolled out of the bed once, in the middle of the night, after we fell asleep nursing. He also dove head first off a bed while I was changing his diaper. He has done a face plant into a coffee table, peed on his own face, and picked up/tasted dog poop. Screw it, he ate it. He ate the poop.
Am I proud of any of these moments? Absolutely not. (Especially the last one, that one still makes me throw up in my mouth a little.) The point is, he is alive and thriving. We do the best we can and sometimes we will fail to see out of the corner of our eye that he is making his way to a steamy pile that you didn’t know what sitting 3 feet from him. We are human – no parent is perfect.
7. It’s okay to forgive myself. It’s okay to feel guilty. With the mistakes comes guilt. With motherhood comes guilt. My kid ate dog shit, for Christ’s sake, I get guilt. But most of the time, life unfolds without us saying so. We cannot have control of everything all the time, and we can’t be everything to everyone. To err is human, and mothers are human. We cannot undo what is done. (How many other corny sayings can I throw in here?) The bottom line is, as a mother you are going to be much harder on yourself than your child will be. Look at your own mother – do you see her flaws, or do you see her beauty? Do you see all the things she did wrong, or all of the ways she is amazing? It’s probably the latter, because we love our mothers unconditionally. Children are very forgiving so we, as mothers, should be too.
6. There will always be things you “should” do. Always something you haven’t done well enough. Pinterest is making motherhood hell. Because there, we get to see all the evidence of the perfect moms with their perfect children who bake perfect (organic!) cookies and knit perfect baby sweaters and Martha Stewart the shit out of their kid’s first birthday, all while using their extraordinary momtography skills to shove it in our faces.
And let’s not forget about the constant stream of information about the things that our children can and cannot have/see/do/eat… Peanut butter gives allergies if eaten too young – but then it causes allergies if introduced too late. Cow’s milk is good – except when cow’s milk is bad. No tummy sleeping, no blankets, no pacifiers, no formula. Except when your kid needs to sleep on his tummy with a blanket and pacifier after getting milk drunk on formula. Don’t let them watch television, but definitely get them an iPad so they can “learn.” Sometimes, you just have to look at those Pinterestingly perfect, know-it-alls and say my 4 favorite words – shut the fuck up.
5. Moms will always do more than Dads, but will rarely be acknowledged for it. One day, I was feeling feisty and I decided to ask Tristan for his opinion, percentage-wise, on how he thought the care of our son was divided up. I thought I was about to feel all warm and fuzzy, thinking he would say “50/50” <3 <3…straight to the bedroom with you, sir! Except, not. Never could I fathom he would suggest any figure that put himself above me. Until the numbers left his lips, “60/40.” With HIM doing more. Srsly?
Now, I cannot not give the man credit. He does A LOT. A lot more than most fathers I know. And he doesn’t ever complain about any of it. Plus, on top of it he takes my crap. However, he decided that while there are many things we do equally (baths, diaper changes, rocking to sleep, etc.), since he wakes up with Charlie and gives him his morning bottle, wakes up with him in the middle of the night (now that I’m not breastfeeding), and then plays with him at night when he gets home from work, that he clearly did more because he spent more time ‘with’ the child.
To this, I asked the following: What about the grocery shopping when C is out of formula – do you know which brand we buy? No? What about daycare drop off and pick up? Me and me. Name me one of his teachers – just one, there are 3… bonus points for the director’s name. Who stays home with him when he’s sick? Me. Leaves work early when he’s sick? Me. Doctor appointments? Me. What about making sure he’s got clean sheets, clean clothes, diapers and wipes at daycare? And all the supplies we use at home? Laundry? Preparing dinner? Me, me, me, me. That round thing in the microwave, it’s a bottle sanitizer – how many minutes do you run it to sanitize his bottles? Remember that time you couldn’t find his pajamas? That’s because I rotate his clothes and buy new ones when he’s outgrown the old. Who do you think sanitizes his high chair, the sanitizer fairy? She must also sanitize his toys. Not to mention that I spend the second half of the morning with him, which cancels out your morning duty, and it never fails that he poops about 3 minutes before we have to walk out the door. And, I also play with him in the evenings, so samesies there. And on top of it, I will have this goddamn hemorrhoid for the rest of my life thanks to this child, so that’s at least 10 extra credit points.
Not that I’m keeping score or anything.
The moral of this story is, it’s never a good idea to ask your husband this question.
4. I was never truly needed before I became a mother. I thought I was. I mean, I’m a really good employee. I’m a really good wife, good friend, good dog owner. I volunteer, serve on the board of my condo association and for my college sorority. All of these things made me feel important and essential. Irreplaceable.
But there is always someone else that can do the job, fill the role, be there. In life, you think you are irreplaceable in so many ways, only to learn somewhere down the road that you absolutely aren’t. Like when you stay and stay and stay at a job that you’re unhappy at because you’ve become so “important”… until one day, you up at quit because your boss is a micro-manager with no formal training within the field for which she is VICE PRESIDENT, and then has the balls to tell you that you’re not qualified for a higher position within the company for no damn good reason other than that you just took 8 weeks off because you spewed a human being from your vagina, then one day she tells you that they hired two incompetent people for said higher position so you pretty much have to do the job for which you weren’t qualified because the company laid off the two other people that were actually doing a good job before, so you lose your shit in the middle of your performance review and exclaim “I quit!” thinking that you are really sticking it to them because the department officially canNOT run without you — only to find out three months later that they hired 2 new people to replace you and no one gave a shit what fucking hill you chose to die on. Hypothetically, of course.
But the exception to this rule – Charlie. I am important to him. Needed. Like when he reaches out for me as we say “bye bye” at daycare. Or screams for me in the middle of the night. Or smiles at me with his head tilted sideways as we play together. Charlie will never, and could never, have another mom. These shoes are un-fucking-fillable.
3. A solid marriage can survive anything. One thing the hubs and I have going for us is that we love each other. Like, seriously love each other. I’ve seen quite a few marriages dissolve after the baby comes – unfortunately it’s pretty common these days. While having a baby is far from easy, it doesn’t have to break the bond that created your marriage in the first place. If you’ve taken the time to build a strong foundation – one with very few cracks (because no relationship is flawless) – it will remain strong. In our darkest times (and I mean literally dark, because we were up all night with a crying baby) we had one another. Sometimes, I wanted to kiss him all over because he would take the baby and let me get an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes I wanted to punch him in the face simply because he was the only one there and he loves me so much, he’d probably let me…but of course I love him back so much, I never really could. My husband it my best friend, and a baby only solidified that more. Babies create stress, but they also amplify love.
2. It’s all worth it. Every mother’s journey to parenthood is different. But if you ask them all one question, you’ll probably get the same answer: What are you most proud of in life? Without hesitation, my child. No other accomplishment could ever surpass my son. For all the sleepless nights, torn vaginas, mental breakdowns, poop explosions, personal sacrifices, stomach flu’s, and bleeding nipples, every ounce of every tough moment – no matter how absolutely miserable I was at the time – has been worth it.
1. For the first time in my life, I am enough. Looking back on just about every moment of my (almost) 30 years, I don’t think there is a single day that I could have honestly looked myself in the mirror and said “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Even when I did my best, I don’t think I ever felt like I was enough. Maybe it’s a female thing, or a 3rd child thing, or a low self-esteem thing. I don’t fucking know. What I do know, it that in his eyes, I am it. It doesn’t matter how ugly, smelly, dumb, fat or loser-ish I am. To Charlie, I am just Mama. I am someone he needs and I am someone he loves, unconditionally. I don’t have to try to be anything more than what I am. For the first time in my life, I am enough.
Words cannot describe my gratitude and excitement that we all survived the first year. Here’s to many, many more to come!