The 10 Things I’ve Learned In 11 Years of Motherhood

Eleven years ago this week, I found out I was pregnant with my first son. My mom and I were laughing yesterday about how different of a person I am today than I was before having children. The main thing I can’t remember is what I did with all of my free time. I found out I was pregnant at the very mature age of 23, so whatever I was doing didn’t involve anything outside of myself, I am sure of that.

Of course, every experience I’ve had between then and now has made me into the person I am today, but I would love to be able to go back in time, knowing what I know now, and do it so differently.

I mean, I don’t really want to go back in time. Because I sleep through the night now and haven’t changed a diaper in months. And I am writing this from the comfort of my own room while my children zone out on electronics play together without me.

But oh how I wish I would have known then what I know now. There could have been a lot less stress, fewer tears, and a lot more fun.

While I am less self-absorbed than I was 11 years ago, I still am into myself enough to want to tell you what I wish my 23-year-old self knew (because if I don’t put it on the World Wide Web, then it didn’t really happen. Right?):

  1. Every judgement you ever imposed on a mom before becoming one will come back to you. It’s the principle of sowing and reaping. I am ashamed to admit that I was the girl on the airplane who annoyingly wondered if the parents in row 33 noticed their baby screaming. So, naturally, a few short years later, I got to endure four straight hours of flying with a screaming toddler who would not stop. While I was pregnant. The woman in front of me gave me death stares for the duration of the flight. It was a precious moment. And deserved. Because I can only imagine what my bothered college self acted like.

    (A helpful note to non-parents: I can assure there is no one on the plane who wants a child to be quiet more than their parents. It is the absolute worst. But in a tiny little capsule with nowhere to go, quieting a child is sometimes an impossible feat. When you feel tempted to judge, instead buy the mom a glass of wine. Or some whiskey, if it’s really treacherous.)

  2. You can bottle feed. You can breast feed. You can eat kale everyday while pregnant. Or eat Cheetos as an entree. Your child will still drink from the puddle of water at the playground and eat week old french fries off of the car floor. We moms like to self-soothe our grossed out little souls by assuring ourselves our little tikes are building immunities. Even though we all still get sick kids on the regular. But let us have this lie, ok?
  3.  There is not enough hand sanitizer on the planet to protect against how gross kids are. My kids will literally pick their noses,sneeze into their hands, then lick their Dorito-stained fingers…and then expect me to hold them. AND I DO IT. No one is more surprised than me that my formerly obsessively clean self doesn’t vomit each and every day at their level of disgusting. It’s their cuteness. I swear, humanity only continues to exist because children are so irresistible.
  4.  I might offend some overzealous moms with this one. (I once was an overzealous mom before four children coerced out the energy to care). You can potty train a kid at 18 months or you can potty train a kid at 3. And they will still potty train at 3. Except for the few examples of those kids who potty train themselves. For the love of all things good and holy, when a mom tells you, “Potty training is easy; my child practically did it themselves,” cover your ears and start singing the Daniel Tiger theme song until you forget what she said. This does happen, but it’s the exception not the rule. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by listening to best case scenarios.

    You should always listen to me. My kids are very average, and we will only make you feel better about yourself.

  5. On that note, surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Life is too short, and raising children is too hard to endure sanctimommies who do everything better, earlier, and faster than you. I always tell myself that perfect moms are probably disappointing in the bedroom. It’s probably not true, but that’s like the one thing I am decent at…so I let myself believe it anyway. (I also pretty adept at oversharing. In case you haven’t noticed.)

    Quieting down the lies of inadequacy in your own mind is hard enough. Don’t let another mom feed the beast. Pick friends who refresh your soul and make you feel like you belong.

  6. Babies will cry. Toddlers will scream. Kids will poop. Sometimes explosively. It’s all a part of the normal development of children. It is tough to endure at times, and society will roll its collective eyes at you because children are so inconvenient in public, I’ve learned. (Gag.) But the best decision I’ve made (and try to continue to make) is to allow children to be children. They’re loud. They’re messy. They don’t play by the rules. They will always poop at the worst possible moment. And occasionally they will break things.

    {Just ask my husband, who once mourned the loss of his big screen TV as if it were a close relative, when an ill-thrown toy shattered the screen.}

    {There may have been tears.}

    {Not really. But I think I saw some forming.}

  7. There are four males who live in my home. Five, if you count my dog. Which I am not sure you can because he only formerly identifies as a male, ifyouknowwhatImean. Anyway, you can tell by the aforementioned loss of Uncle Sony that affected me not, they function very differently than females. You should go ahead and embrace this early on because nothing you do will change this fact. There will be more fart jokes than seem humanly possible, and more shocking is the day you find yourself joining in the fun. Your bathroom will forever smell bad…and your entire yard becomes a toilet. Brothers will fight nearly to the death on a daily basis. And so far, I’ve found no way to stop this.

    When I first started dating my husband, he and his brother got into a wrestling match in their living room. They are not small men, and I literally thought the house might fall down.

    It didn’t. But it’s reassuring to know that grown men still wrestle, so I can’t have nice things probably ever.

  8.  In fact, “we can’t have nice things” has become my family motto. My children take the idea of the world being their canvas quite literally and draw on the walls, on themselves, and on any other possible surface.

    Raising children is sticky and moist. If I am not sticking to the dried apple juice that was spilled on the floor, I am stepping in the puddle in the bathroom from a certain toddler who seems incapable of keeping water in the actual bath.

    I am basically living the glam life. Don’t be jealous.

  9. But in all seriousness, don’t be jealous of other people. It’s true, some people have awesome lives. But everyone has things. Things that are hard. Things they’re insecure about. Things that keep them up at night. Relationships that take work. Demanding jobs. Mortgages they can’t afford.

    You get my point.

    Run your race. Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not to get people to like you. Find people who like the real you. It’s a great feeling when you don’t have to apologize for who you are. And don’t look around and compare yourself to other people. You never know the battles they have and the struggles they face. There is no better person to be than yourself. No matter how messy and unlovely you may be. Because you are a whole lot of awesome, too.

  10. Raising kids is hard. It is smelly and messy and wet. It brings up your deepest insecurities and your worst fears. It takes you to the depths of despair. And makes you feel things you never thought possible. And yet, raising kids is the greatest thing you will ever do. The joy you feel when you watch your child is the greatest feeling there is. And it doesn’t matter what they’re doing: your kid can be learning to walk for the first time…look super cute while watching TV…playing their favorite sport…or look beyond precious when sleeping…but the deep joy they bring is immeasurable.

    Kids are the funniest people on the planet. When they intend to be and when they don’t. Even their mistakes are precious. Their knock knock jokes are stupidly funny. Even when you’ve heard them 49 times. I have never laughed so hard as I do when I am around my kids.

    Kids may bring out the worst in us, but they also bring out the very best. I never knew I could love a little human so much. I never knew I would be willing to sacrifice anything for them. I never could have guessed I would love my job so much.

    My twenty-three year old self didn’t know the first thing about raising kids. And I am surprised the hospital even let me take my son home. But I am so thankful for the journey. I am thankful for the successes I’ve had, and I appreciate the failures. In the dailyness of life, it’s easy to forget what a miracle and gift it is to be able to raise children. The hard parts of my days often drown out the awesomeness in the everyday.

    But everyday is awesome. Even when it’s hard.
    Everyday holds the opportunity to make your children feel valued, loved, and appreciated.
    Even when you screw up. For the millionth time.
    The last decade has taught me that failing is not the end…it’s the chance to know better and do better…and have an awesome tomorrow.

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