I was a single person with no family of my own for a long time. Too long. I think that is why I have had a little more trouble adjusting to motherhood than maybe some other moms. Don’t get me wrong – I love being a mother but… it’s hard, people!
And I have to laugh at myself because, as a single person, there were so many things about my friends who had kids that I just didn’t get. And you know how when you get all judge-y on people it comes back to bite you in the butt?
Following is a list of the things about motherhood that as a single person I did not understand but now I totally get.
1. The Messy Car
A friend I had in another state used to have the MESSIEST car. When I would get in the front seat, it looked like her entire family had just finished eating breakfast. Seriously, there would still be MILK in the cereal bowls!
Now I find myself picking untold amounts of garbage from the floor of my vehicle: Bits of paper, old stickers, cheerios that absorbed slop from boots and dried out again, cheese stick wrappers, water bottles, dried out mandarin orange sections… but I draw the line at milk. I do not allow this substance to enter my vehicle.
2. The Fatigue
“Is there really such a thing as a “Mombie”? Come on!”
Oh yeah! I always say there is a reason why God makes you fertile when you are in your teens. I just don’t have the same energy as I did decades ago. And for all of you thinking that it is no big deal to have a kid in your mid-40’s – umm… check with your reproductive system, knees, hips, and back as well as your ability to get a good night’s sleep even without kids and and get back to me.
3. The Brain Fog
Closely related to #2, when I was a single person, I had co-workers and friends of the parental order who at times could not put together a coherent sentence or adequately communicate their thoughts. I’d think to myself “Pull yourself together, man! Maybe you want to try to get to bed earlier?”
Space limitations prevent me from describing how the double whammy of having a baby and going through menopause has had me eating those words, time and time again. <sigh>
4. Always Running Late
I used to arrive early to everything and observed this characteristic rarely applied to parents. I’d think to myself “Late again? What is with these people, they never have their act together!”
Now I understand that although parents may have their act completely together, that has nothing to do with the acts of their children: Daydreaming, diddling, dawdling… need I say more?
5. Who, Me? Yell at My Kids?
Refer to #4. We’ve all seen the parent who loses their cool at one time or another. When my daughter was a toddler, we had a parent educator tell our class that no matter what we thought then, at some point as parents we were going to start yelling. She suggested using an image of an orange rhinoceros to remind us to slow down, take a deep breath, and make a better choice. Whaaaaat?! First of all, I wasn’t EVER going to yell at my kid! Second, nobody is going to tell ME how I will treat my sweet daughter! Third, I thought the instructor was just a rhino-loving momster who yelled at her kids.
Oh my goodness, I am so humiliated about placing that judgement and experiencing first-hand how hard it is not to yell when you are stressed, frustrated, upset, or just plain worn out. Thankfully, each new day gives me new opportunities to practice self-care (doing all I can to get enough sleep and exercise plus eating right) that gives me the self-control to make a choice other than yelling. It helps that my daughter has also matured. Yes, I did mean to say “also.”
6. Sleep is the New Sex
So, before I became a parent, I went on an retreat with a bunch of women who were moms. They started joking around about how sleep was the new sex. I had no idea what they were talking about. I was getting lots of the former and none of the latter. Finally, they noticed my confusion and started laughing at me.
Ok, I get this now. I totally get it.
7. Sick, AGAIN?!
“Holy buckets, look at that river of snot flowing down that kid’s face. He is sick AGAIN?! Pass me the hand sanitizer, PLEASE!”
I have to admit I was riding the high of not having to deal with a sick kid pretty much through pre-school. The number of times she was really sick through age 5 1/2 could be counted on one hand with a couple of leftover fingers. Now that she is spending around 35 hours a week inside a germ factory (aka “Elementary School”) we have dealt with the common cold, 2 stomach bugs, the flu, and a hospitalization due to complications from being sick… all in the space of 2 months. Arggghhhhhh… germaphobia and motherhood do not go together.
8. Having to Break a Commitment… Again
“Oh, you can’t go? Really? But we had planned this ages ago! Yes, I understand… your kid is sick.” I got so sick and tired of friends bailing on plans because something came up with their kids.
I have my own business and have had to face the hard reality that as a mompreneur, I don’t always get to do what I set out to do. Recently, I have had to cancel or reschedule several amazing opportunities related to my business and it has been so discouraging. A sick child is the one obstacle working mothers can’t just work harder to overcome. And I will admit, I do not always handle this challenge with as much style and grace as I could. When I got over my latest disappointment, my daughter said how proud she was of me that I was able to get my mind off of it and move on. Yes, she really is that sweet and that amazing.
It’s easy, when you are not in the throes of motherhood, to be on your high horse and think you know the right way and the wrong way to go about this thing called life. It’s hard, once you are a mommy, to adjust to not being able to have everything just as you like it. Once you are on board the Mommy Train, sometimes all you can do is hang on as tightly as you can and not get too upset when the ride gets bumpy or when the train bypasses stops that are important to you. What do we get in return? Hopefully a more flexible and understanding attitude. The strength to just go with the flow. The wisdom to not sweat the small stuff. The optimism that perhaps tomorrow will be better. The ability to laugh at yourself. And, most importantly, the joy and unconditional love that flows out of a child and fills your heart and soul way more than any clean car ever will.