Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On being a mother...

Disclaimer: I use a curse word in this post. Twice. The word is shit. I apologize. It was for effect.

My friend Val over at Val McCormick Photography linked my blog on her facebook yesterday (I've know Val since I was a snotty preteen, btw, and so has my husband. He wasn't snotty in 7th grade though, just cute.). She suggested moms read my blog which made me think about...well, being a mom, and blogging.

Once I actually did write part of a book. It was more just a bunch of stories stuck together in what I thought might become a book someday (in the spirit of David Sedaris), but it didn't make any real sense, my rambling about whatever that wasn't really connected. The only common thread of the collection being I was a mom of 3 small children at the time and some of my days were so sitcom comical that I felt like I had to write about them (again, David Sedaris). Then one day, in true sitcom style, my computer crashed and it was all lost, because, in true sitcom style, I hadn't backed any of it up. I thought that might have been the universes way of telling me I ought not to be telling my stories to the general public. In any case, it was funny, if I do say so myself. Tales of me gardening in the nude because I was so frantic to water the tomatoes that I forgot to get dressed, of grape juice containers exploded upon white kitchen walls and freshly mopped wood, of cheerios spilled on grocery store floors with 3 crying children and other things about being a mother (PS I really love David Sedaris. You don't have to read his books but if you don't you're missing out. I'm just sayin'.).

In that light I want to tell you 10 things I wish I'd known about motherhood (you know, before I had a crying real live baby on my hands at the ripe ol' age of 20). Some of them I learned 15 years ago and some of them just in these last weeks, since I became a mommy to another sweet soul. Life is a journey, not a destination. So here it is...

1. You can live on less sleep than you think. A lot less. Chances are when you look at your baby you won't really care that you haven't seen the inside of your eyelids in what seems like an eternity. You'll sleep again someday. Probably. I should add that the combination of lack of sleep + having not enough hands or time to do all that needs to be done (like look at yourself in the mirror) you will eventually walk out of the house with your hair in total disarray/your teeth not brushed/a stain on your shirt/a booger hanging out of your nose. Possibly all of those. On the same day.

2. Alternatively, you might feel like you're going out of your mind from lack of sleep. If this is the case, you probably are and you should get some sleep. Like... now. A sleepy, grouchy mom is ineffective and just plain miserable. Ask my kids. Even with a full nights sleep, no guarantee on the booger thing though.

3. Having a baby will change your body in ways you can't imagine. Women don't tell you this. By your 5th pregnancy (and in truth it probably won't take near that many) your stomach may act as a curtain for your pubic hair and your breasts might resemble something like a tube sock with a rock in the end. On the other hand, if you are one of those women who can fit into her pre-pregnancy jeans and look like she's never been pregnant at two weeks postpartum, I'm sorry, the rest of us hate you. Well, not hate so much as envy. In any case, your husband, if you're lucky like me, will love your body even more than he did before it carried and birthed your baby. I suggest you try to love it too. It's the only one you've got. It's not broken, it doesn't need fixing, it's just new and improved. And squishier. (Note to self: have husband write a guest post on this)

4. Your house is going to be a mess. That's ok. Laundry will pile. Floors will be dirty. I promise you it won't be messy forever. Well it might, but whatever, it's just a house. When your kids leave and it's tidy, you'll just wish they were there to mess it up again. Trust me, I might be the most obsessively clean person I know (next to my mother), the day I let it go was the day I was freed from the prison of my own misery. When the 3 big kids leave to go to their dad's house I madly clean the messes they've left behind, then I sit on the sofa and cry, wishing they'd just come back home and make it a mess again. It's just a house.

5. The things you said you'd never ever do in a million zillion katrillion years like give your kids candy for bribery/take them to McDonalds/beg borrow and steal to get them to eat ANYTHING green/let them sleep in your bed when they are 4, you will do. People will judge you. If you have to give your 3 year old a sucker to survive the grocery store, oh well. That might be the only way you both make it out alive. Those teeth aren't permanent anyway.

6. Your children will make you cry. When they are babies you will cry along with them because you can't get them to stop crying/don't know why they are crying/are just realizing what you signed up for. When they are toddlers you will cry because you can't get them to mind you/eat anything that isn't macaroni or comes from a box/stop crying for every toy in the store. When they are school aged you will cry when they scrape their knee/don't make the football team/get left out of whatever circle of bratty kids they wish they were part of. When they are in high school you will cry because they tell you you're the worst mother ever because you won't let them have an xbox/cell phone/boyfriend/black eyeliner. When they are in college you will cry when you drop them off at the dorm and then again when they get their heart broken/fail a class/move into their first apartment/graduate. What happens after college, I can't say yet because I don't know but I'm sure there's just going to be more crying. When they get married/have their own kids/cry because of said kids. You're going to cry, with them, for them and sometimes because of them. If you're not a crier like me then you'll just do whatever thing you do. I cry. I just keep tissues around.

7. Your children will also make you crazy. Batshit, looney tunes, going out of your flippin mind crazy. Just when you think you've got them figured out, they'll enter a whole new phase and make you crazy again. Just when you think your baby is going to sleep all night long they'll start teething or having separation anxiety or having nightmares. Just when you think you've figured out how to get your 3 year old to eat veggies, they'll go back to eating peanut butter and jelly. Every. Single. Meal. Just when you think you see eye to eye with your 11 year old because you have a reasonable conversation, they'll hit puberty and turn into a hormonal monster. And just when you've got the teenager all figured out they'll move away and you won't know what they're doing or where they are and that will drive you crazy too. It's helpful to recognize this before it happens so you don't commit yourself to an institution.

8. Your first child will get a full baby book with a million photos and every milestone recorded, brand new un-spitup on clothes, lots of attention from family near and far and every minute of time you have. Your fourth baby (or 2nd or 6th or whatever) probably won't get all that. At least not the full baby book. I'm just keepin it real. You just won't fill out the book when 4 (or 2 or 6) small people are trying to get your attention. Bottom line: If you only have one child you'll be worried it's going to be spoiled rotten/self-centered/unable to share. If you have 4 children you'll worry they are going to feel left out/ignored/abandoned. You can't win either way. Accept this now. If you are a mother who has kept a full baby book for every baby, please email me now, I need lessons and then to award you the Nobel Prize for Peace AND Literature.

9. Whatever kind of parent you are, someone will tell you you are doing it wrong. If you are an attached parent (like me) people will say things like you're spoiling your baby/your baby is never going to learn to walk/you're going to be sorry you let your baby sleep with you/I can't believe you're STILL breastfeeding etc. etc. It's bullshit. You have to parent your kids. You might be doing it wrong, it's possible, but if you love your children and you aren't abusing them, the person criticizing you is probably just an opinionated jerk. You have my permission to tell them so, or at least just to nod politely and completely ignore them.

10. Along those lines you will continuously question your parenting. If you think you've got it all right, all the time, there's something wrong with you. Or you're Jesus. Or you should write a parenting book. Or you're one of the people mentioned in #9. You will worry that you're spoiling them/not spoiling them/hugging them too much/not hugging them enough/being overprotective/not being protective enough. You will worry that they are going to grow up to hate you for what you did "to them". Don't worry, they will. They'll probably go to college and then need therapy and then call you and tell you it's because you never bought them an xbox/cell phone/black eyeliner that they are so terribly dysfunctional. Then they'll have their own kids, call you, apologize for being a jerk and ask you how you did it. At this point you should write them a list of things you think they should know about parenting, like this one. Start the list with #6, just to make them feel guilty.

11. (oops, turns out there were 11) Until you are a parent you won't believe how much you can love another person. Other parents will tell you and you'll nod and agree but you won't really know it until you feel it first hand, until you gaze at your baby and see the future through their little eyes and realize they are your heart, your soul and your everything. And you'll probably cry. Just keep some tissue around.

Theses are my four hearts. :)

(FYI: The one in the blue shirt is thinking about how I am ruining his life by making him take pictures. As far as I can tell the other 3 are just hoping it's over soon.)


The Great Quiram Adventure said...

Gotta love Sean! I think he and Tristin share the same thought. What a great post...and like you, I I always keep tissue around. Some days your posts are the glimmer of joy that keeps me sane.

ESTOccasions said...

I love it.

Elizabee said...

Where was this blog 5 months ago? I can now breathe, and move on, pushing aside guilt. Thanks joni! This rocked.

Val McCormick Photography said...

Great writing girlfriend! You keep wanting to come back for more!!! Thanks for sharing!

Devin said...

Awesome as usual! I don't cry so much anymore, but I know I will.

RamosFamilyBlog said...

So true!
Love it :-)
Great picture...btw

Emily said...

This brought a smile to my face and made me laugh until I cried. This should be required reading for all expectant moms.
It's all so true! I wish I had known just a couple of these when I had my first. I would like to add a few things that were shocking to me right after birth...
Once your milk comes in you will briefly look like a porn star, I couldn't believe how sore my chest was. Your boobs will leak everywhere! I was amazed at my super soaker like ability to spray anything down within 4 feet of me. Also, if you go anywhere and you're seen without your baby the first six weeks after giving birth someone is sure to ask when your baby is due. :)

Joni said...

Oh Emily breastfeeding needs it's own list!

Stefanie said...

Hi Joni, I stumbled across your blog, via your FB page, by clicking through various mutual friends' FB pages. I don't think we knew each other in HS - I was a year behind you and knew who you were, and I knew Matt slightly. Anyway, I just have to say that I love your blog! I have 2 boys, 6 & 8, and I can totally related with so many of the things you posted, and with the inspiration to write it all down! (Though I never actually wrote it all down . . .) I loved your post so much that I've forwarded it on to a couple of first-time, soon-to-be moms that I work with for their "education" in reality. ;-) Keep it up!! (Oh, my name! I nearly forgot that - Stefanie Wood Ellis)

Emily @ Joyful Abode said...

Wonderful! I got a little teary-eyed, I'll admit. You SHOULD write a book.

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