Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What I didn't know about motherhood

Did anyone see the "Secret Lives of Moms" show on Oprah yesterday? There was some blogger and Twitter buzz about it because Dooce appeared on the show. (Dooce, the blogger and writer who needs no introduction or explanation -- she was on Oprah because of her blog! And her book.)

I don't watch Oprah much, but I tried to catch a bit of the show yesterday. Moms were confessing things they have done and talking about how hard motherhood is and how they sometimes feel like failures. And it seemed a good part of the show was about how no one tells you stuff like this is going to happen before you become a mom.

I might have mentioned here before that a friend tried to warn me about some of motherhood's rougher areas -- but she did it at my baby shower. Where everyone was happy. Where people were talking about Fly with excitement. Where I was opening gift after sweetly wrapped gift. Where I likely had a sugar high.

That's not a good time to tell the mom-to-be, "You know, motherhood is tough. Sometimes your baby won't sleep, and so you won't sleep, either, and that alone can make you go crazy. A baby can put a strain on your marriage. Have you and JP talked about this?" That kind of thing. My friend caught me off guard. I tried -- but probably failed -- to appear interested in what she was saying while giving her non-replies.

Thinking back to my baby shower, and thinking about yesterday's Oprah show, I wonder if it really would have made a difference if my friend had tried to talk to me in a different time or place. Every one of us moms might have a "I wish had known about" list in our minds when it comes to being a mom.

But I'm not sure if it would have mattered if my friend had taken a different tack with me. I think some things you have to learn on your own, from experience -- and I think motherhood is probably one of them. Of course, having some knowledge beforehand can prepare you on one level, but living it day to day? I don't think anyone can really prepare you for that.

I had read breastfeeding is actually hard. But I didn't know in Fly's first several weeks that I would come to dread every time he had to eat because it made me cry in pain.

I knew I would lose sleep. Duh. But I didn't know sleep deprivation does nasty things to your mind and your personality.

I knew I wouldn't have much time for myself. But I didn't know that would mean my skin would feel like it was crawling after three days without a shower, or that I would feel invisible passing beautiful young women in the store, or that part of me would be desperate to travel a couple hours away to snorkel, hike or look for birds.

I knew JP and I would need to adjust to being a threesome with our Flybaby after having been just the two of us since we met each other at 15. But I didn't realize I would have rather uncharitable thoughts toward JP because his life hasn't seemed to have changed as much as mine and because I still get jealous of him whenever he's sick because he goes straight to bed and just lies there until he's better (which I can't do).

I had a mild notion that it could be hard to stay home with a baby all day, but I didn't know even two and a half years later that every day I wrack my brain to answer, "What am I going to do with this child all day?"

Motherhood is too big of a life change to be prepared and ready to tackle everything that comes at you. And as your child grows, new challenges come at you all the time. I was just talking with a friend last night -- an "experienced mom" -- who says worrying over your kids can get worse after they have left the house and started their own families.

Once a mom, always a mom.

So while I think it's definitely helpful to clue in a mom-to-be with the realities of what it's like to be a mom, I don't think anyone can expect to really know what they're getting into. Each child is different, anyway. The only way to work motherhood is just jump in there and do what has to be done for your individual child. We each write our own manual by day-to-day parenting.

And maybe that's the ultimate advice for moms-to-be: be prepared, get advice or help. And write your own mama script every day.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I think the blogosphere is such a blessing. When my daughter was born, I read books but NOTHING could have prepared me from the isolation, sleeplessness and difficulty of that first year. I just wish I had found blogging back then; it was not only fun but therapeutic!

10:05 AM  
Anonymous chelle said...

yup, the blogging community has totally made me a better mom. It helps to know you are not alone, and when you are :P

Nothing prepares you for all that comes with children for sure ... but that includes the love. I was so not prepared to LOVE these beings the way that I do!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Madeline said...

Good stuff, Damselfly! I had no idea what was coming my way while I was pregnant. I'd never even babysat. I went to childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, child safety classes, child rearing classes...the list goes on. I read book after book on the subject. I'm glad that I did all of that, but it didn't in the least truly prepare me for what was to come. For the most part everyone stayed on the super happy side of things (except in child safety), and NOBODY ever mentioned that I might spend the first months of Levi's life dreading feeding him. There are certainly a few things I wish somebody had clued me into. Overall you just have to roll with the punches, but I guess that's just life.

10:57 AM  
Blogger CaraBee said...

Great post! Like you, I knew what to expect, but knowing that I would face these challenges didn't make them any easier. Sleeplessness, breastfeeding, loneliness, boredom...I watched as they approached and was still surprised when they punched me in the face. I don't even bother trying to tell mothers to be or people without kids (like my best friend) what to expect. I just say, I'll be there to help when they need it. And the will definitely need it. :)

PS - Thank god, allah, shiva, yahweh and whoever else will listen for the blogosphere, because I would have gone completely nutso without it.

11:51 AM  
Blogger amanda said...

i meant to watch but my mommy brain forgot to register what time it was!

but i totally agree. my bff and i just had this conversation - u simply can't prepare or explain mommyhood to a new mommy. but thank the stars they are there when u finally join the club :)

12:27 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

It amazed me how isolating it can feel to be . . with someone (little) all the time. Seems like a contradiction, but that's certainly not something I expected when I became a mom.

The second time around was a lot easier!

1:13 PM  
Anonymous much more than a mom said...

So true, my friend. So true. Nothing prepares us other than the harsh, but wonderful, realities.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

i think even if somebody does try clue us in we all think that we will be the exception to the rule and that motherhood is going to be a breeze. It's truly one of those things you just learn from doing. Good thing kids are resilient to our parenting mistakes!

And having 1 kid DOES NOT prepare you to have 2. Nor does having 2 kids prepare you to have 3. I am amazed at how big of an adjustment it is each time. Or at least has been for me!

Without hijacking your comments I do want to put in my small plug for asking for help when you need it. I struggled with severe PPD after my third. But figured motherhood was supposed to be hard and just kept plugging along the best I could for far too long before finally asking for help. Yes motherhood is hard, but is supposed to be rewarding as well. If you true dread each and every day ask for help!!!!! Motherhood is not supposed to be THAT hard.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled comments now.

3:44 PM  
Blogger jodifur said...

I'm going to blog about this tomorrow but I hated this Oprah. I thought it was a whole bunch of whining with no constructive discussions

6:29 PM  
Blogger Keetha Broyles said...

And one more piece of advice: Give yourself a break. NONE of us are perfect at this job. We just love our kids, pray for them, keep them relatively clean, and hope for the best!!!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I was just thinking about that yesterday...the man gets to just go to bed when he's sick. Not so with Mom. So irritating. (because I have been sick the last few days and still am sick.)

9:20 PM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Nothing really could have prepared you, it is such a dramatic change that you could not even imagine how you would change.

P.S. I get cranky about my husband being able to sleep sicknesses off too. I also envy the fact that he can go off somewhere in the house alone with out the kids bugging him. If I leave the room they inevitably follow me. Yeah sometimes they go bug him, but not nearly as often.

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

What a great post. I just linked to it in my Tuesday Tours column.

I definitely related to what you said - especially about breastfeeding and sleep and wondering what to do with your child all day long. Motherhood is both more difficult and more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.

But you're right. People probably could have told me about it until they were blue in the face and I still would have had to experience it for myself. It's just one of those things...

4:33 PM  
Blogger Blessed said...

I popped over here from Metropolitan Mama and just want to say that I think your "ultimate advice for moms-to-be: be prepared, get advice or help. And write your own mama script every day." is exactly right and right on target.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Lifeofkaylen said...

And you know how everyone always says, "they grow up so fast" and you mentally roll your eyes and wonder why everyone keeps saying that when you can't even get your baby to sleep all night, or your toddler to pee in the potty, etc....but then one day, you turn around and BAM---your BABY has just become a teenager?? And then you start telling people with babies how fast their babies will grow up and you just want to warn them and they just smile and nod. :)

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the blogging community before having a child, however, I didn't contribute to it. Now that I am a mom, and have been struggling to figure out who I am now I decided to give it a go. I love being able to read and write about what I do every single day. I'm glad that it's around!

P.S. - I feel your pain on the thoughts of "what am I going to do with this child...."

12:53 PM  
Blogger MamaCta! said...

Ha! Your post rings so true...

As I read this I'm sitting here with my 3 kids, feeling very icky from not having had a shower since Wednesday morning. And sleep deprived because the one year old and the 4 year old were up numerous times during the night, for no particular reason that I could figure.....
Nothing can prepare you for motherhood, no advice no warnings. You're right, you just have to live it, each day, and write your own script. Which is what I have to do right now because the 6 year old is home from school this week....and what the heck ARE we going to do all day? And its raining! UUUUGGHH!

10:50 AM  
Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...


5:34 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

Yes! To everything you wrote.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous oh amanda said...

Beautiful post! I have 2 kids and still say, "I wish I had known..." or "I knew it would be...just not *this* much..."

Being a mom is something you cannot prepare for or understand completely until you just ARE one. It's to be experienced.

Anyway, lovely post, as usual!!

1:46 PM  

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