Monday, June 20, 2011

A Few Things No One Told Me About Parenting

I had no idea what I was getting into. And nothing came close to really preparing me for becoming a parent. I read a lot of books and (almost) without exception, they were equal parts scary and not helpful. Truthfully, I wanted to be a mom so badly that no matter what anyone told me, I still would have done it. Here are a few not-so-Anne-Landersy tidbits I never heard and sort of wish I had.

Congratulations! Your life is now over. No one wants to hear this but it’s true. You’re probably not going to be the same person. Your life is all new. Some things that you liked doing will no longer be possible for you to enjoy. But don’t be sad. For some people, this is a good thing. For example, Redbull and vodka in the morning is probably not a great idea while breastfeeding.

On a personal note, I actually became much less of an a-hole when my first baby was born. At first, the adjustment was difficult and a little painful. But slowly, it became clear that this was a positive change. It was sort of like being released from selfish prison. Or being the protagonist in an after-school special where everyone learns a lesson about not being a dick all the time and actually thinking about other people.

Unless you are a supermodel, your body is not going to be the same. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to still rock a bikini – but friend, it is what it is. You can’t pretend what happened didn’t just happen. And depending on how you had your baby (c-section or via Chunnel), you’re going to have different sets of surprises to deal with. I would get into specifics, but I just ate lunch. 

Take heart! Results may vary. Kate has three kids and wears tight jeans that are white and looks amazing. But she may be a witch. We don’t know yet – we’re still waiting for lab results. Many of us look a little more well-nourished than we did pre-offspring. And that’s ok. We’re working on it, and we’re still sexy as a candy panda, just like before we had kids. Only in slightly bigger pants and wider shoes.

No matter how much you love being a parent, you’re not going to enjoy every minute of this gig. There are a million different ways to have a bad day as a parent. And honestly, I didn’t even know what a bad day felt like until I had one where something went very wrong with one of my kids. And in addition to the suckage of having a craptastic day, you have the added sensation of being shivved in the kidney by maternal guilt because all you really want is an early bedtime so you can melt into the couch for a few hours.  No matter how crazy in love you are with your kidlets, you may occasionally feel like you want to run screaming for the exits.*  It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad parent, it makes you normal. 

*Just don't actually do it. Or if you do, come right back.

You will find yourself losing your Schmidt. Even if you are the calmest, most yoga-doing, centered person in the tri-state area – even if you are the Gandhi of mommies – you will find yourself standing in your kitchen, covered with spit-up or yellow poo, slamming things and shrieking at your husband/partner/boyfriend (or, heaven forbid, all three of them) like a crazy person.

You may have never uttered a cross word to each other before, but trust me – there will come a moment when there is a baby non-stop crying and you not sleeping and there’s nothing for dinner and someone came home late and you will hear, "what do you mean you forgot to pay Verizon this month?!" And you will want to make sure you can’t get your hands on any sharp objects. The good news is you now know this moment is coming. Once it passes you and your beloved baby-daddy can look at each other and say: “Oh. Wow. We just had that fight. Let’s drink a beer and then attempt some delightful post-baby intercourse.”  Assuming, of course, that this fight occurred after the doctor-prescribed waiting period for the nether parts. 

People are going to say stupid sh*t. I am constantly amazed at the things people think it’s OK to say. And this is coming from me -- someone who says all kinds of stupid stuff daily. Maybe these folks don’t know that what they’re saying is assholic. Maybe they don’t care. Here’s what we suggest – when someone says something like: “You should snatch that pacifier right out of her mouth. Here, let me do it for you. Wait, I’ll just wipe my hands off first – I was cutting up some raw chicken.” Just walk away. Don’t give in to the perfectly normal urge to kickpunch or teach your children new four letter words. Just smile and nod and back away as fast as you can. Meanwhile scream the following at them but only with your eyes: “YOU ARE F*CKING MOONBAT, SPITTING CHERRY PITS CRAZY AND YOU MAY NOT TOUCH MY BABY, SALMONELLA HANDS!”

The Blur is real. You know what The Blur is? It’s like that feeling you used to have the day after a really bad hangover. When everything seemed a little fuzzy and you couldn’t remember where you left your panties keys. The feeling of being inside The Blur is a lot like that, except its more intense and it lasts for about 15 years.

It’s kind of scary. I now live in a world where I have something to lose. Pre-kids, I usually put my own needs at the top of my to-do list and was vapid enough to think that nothing really bad could ever happen to me. But right after I became a mom, I had this horrible epiphany - bad things can happen. Danger is real. I am all that is keeping something dreadful from happening to this tiny, little, precious critter. Holy crap. Were cars always this dangerous? Did they always go in reverse? How are we supposed to get home from the hospital in a way that is 100% safe from collision? Wait. Were there always sex offenders everywhere? There’s what in the milk at the store?  And my apples are coated with what?  GAHHHH!!!


It all sort of boils down to one truth, which is of course the one thing that everyone does tell you: You will love your kids so much that you’ll do anything for them.  So even if it drives you slightly moon-batty in the process, you'll find yourself a deeply-changed, usually much improved person. Clarification - a better person surrounded by cuteness that will never learn to clean its room. 

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

32 comments:

  1. The last one, about life being suddenly scary- that's what is terrifying me the most about my Impending Motherhood. (da da dummmmm...)

    I keep getting these terrifying glimpses of what it must be like... I used to be able to not worry about anything, and be relaxed and just assume that everything will work out for the best. And then suddenly, I'll think "My child could die" and I want to curl in the fetal position and cry because it's so damned scary. Not that I think she's going to die or anything- it's just that I'm terrified that that possibility even exists, no matter how remote.

    It takes my breath away at how scary that possibility is, that something could happen to hurt this thing, this thing inside of me that I haven't even met yet.

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  2. Amazing post, as usual ladies =) 18 months into the parenthood gig I was convinced that #3 would never happen to me... and then my precious, amazing, brilliant little boy started having grand mal seizures. While I still love this whole parenthood gig 97% of the time, the really scary part definitely sucks. We've learned to deal with the seizures, though, and we just keep hoping that he'll eventually outgrow them and they can get relegated to The Blur... just in time for high school football and driver's licenses and stuff to appear, I'm sure, and take over the whole "scary" part!

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  3. The Blur is real... do I need permission to quote that to all my soon-to-be-mommy friends?
    Love it!

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  4. When I came home after having my first daughter, I cried for 3 hours straight. It finally dawned on me I could never go out for a cappacino again without having to worry about what to do with her.

    Great post! And people do say the most amazingly stupid things to parents; things that they would never say to a childless person.

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  5. LOVE this! curious, though, if i suddenly find myself with a gal friend who is about to be initiated into mommyland for the very first time, do i direct her to this article? would that be more helpful or more sadistic?

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  6. I wish someone would have shared this with me before I was pregnant! I still would have done it anyway, but I think it would have been a little less painful for me in the beginning. I really like your comment "On a personal note, I actually became much less of an a-hole when my first baby was born." I can so relate! I suddenly understood what parents went through. The best part is that I had no idea that I could love someone so much, my heart grew a million times the day I had her. And even when she's doing her best to drive me crazy, she just flashes that smile of hers, and I can't help but melt. She's only 2, so ask me again when we get to the tween stage. Thanks for sharing! I love your blog!

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  7. Brilliant! All soon to be and wanna be parents should read this. LOL

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  8. I love it! It's like the principal "I will always LOVE you, but I won't always LIKE you or what you are doing at the moment!"

    Also, my world has been more in my control after reading the book "Free-Range kids". (Lenore Skenazy) Gave me permission to quit worrying about the "could happens" and learn that our crime rates against kids aren't as high as the media makes them out to be!

    I love love love how REAL you guys are!!

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  9. I think more people need to admit #3. My daughter is 7 months old, and sometimes I'm so overwhelmed that I want to put her in her crib, shut the door, and walk away. It's not that I don't love her, it's that I need 10 minutes to myself or I will lose my schmidt. But a lot of people act like childrearing is sunshine and rainbows. All. The. Time. Heaven forbid I admit I was post-partumy to someone who doesn't know/won't admit to the feeling.

    But, I wouldn't have it any other way. Nothing makes a 5:45 wake up call better than a ginormous smile from my beautiful little girl.

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  10. Have you written an article for the single, non-parent friends of parents who keep pestering us to go out drinking on Friday nights? Personally a hangover in the early AM with hungry, fussy babies doesn't appeal to me, but how does one drive this point home? Life is different with kids, I am different with kids. I LIKE to stay home and recharge, I DON'T LIKE to go out all hours and stay up until midnight and PAY A BABYSITTER to watch my kids every weekend! FAMILY TIME WITH MY HUSBAND is RARE, so don't mess with it! And, no, I don't want to hear you complaining about how you aren't the center of the universe... I have priorities above listening to you repeat the same story about the same problems you are having with the same boyfriend, and I am getting tired of giving you the same unheeded advice. Any other parents have this problem??

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  11. Thank you for this. Everytime I lose my schmidt I wonder if I'm a horrible person or just a normal SAHM. It's comforting to know that right before and right after my head starts spinning and I'm losing control....I'm a perfect mother in every way.

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  12. I have a whole list of stupid crap people have said to me and it only goes as far as pregnancy! ilikebeerandbabies.blogspot.com/search/label/Stupid%20Sh*t%20People%20Actually%20Said%20to%20Me

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  13. On the up side of it all, you do learn to relax, you (reluctantly) accept your new body....you may even wholeheartedly embrace it (okay, parts of it). You realize that you love your children with all of your being, and that there are times that despite the love you don't like them very much. That's okay too because it passes, like smelly gas. Then all too soon you find yourself on the other side of it....empty nesting, aahhhhh. Then all the things you either gave up or never got to try suddenly are back within your grasp. Okay, so maybe in the intervening years you've wizened up and came to see bungee jumping for what it truly is....complete pure insanity! Face it, your kids made you smarter, although it will still be awhile yet before they utter the words "you weren't as dumb as I thought".

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  14. I agree with the Cardboard Crafter - a rant about people who get annoyed that now you have kids/gone back to work after SAHM, that you no longer have as much time to get together. In some ways, navigating social lift after kids has been more difficult then dealing with the kids.

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  15. I can relate to the last paragraph

    When I announced my pregnancy to my hubby, I said "It says I'm pregnant, now I have to be afraid of everything."

    And while every moment isn't magical, I laugh every day, and I have found that I'm not actually afraid of everything. :-)

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  16. the last one- learning you've got something to lose. that's totally it for me. totally it. if i actually stopped and thought about all the things that could possibly happen to my kids, i'd never leave the house.

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  17. Lydia, your original post about The Blur has always been the one I send to friends after they've had a particularly bad week with their kids. This might be my new favorite! Each of these is spot-on. Looooooove it!

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  18. Love this post and love you Lydia! I'm 6 months pregnant with baby #2 and have found that all of the things you mentioned are enhanced by pregnancy; the fear, the blur, the losing of one's schmidt, the maternal guilt, and of course the stupid sh$t people say. I've been hanging on by a thread lately and want to thank you for this post...I think I'll postpone my trip to the nervous hospital for at least one more day : ).

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  19. OMG - Cardboard Crafter - I can relate to your comment LIKE I WROTE IT MYSELF! I find myself wanting to say - don't mess with my family time! The weekends are precious to me and I DO NOT want to spend them recooping from a hangover gotten at some sticky bar filled with inconsiderate drunks! But some of my non-parent friends just don't get it. And I'll admit, I didn't really 'get it' until I had my daughter either. It's just a different world. So I listen to the same stupid stories too, and give the same stupid advice about the same insignificant (to me) problems with a smile and a little patience :)

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  20. This post made me think of my 1st really stupid thing I was told post-1st-baby:

    My son was about 5 days old, and i was at an outdoor shopping plaza getting some air. My MIL was in town (to cook I mean help) and invited her friend along. I sat on a bench outside the store my MIL wanted to look in. I was enjoying the fresh air, my napping newborn, the lovely day, when her friend came up to me and said "You DO know that if your baby dies before you baptize him, he's going to Hell, right?"

    Then she went into a little boutique to look at overpriced tacky handbags.

    I was shocked and appalled and totally not inviting her to my awesome Baptism (which didn't happen for another year...passive aggression, much?).

    If I only knew then that it was just the tip of the Stupid Things People Say iceberg...

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  21. I agree with Cardboard Crafter too. Many of my friends do get it but there are a few who have drifted off because my children require more maintenance than cats. An open letter post would be lots of fun.

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  22. I just LOVE you girls! I so enjoy our almost daily "chats" over morning coffee...you chat...I read and giggle. You've become two of my best girlfriends, and we've never even met! ...Wait...that sounds a little creepy, doesn't it...

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  23. All of this is so true... I've been mentally writing a post similar to this one, except mine would be more focused on not totally ruining your tween/teenaged kids. They don't tell you ANYTHING about kids that age when you bring home your warm, 8 pound bundle of joy. Talk about losing your Schmidt. And my Target doesn't even sell wine. It's a tough gig, friends.

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  24. OMGOSH! I use your blog in my American Women's History course, and we just discussed this post in seminar. And...I know you posted this JUST for me. (LOL) I am a professor at a major online university and am *trying* to work today... only to be bombarded with kids, phones calls, and the living room calling to me because it looks like a toy bomb went off.

    The modern American woman wants it "all," the career, the kid magic, the nice house... but sometimes we forget about the cost - our sanity! Plus, not that SAHM's don't work (because they work their hiney's off) but - when you are super sleep deprived and have think enough for some original thought and try to engage in a meaningful discussion or grade some 10 page papers with your turtles going wild in the back ground... it adds a whole new level the that schmidt meter!

    *Also* I HATE meeting in Adobe Connect. It is the bane of my existence. Once connected I cannot leave the computer when one of my lovelies does something WHUCKtastic during a meeting because I will not know if someone is talking/typing to me! What happened to tele- conferences?! My phone has a mute button. LOL

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  25. About 6 weeks after we had our first child we left him at home with the grandparents for the first time (well first time for me!) to spend the day at an amusement park with friends. As we stepped off the first roller coaster we looked at each other and to this day neither of us knows who actually spoke it because were both having the exact same thought.... "we need a will!" All of a sudden, our carefree, daredevil lives were gone and we were terrified that we could die and leave our poor baby parentless. We were so panic stricken that had we been there alone I think we might have left to find a lawyer immediately. But we looked at our childless best friends, who were being very patient with our late arrival and early departure plan to avoid missing more than 2 breastfeedings... and we pulled ourselves back from THE FEAR to continue our day. We called a lawyer at 9:00 the next morning!!

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  26. "we’re still sexy as a candy panda"
    Hahahaha! I love this phrase!

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  27. Angel is 15 +. She may be approaching driving time, but she still doesn't sleep through the night. I'm not sure we can take the combination of sleep deprivation and holy*hit-get-off-the-sidewalk!

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  28. Thank you so much for this post! Totally accurate. Your newest follower here!

    http://mylittlebrood.blogspot.com/

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  29. Thank you so much for this post!!!!!! I love you girls, like seriously love you for being able to know exactly what my sleep deprived incoherent brain is thinking and then type it put in a funny blog entry to which I can then direct my husband to read so he can underhand my current mental state. Everything you said was 100% spot on!!! I just had our second baby about 2 weeks ago and I am deep in The Blur....also The Fear big time...and reading your blog and knowing that others are going through what I am helps me realize that I might not be as crazy as I think I am.

    Also, totally agree with the above poster about childless friends. It's sad, but I've drifted away from so many of my childless friends for that same reason..

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  30. Oddly, I remember my mom telling me all of this repeatedly. Okay, except for The Blur (I don't think she realized what it was). And I actually heard her and believed her, which means she probably told me this about 12 times more than the number of times I remember hearing it. It just didn't really make sense to my pre-baby ears. It was like, "Yes, yes, my world will change, blahblahblah, I have to be a grownup and it will be scary and I'll get all flabby and old. I *get* it, Mom!" (insert eyeroll here that probably made her want to stab-me-but-not, as she is my mom)

    Once you're on the other side, you just sit there, amid The Blur, going, "Ohhhhhhhh. NOW I get it."

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  31. I just had to respond to Cardboard Crafter [et al.] because her comments made me smile. I'm your childless friend trying to get you to go out with me. I haven't seen you in a long time and I miss you! I don't REALLY want to hang out with you to hear about the color of your baby's poo or how many hours there are between feedings or the brilliant things you think your kid said or how fondly you remember those long-gone days when you could go out to lunch whenever you wanted (although, I have to say, I don't remember those days -- I don't have kids and I don't get to go out to lunch whenever I want either, but I digress). And I know you don't want to hear about my stupid boss at work or my troublesome clients or my stupid boyfriend or how the baby birds in my backyard hatched yesterday, but unfortunately that's all that's going on in each of our respective worlds. So I'll listen patiently to you and you listen patiently to me. Oh, what's that? You can't find a sitter and your husband's working late? How about this, I'll pick up some takeout and come to visit. Hopefully the kid will go to bed at some point and we'll have the chance to talk for longer than thirty second intervals. While you're putting the Angel down to bed I'll do your dishes or pick up the toys strewn across the family room. And then we can have a glass of white wine. As I said, I miss you. And families are great, but so are friends :-)

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