I have surrounded myself with young children my entire life. I was the 10-year-old girl I now pray is at every party I go to — eager to entertain the younger kids and keep them out of their parents’ hair. I started babysitting as soon as someone would let me, then I nannied my way through college and didn’t stop until I was pregnant. I’ve worked professionally with young children and their parents for my whole career. Every day I talk with moms about the hardest parts of being a mom.
So I think I came into motherhood as prepared as a person can possibly be. Turns out, “as prepared as a person can possibly be” is not prepared at all.
I really did know that I had no idea what it was going to be like. But even when you know you don’t know, you cannot actually comprehend how much you don’t know. Here are just a few of the things I was “prepared for” — and their subsequent realities:
- I was prepared to fall behind on my grocery shopping. I was not prepared to be so desperate that I attempted to use yogurt in my morning coffee when I ran out of milk. (Don’t do it.)
- I was prepared to never pee alone again. I was not prepared to poop with a child on my lap.
- I was prepared to clean up puke. I was not prepared to instinctively catch it in my hands.
- I was prepared to find it difficult to shower (is there anything more cliche?). I was not prepared to be so hard up that when I left my towel at home, the decision to use the paper towels at the gym to dry off instead of attempting to shower at home was a no brainier.
- I was prepared to feel all the things. I was not prepared for the strange mix of feelings (am I embarrassed or touched by his concern?) elicited by a worried preschooler remarking, “Ohhhhh, Mommy, what happened?” while pointing at a giant pimple.
- I was prepared to rock a mom van (I was actually kind of excited about it). I was not prepared for how much I would feel like a capital M-O-M mom when I had to drive a bunch of my young sister-in-law’s friends around. There were so many seat crumbs clinging to their trendy 20-something’s clothes. At least they were impressed with my automatic doors. Whatever. I really love those automatic doors.
- I was prepared to multitask. I was not prepared to find myself attempting to get dressed while wrestling a toddler out of the YMCA shower and have a baby decide this was an opportune moment latch on and begin to nurse.
- I was prepared for potty training to stink. I was not prepared for my house to stink. Like pee. Everywhere.
- I was prepared for my house to be messy. I was not prepared to find poop on the floor OF MY BEDROOM. Nobody even changes diapers in there.
- I was prepared to settle disputes. I was not prepared for the disputes to sound as absurd as, “No, let your brother flush his poop. Everybody gets to flush their own poops.”
- I was prepared to pee when I sneezed. Nope. Just kidding. I wasn’t at all. I was in complete denial about that.
So to you future moms, my advice is keep on keeping on. You really can’t have any idea what it will be like, but denial is so much better then actually believing you’ll pee your pants someday.