- Published on Friday, 14 October 2011 07:43
Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder, "Who is this person? Where did the young face go? The young body? The energy?" I find myself doing that more often lately.
Perhaps it's because my husband can't seem to stop getting me pregnant (it's all his doing, yep). This makes me stop and ponder my life and the things I've already learned after having three kids...with #4 now on the way. Today, as my birthday approaches and I'll turn another year older, I decided to share some of my life lessons with you.
What have I learned since becoming a mother? Here are ten of the lessons...
People who don't have kids will always know more than you about how to raise good ones. They have all the advice in the world and many of them are willing to dish it out whether you give a crap what they have to say or not. "Oh, no. You shouldn't do THAT with the kid's sleeping routine. My sister's cousin's best friend's Pediatrician says ___________." Just smile and say thanks. They truly believe they know more than you. Remember: as soon as they actually pop out a real kid all of their parenting hypotheses will be blown up by the reality of sleepless nights, vomit and 4-year-olds who threaten to pack up and move out every time they don't get candy for breakfast.
Lots of moms, who feel insecure about their mothering, start up blogs about how much they hate "perfect moms." It took me a while to figure this out but every time I went to a blog where the mom was writing about "hating perfect moms" there was an underlying theme: insecurity covered up by anger. There's no such thing as a perfect mom (although the Tiger Mom would disagree with me, of course). You could probably lump parenting into two categories: Those who raise kids who will need minimal therapy and those whose kids will keep therapists in business for years to come. Truth be told, though, the angry moms who feel insecure need empathy just as much as the mom who strives for perfection. Do you actually know any mom who rises at 4am to bake home-made bread for breakfast, packs organic lunches for her kids, bakes cookies in the afternoon and a 5 course dinner...all after working a full-time job? I don't. And if I did I'd know: this woman has set her own standards far too high and is going to BURN OUT soon enough and will need a friend's shoulder to cry on. I wouldn't hate this woman; I'd feel empathy for her because clearly someone (or herself?) is holding her to a standard that can't be met for long. That's a lot of pressure to put on a person, eh? There's no room for hate in my opinion. Only empathy. Once we realize that empathy beats anger, our lives get so much easier and we stop fighting each other for the upper hand.
The only thing truly worth hating, perhaps, is a home that's run out of chocolate. That's just wrong.
Embrace bodily fluids. Before I was a mom I never realized how many bodily fluids could leave a person's body. From pee and poo to vomit and snot - it doesn't end until your kid is married. Even when the flowing of fluids ceases, they still want to talk about it: farts, burps, pee, poo and everything in between. You try to stop it but you can't. It's like their brains are programmed to talk about it, laugh about it and love it. I was running a kid's booth for my town fund-raiser a few weeks ago and there was a mom sitting at my table with her 4 kids. The youngest son blurted out, "DIARRHEA!" The mom looked over and said, "Not again! Please stop!" She sighed and her shoulders dropped heavily and I could read her mind, "When will this end? I'm so tired to repeating myself." I was just tickled to know that my kids are not the only ones talking about bodily excretions in public.
After you have kids, you'll pee more. I don't mean in the toilet, either. I mean in the loo AND when you sneeze, when you cough and when you laugh. My mother calls all aging and post-pregnancy side effects "a right of passage." I call it gross. I would consider buying Depends but really, I can't bring myself to do that just yet. The Geriatric years will get here soon enough.
Don't focus on every single thing your kids do wrong. I learned long ago that there are some battles worth fighting (teaching my kids to be kind, thoughtful and generous) and some battles that are better left un-fought. It's not that the small things don't bug me because they do: booger picking, talking about poop 700 times a day, running the other direction when I tell my kids it's time to brush their teeth, sticking beans up their nose at dinner time, sibling arguments and so on. These things drive me nuts on some days but I also know: if I get worked up about every wrong-doing or annoying childhood behavior I'll drive myself to the looney bin long before due time. Some things can be ignored because the kids will grow out of it. I know very few 40 year olds who still shove beans into their nostrils while out to dinner with colleagues. Okay. I know NONE. That's the truth. At some point, the bean shovers grew out of this hilariously funny activity so in the meantime I tell my kids, "Hey - that's not a polite thing to do!" and leave it at that.
Besides, if they do continue with this behavior into their teen years, we'll cut down the posibility of teen pregnancy because no one will wanna date them. That's cool by me.
It's okay to cry in the bathroom. My typical day looks like this: Wake up between 6am and 7am when the first kid arises. My husband or I get breakfast for that kiddo, do the dishes (by hand, as we don't have a dishwasher), pick up the house, etc. The nanny comes out at 8am and we get upstairs to work some time between 8 and 8:30am, after dropping two of the kids to school. During the day we go downstairs numerous times to do dishes or make food, pick up bedrooms, do laundry, play with the kids or give them a cuddle, make our bed, change an occasional diaper or kiss a boo-boo, etc. Upstairs in the office, we work as hard and as fast as we can to get as much done for our clients each day. Around 3 or 3:30pm we go downstairs and take over with the kids. We play or head into town or take the kids for a treat. We return home and one of us makes dinner for everyone while the other parent tries to stop the kids from destroying the house. We set the table and get everyone fed. We all help to clear the table and then my husband or I do another round of dishes. We bathe the kids, get them ready for bed, read books, brush teeth and then pick up the house again. My eldest son and daughter like to stay in our room to watch TV with us and chat. By 10pm or so they finally crash and we finally get to go to sleep, too.
In between all of this I sometimes slip into the bathroom to cry. It's the only alone time I get and I can't afford a therapist.
Every time you get extra money, something will take it. Every time I find that we have some extra money, something happens: the car breaks down, a tire blows, a freak'n deer runs into my bumper or headlight, one of the kids needs new shoes for sports, someone has a cavity and we don't have dental insurance so I have to pay cash, the blender smashes after being pushed off the counter by the toddler, AAA needs to be renewed or I get knocked up again and have to pay cash for DR visits. Whatever the case may be, the extra money is GONE in no time flat. Get used to this. If you have kids and a family - you won't hold onto extra money for more than about 3 minutes, before something takes it. I was watching The Middle a while back and Frankie (mom) accidentally spent $200 to buy eye cream. She thought it was $20 and when she got home she was shocked to find that the price was $200. She had to get another job in order to pay back the cost and at the end of the show she and her husband talked about how frustrating it is that $200 would push them over the edge like that. Her husband replied, "But do you remember when $5 used to push us over the edge? Look how far we've come."
I totally get that.
You'll find that you rarely like the parents of the kids your own children gravitate toward. You might LOVE a mom but her kids will likely leave you wishing there was a nail around that you could slam through your hand - just to end the pain of having them around. Or...you'll love the kids but feel as though spending time with the mom is like listening to a teenager endlessly talk about the "love of her life" - the 14 year old kid down the street who can't keep his pants from falling below his undies. You'll have to come to terms with this: it's usually a choice between mom...or kids. If you do find a mom AND kids that you love - do NOT have them move next door to you. This is stupid and will ruin a good thing. In fact, if you can live about 30 minutes from each other that's perfect. Close...but not so close that you can spy on each other every day and know when the other person plucks their nose hairs in the bathroom window.
Messes are a child's friend. I'm a neat freak and if you've ever watched Friends, and can remember Monica's obsession with tidiness, you'll know what I mean. If I could label everything here and have cupboards with everything neatly stacked and organized, I'd LOVE it. I would feel as though my brain was less cluttered if my home was totally neat and tidy. I've learned though that my kids like and need to make messes, play, explore and dive into their world. If I'm always saying, "No!" that's what they will remember from childhood. So I try to be a "Yes!" house. "Yes, you can help me bake and mix. Even though the flour will fly everywhere and I'll have to bend over to clean it up." (Go back to Number Four - remember the pee?) "Yes, you can fill your bucket with rocks and dump them all over the back porch to hear what sound they make. Even though we'll then have to work together to sweep the rocks off the porch so they don't destroy the wood." "Yes, you can wipe yourself even though I know full well that you're gonna miss and I'll have to wash your hand in the sink and darn near vomit from the smell."
The other day I put up some pumpkin decorations on the front door window. It looks a bit crowded and makes me feel like things are not open and airy. I like open and airy. Well, my four year old came walking by, stopped, looked over at the door and said, "Mom. Our house looks so beautiful now! This is the funnest house I've ever been in." So I know - I'm giving them good memories rather than psycho-crazy Monica from Friends memories.
You'll always be tired but I can't imagine anything else more worth your energy. What job could possibly matter more, right? Raising future grown-ups who will some day be a spouse, parent, best friend, community worker, teacher, leader or...? Even between the early mornings, the late nights, the surprise pregnancy, the back talking, the cooking, the cleaning and the lack of extra money to buy fun stuff for myself, I wouldn't trade it. I was a selfish jerk before my kids came along thinking only of my own schedule and routine, my own wants and my own desires. Everything else came second. I finally understand what people meant when they told me, as a kid, that my parents were the most selfless people they knew; always helping others and always putting the needs of the poor before their own.
They understood, I guess, that having a family is really just...Another day in paradise.
ABOUT the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks. She and her husband co-own Pine Media. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.