With Mother's Day approaching, I've been reflecting back on my past 16 years as a mother, talking with my own mom and sharing notes with a great group of mom-friends. I found some truths to be universal for all of us.
1. It's overwhelming as hell some days.
Being responsible for little people and raising them into big, responsible, happy people is a huge job. Not to mention you're trained to worry about them all. the. time. That training never really goes away, even when they're old enough and big enough to take more responsibility for themselves. That's a lot of worry, for a lot of years, mama.
2. At some point, probably many points, your kiddo will make you cry.
The goal is to balance the sad tears with the happy tears. I've cried frustrated tears after a blow-out with my daughter and nostalgic tears the last day of my son's Kindergarten class. I've cried at ballet recitals and after that terrifying trip to the ER for stitches. In fact, I cried the instant they laid each of my children in my arms for the first time, and haven't really stopped crying ever since.
3. You've never defended anything in your life like you defend your kiddo.
There's a reason the saying "Don't get between a mama bear and her cubs" is a cliché -- it's true. Mothers have a natural instinct to protect their children unlike any other instinct we've had. Don't get me wrong; I'm not the mom who excuses her kiddos of all bad behavior, believing them to be in the right in every situation. But if there's an instance where my child has clearly been wronged, it'd be best for everyone to just step back and let me DEAL with it.
4. Hearing "I hate you" out of your child's mouth is more painful than childbirth.
At least they give you drugs to deal with childbirth. And now you know why so many of your mommy friends have an ongoing love affair with a good Moscato.
You'll never forget your first "I hate you" from your child -- it's gut-wrenching. No other combination of words has the power to make you simultaneously sad, angry, reflective and distraught. The good news is, they're usually over it in 10 minutes, although you may never be.
5. Mommy friends are a lifesaver.
If I didn't have my large support group of mommy friends, I'd likely be crazy. Not only do mommy friends commiserate, but they give you a shoulder to cry on and a healthy dose of perspective when you think your kid is the only one in the world being a total punk.
6. The challenges change but don't lessen.
When they're babies, you're worried about their safety around stairs and bodies of water deeper than one inch. When they're in middle school, you're worried about bullying and budding hormones. In high school, you're worried about drugs, driving, sex, and college. The challenges change, but they never go away and they're never any easier.
7. You're going to channel your own mother sometimes.
I have opened my mouth so many times in the past 16 years only to hear my mother come out. Things that were infuriating to hear when I was a kid are now valid points from the other end of the table. "Why? Because I said so. And when you're a mom you'll get to say so. Until then, eat your damned peas."
8. Your child will mirror some of the best and worst parts of yourself.
I have a couple of kids who, of their own accord, have taken to writing stories. It makes me beam with pride to hear a teacher tell me that my child is a terrific reader/writer -- more so than other areas they excel in. I also have a couple of kids who like to say "Dammit" when they're struggling with a tough problem. Both of these things come from my own example, although one is much easier to swallow. Trust me, if you have kids, you have very personal things about yourself shared with the world -- good and bad. It's best to be prepared.
9. You'll think you're screwing it up.
Every good mom does. When you see your kid behave abhorrently, when you have a bad day and yell, when the report cards come in and you see a grade you don't love, you'll think you're screwing up. Somehow one of the quintessential points of being a mother is feeling like you're screwing up. Not to mention there are roughly a billion parenting books out there, all with conflicting evidence on what you're doing wrong. And other people have opinions... lots of opinions. Some mommies (and grandmommies and aunts and random people on the street) aren't afraid to share those (drastic, harsh, judgy) opinions. Every time you turn around you'll be faced with things you're supposedly screwing up. (It's OK. You're not.) Here's a good rule of thumb: If you care enough to worry about messing up your kid and even do some research into doing things better... you're doing just fine.
10. It's the hardest job you will ever love.
Somehow, sometime, you'll find yourself up until three a.m. putting the finishing touches on the book parade costume your kid told you about *this evening*, all while packing lunches and filling out field trip forms and doing three loads of laundry.
And you're going to beam like the freaking sun when you see how awesomely excited your kiddo is, parading around in that costume the next morning.
Parenting is long (often thankless) hours, days, weeks and years, and it never really stops. And no one could ever accurately explain to you, before you were a mother, just how a single belly-laugh from your 6-year-old could make that all worth it.
Kasey Ferris is a freelance writer and mother-of-five. She eats too many Oreos and thinks life is much better when you're laughing. Find her at facebook.com/KaseyFerrisWrites.