I grew up on an island where, at age 7, you were handed babies and expected to contribute to the tribe of motherhood. I was raised to be an incredible cousin, niece, sister, auntie and mom from a very small age. The kid thing has always been second nature to me; I'm a born mother.
I have been an auntie almost my entire adult life and I always relished this role. I love the chaos of a pack of kids looking to me for a plan, creating one and watching the way it gets interpreted; it's always been a wonderful and colorful journey. I never really considered overseeing babies or kids as a job, it seemed more like summer camp: It's not real life, it's fun, temporary and you don't really have to go if you don't want to and you're there for only a short time.
Well, memo to the people: Being a mom is not at all like summer camp. In fact, the first five months feels more like being jolted awake during a really nice nap and told you've been selected to participate in some extreme survivalist competition on location in the Mojave desert. One where you're dropped off wearing nothing but underwear, carrying a book you don't want to read and armed only with a cute, comfy blankie and expected to figure out a unique plan to find your way to water. No cocktails are served. Yep, I signed up for Mommy Marine Corps and I'm getting my ass kicked.
Most moms boast about all the sweet and sentimental parts of being a mother to the moms-to-be. You know, the precious milestones and the gush of love you feel for this little human being. Of course all that stuff is really special, but what I could have really used from you mommy ladies was some cold, hard truth. Maybe between swooning about your baby's first word and his cute poop, some of you could have come clean about the not-so-pretty parts of this parenting gig.
I'm 43 years old and I waited a long time for this perfectly cute and squishy person to arrive. Three miscarriages and one fibroid surgery later, little Milo arrived five months ago and since that day, I live on a new planet.
I don't live under a rock; I knew life would be different. I understood my sex life would drop off the face of the Earth, friends would play second fiddle for awhile and getting more than four minutes of sleep would be like Rob Lowe showing up on my doorstep every Monday night to snuggle -- it just doesn't happen.
If one more person tells me "it gets better" I'm going to leave my baby on their doorstep.
Here's what you sisterhood of mothers didn't tell me:
1. Having a baby is like getting a new roommate.
You have to figure out what personality he has: Is he a partier or is he a hermit? Does he want to have people over all the time or is he an independent, quiet guy who stays in his room playing video games? Does he shower at night or in the morning? Is he the kind of person who leaves his dishes in the sink or does he wash as he goes? Does he eat all your food or cook for everyone in the house? All of these things are key when considering a new addition to your living space. My baby is the roommate who is a rager: He parties all night, always has friends over, watches the TV too loud and leaves his dirty dishes all over the house and borrows my stuff without asking. He's slightly inconsiderate.
2. Your boobs will become a factory.
Yes, you mommies sure talked a lot about how beautiful this whole breastfeeding thing is. You pitched me on how good it is for my baby and how it would create an incredible bond between us and told me I would miss it once it was over and that I would lose pregnancy weight and get back to my supermodel body quicker. What you didn't share is that I would have to run a small gourmet business washing, drying, filling and emptying bottles every two to three hours, labeling, tracking, maintaining temperature, overseeing production, packaging and distribution as well as rejections and returns. Oh, and pumping at work, don't even get me started. You're little white liars.
3. Your TIVO will die of loneliness.
Look, I admit it: Pre-baby, I wasted many hours watching really bad and embarrassing television. I figured I was so incredibly productive during the day that a solid television habit was somewhat justified. The last time I watched television was the night my water broke during Hollywood Week on American Idol; I have the whole season recorded and the stone cold truth is I will never watch one episode. This breaks my guilty pleasure heart.
4. Alone time trumps all other things.
When my husband says "Honey, call your girlfriends, go get a pedicure or a massage..." I laugh, because pre-baby, those were weekly dates; but today, my inner dialog response to him is closer to sounding like this: "Why don't you and the baby go away for ten hours, leave me alone with my TIVO and when you return, I'll be the happiest mommy on the block, deal?" Pathetic, but true.
5. You will never want him to be awake, ever.
Oh, how I love his smiles and gurgles and giggles and the sight of him melts my whole soul. I want to squeeze him to pieces because he is the love of my life. But what I love above all the baby cuteness is the sight of his eye closed while he creates loud, deep, itty bitty baby snores. I secretly want him to sleep continuously for the next six months. I'm not lying.
6. You will own a Babies "R" Us Franchise.
We used to have the cool house. People would come over and swoon over our random and eclectic décor and many creative corners filled with vintage surfboards, paintings, stacks of books, big, colorful pillows and a cozy lanai. Well, that house has gone to hell. We now live in a Babies "R" Us Super Store. Our living room -- once described as modern-meets-resort -- is now filled with a tacky swing, a bouncy chair, a jumper, miscellaneous squeak toys, dirty burp cloths, books and pacifiers strategically placed in between couch cushions. The kitchen is the production department for the gourmet food business we now run and the bedroom is the pumping department. We own more sleep apparatuses than you can ever imagine. We are essentially an unlicensed discount outlet.
7. Some days you will wish you didn't have a baby.
There, I said it. Some days I want my old life back, I want to whimsically wake up with no agenda, have nobody ask anything of me, spend money spontaneously on things I don't need, bronze on the beach with a stack of magazines and just float through the day wondering what I will want to do next. I realize those days of living the dream are long gone, but I still yearn for them.
8. During naptime you may have the capacity to become a convict.
When you spend 400 minutes, multiple times a day trying to manipulate a baby to sleep with various rocking tactics and sleep props, once that baby is asleep, you will kill, stab and strangle anyone who makes a wrong noise. This means gardeners, dogs, cell phones, alarms, even fresh air are enemy number one. Basically, all humans possess the ability to flip your switch to go postal at any given moment. This is a real condition.
Am I complaining? Yes, just a little bit. I'm not going to say I wouldn't change one thing about motherhood for anything in the world, because I would be straight up lying. I want to change a lot of things, the first being that he would become a marathon sleeper, but he isn't -- not yet, at least. He is, however, a performance artist: Today he projectile spit-up on my new Tory Burch blouse, then smiled through a sticky puddle of drool and I loved every minute of it.
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