12/20/2013 11:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Things Nobody Tells You About Having Children

What is it that nobody tells you about having children? We asked a few of our readers and here is what they had to say.

Paul Lehman, father:

How hard it is to watch them go. My oldest recently left for college, and completely unexpectedly, when she was gone, it hit me like a punch in the stomach. 

Most of the hard things about raising kids were about what I expected with my four... the lack of sleep when they're babies, the temper tantrums as toddlers, the endless after-school activities, the homework, etc. But there is a strange emotional dissonance that comes with investing so much of your blood, sweat and tears preparing them to become independent adults, only to see them walk out the door.

Even though I've still got three at home, the change in the family dynamic hit me pretty hard: she's not sitting at the dinner table at night, singing in the shower, rushing down the stairs to jump on and hug her little brother, and her room stays empty. It's been a rather sobering and not-very-pleasant reminder that it won't be long until they're all gone, no longer mine, with lives of their own.

Don't get me wrong, I've gotten used to it, and she's home for the holidays, but the transition was something I was completely unprepared for.

Michelle Roses, mother

You will never feel completely relaxed again because you develop super senses.

Elizabeth Stone wrote, "To have a child is to accept that a piece of your heart will forever walk about outside your body."

I have an internal alarm clock set for, "what was that?"

I don't sleep without some magical part of my subconscious staying completely alert, listening for the tiniest whimper from a bad dream or footsteps on their way to the kitchen, sneaking cookies in the night.

I have supersonic hearing.

I can hear my child cry three houses away. I can also hear one daughter whispering to the other, "Let's cut your hair into bangs," through two closed doors and a sound machine.

I have future-vision. I can spot an accident waiting to happen three steps before my child grabs the scissors from her sister. I see potential road hazards most people wouldn't notice when my girls are riding scooters. Like "dangerous" twigs that will catch the scooter wheels and make my babies fall.

I have a sense of life-balance which will forever tip in my daughters' favor. 

Since becoming a mother, I consider everything I do, every decision I make though the filter of "how will this affect my daughters?" It's a different type of stress I took on, like an unofficial contract I signed with my girls that reads, "I will put your needs and wants ahead of my own." It is this intuition I cherish most, because it ensures I am being the best mother I can be.

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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