I was recently asked to answer the following question:
“What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a mom?”
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. Is there one most important thing I’ve learned?
That’s a tough one. The most important thing?
There are so many things!
But I guess if I had to narrow it down to one thing, it would be this: Motherhood is absolutely nothing like you envision it to be.
Because it is a million times more challenging than you ever imagined and million times more rewarding than you ever imagined.
When I first envisioned motherhood, I pictured tiny shoes. Little dresses. Adorable outfits. Rocking chairs. First steps. First words.
I pictured teaching my kids how to sew and cook and bake.
I envisioned flash cards and reading books and piano lessons and soccer games.
I pictured movie nights and tea parties and Christmas cards.
I pictured hikes in the woods and vacations at the beach and Christmases by the fire and birthdays with relatives and family meals and teaching my daughter how to throw a ball and swing a bat like a bad ass. I envisioned crafts and gingerbread houses and being class mom and family game nights where everyone was smiling and laughing.
And then I gave birth.
And shortly after that, I learned that motherhood — with respect to the regular, day-to-day things — is 80% ridiculously challenging, 10% mildly challenging, about 8% rewarding, and 2% mind-blowingly fulfilling.
Yes. The hard times and the challenges far outnumber those rewarding times.
Because what didn’t I picture?
I didn’t picture the monotony.
Or the worry.
Holy shit. The worrying, especially with that first kid, can be paralyzing.
I didn’t picture my son telling me he hated me. Or that he wished I was dead.
I didn’t picture night terrors and puke in shag rugs and a three-year-old who was crippled by anxiety.
I didn’t picture unwrapped and dissected tampons all over my house for a period (no pun intended) of approximately five straight years.
I didn’t picture simple tasks such as walking out of the house to the car and pulling out of the driveway taking anywhere from five to thirty-seven minutes.
I didn’t picture spending sixty minutes preparing dinner and a kid walking downstairs and yelling, “What’s that disgusting smell?”
I didn’t picture daughters who refused to wear dresses or sons who would only wear pants with elasticized waistbands.
I didn’t picture the degree of sheer terror experienced after finding a Sharpie cap lying on the living room floor.
I never feared Sharpies. Or powder. Or powdered sugar.
I didn’t picture my toddlers getting haircuts. From their five-year-old siblings.
I didn’t picture the whining. The fucking whining.
I didn’t picture my daughter asking the lady in the store why she had a beard or the man at the bank why he had boobs.
I didn’t envision how getting killed in Minecraft is apparently much more devastating than actually being killed in real life.
I didn’t picture watching the same episode of Austin and Ally or Caillou or Elmo one hundred forty seven consecutive times. (Much more terrifying than the Sharpie cap).
I didn’t picture the three-year-old who loved strawberries on Monday but who refused to eat them ever again on Tuesday.
I didn’t picture the middle school math homework.
I didn’t picture the crying. Crying because the pants are pink. Or not pink enough. Crying because the balloon popped or because the wrong show is on or because she can’t get her arm in her sleeve.
Crying because it’s too hot or it’s too cold or it’s too sunny or it’s too rainy. Basically crying for any reason under the f&$!ing sun twenty three-and-a-half hours a day.
But I also didn’t picture myself crying.
Crying out of fear or anger or frustration.
But also because of overwhelming joy.
I didn’t picture crying at the sight of my child smiling. Or laughing. Or sleeping.
I didn’t envision the amount of happiness I would experience simply from my five-year-old reaching up and gently grasping my hand.
Or saying to me, unprompted, and not because he wanted something, “Mommy. I love you so much.”
I didn’t envision how watching the world through my daughter’s eyes would be better than watching it through my own.
I didn’t picture how seeing my son cross home plate after hitting a home run would give me a high that lasted for days.
And I didn’t realize that the sound of my kids giggling uncontrollably was one of the most beautiful things I would ever hear.
So what is the most important thing that I’ve learned as a mom?
To throw your preconceived notions of motherhood out the window and go with the flow.
Enjoy the ride.
Because until you are a parent, you have no idea how simultaneously shitty and amazing it’s going to be.
The lows will be low. And there will be lots of them.
The highs? They aren’t as frequent.
But they don’t need to be.
Because they hit you with a force you can’t possibly comprehend before you gave birth.
The frustrations, the crying, the Sharpie, the whining…
They are nowhere near as powerful as the sight of your child sleeping peacefully, the sound of your child laughing, or the feeling of something as simple as the squeeze of a little hand.
I did plenty of drugs in my younger days.
But none of them produced a high nearly as strong as those highs I’ve experienced with my kids.
And that is the most important thing I’ve learned from being a mom