When my partner and I announced our pregnancy and impending journey into the world of parenthood, we received a boatload of (unsolicited) advice. In fact, even though our son is now 1 year old, we’re still at the “your life will change for the better,” and “there’s no job as fulfilling as parenthood,” and “motherhood is difficult but so beautiful”-comment stage. And even though each one is made with the greatest intentions and the most heartfelt notions, this “advice” has been anything but helpful. There are so many things I wish I'd known about becoming a mom — pieces of advice that I wish I'd be given that showed just how many other sides of parenting existed; tidbits and trinkets of knowledge that I've learned along the way that I wish every woman knew.
Sure, sometimes the sweet, silver lining side of motherhood is worth mentioning. But when you’re knee-deep in a diarrhea blowout while dinner burns on the stove and pieces of your sanity float away in front of you, you need more than the “it’s all worth it” sentiment. You need to hear that motherhood sucks. Not in the, oh, man, this was a particularly tough day but my heart is so full kind of way, but in the I need to change my identity and get the hell out of here kind of way. You’ll need to hear that it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows; that bedtime sucks and so does nap time and full-to-the brim diaper explosions are cute for about two seconds until you realize you’ll be the one to deal with it.
You need to know you’ll hate the debilitating fatigue and your inability to alter your schedule because of it. You’ll hate that you can’t call in sick to motherhood or cash in some stash of vacation days, and there will come a day when your entire being will yearn for a break to the point of pain, but you won’t get one. You’ll feel so overwhelmed and exhausted and fed-up that the thought of driving to some unknown destination and never coming back becomes terrifyingly ideal.
And you need to know all of these thoughts and feelings are OK. They’re normal.
When they finally start sleeping, they’ll start getting into things they shouldn’t. When they finally understand the word “no,” they’ll find new and innovative ways of ignoring it.
You need to hear that you’re going to question whether or not you made a gigantic, life-altering mistake. When an unwanted moment arrives and you have to sacrifice what you want for what your child needs, you’ll wonder if this life choice was worth it. When you aren’t sleeping or awkwardly late for work or unable to afford a vacation or just standing in your living room, realizing how different your life is, you’re going to yearn for the carefree days of a childless existence. You’ll miss the life you used to lead and the mornings you were able to sleep in and the carelessness with which you used to plan your weeks.
And you need to know it’s OK. It’s normal.
And even when motherhood sucks and you’re wondering if getting pregnant was the correct decision and you can’t stand the tiny human you love so much and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, you're still the best, most-qualified person for the job.
You need to hear that you’re going to dislike your child. When they’re throwing an inexplicable tantrum or refusing to sleep for reasons unknown or heaving their little bodies on the ground or screaming at the top of their lungs, you won’t appreciate their presence. You’ll look at their petite faces and so desperately wish that they could understand reason or logic or any minuscule part of your desperate pleas for rationality. You’ll urge them to grow up quicker and comprehend more and be somewhat adult-like.
And that’s OK. That’s normal.
You need to hear that it won’t get any easier. Every stage your child grows into will present new challenges and new ways of testing every facet of your existence. When they finally start sleeping, they’ll start getting into things they shouldn’t. When they finally understand the word “no,” they’ll find new and innovative ways of ignoring it.
And that’s OK. That’s normal.
Which is probably why the most important piece of advice any mother can hear is this: Whatever you’re feeling, even if it's fueled by the darkest parts of your exhaustion, is normal. And even when motherhood sucks and you’re wondering if getting pregnant was the correct decision and you can’t stand the tiny human you love so much and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, you're still the best, most-qualified person for the job. There isn’t a woman in the world that can be as good a mother to your children as you are.
So feel overwhelmed and exhausted and fed-up and scared. Feel the parts of parenthood that no one wants to tell or warn you about. Because they’re OK. You’re OK. It's what I wish someone had told me.