But here are five things people never told me:
- You will never be able to go out past 7:00pm again with your partner without paying someone. Even if you are one of those lucky families that has parents nearby who babysit for free, you will still have fewer opportunities to stay out past dark. My husband and I used to take walks every night after dinner. Now we feel extremely lucky when we can squeeze in a weekly “date night.”
- A vacation is not really a vacation. Unless you leave the kids at home (and risk separation anxiety) or take a babysitter with you (really expensive), vacations are no longer relaxing. We recently spent a long weekend in Bermuda stuck in a small hotel room with our three-year-old while it poured rain outside. At some point, we even tried to force him to watch movies (a desperate step for parents who don’t even own a TV at home).
- You will have no more time to yourself in general. I used to do pottery. It took up a lot of time but it was so relaxing. The only clay I touch these days is playdough, and I probably won’t have a chance to do pottery for another 15 years.
- It’s not just parenting that makes life harder, but ALL your domestic responsibilities are a new level of hard . While pregnant, I was adequately warned about the sleepless nights and poopy diapers. What I didn’t anticipate was the added amount of extra housework and logistical planning. There is not a free moment where I am not picking up after my child, cleaning up his breakfast/lunch/crumbs/toys/clothes, scheduling doctors appointments, afternoon activities… and don’t even get me started on all the extra laundry. And the amount of extra domestic duties has not even gotten better over time (it has just changed in nature–refer to #5).
- Everything’s a phase and each phase presents new challenges. I had this notion that things would just get easier after the first year of parenting, but that’s not necessarily how it works. The challenges just keep changing. They move from sleep issues to behavioral issues, back to sleep again, and so on. Even now that my son is three, many challenges exist. Just as I’m getting used to him waking up at 7:30am, he decides to wake up an hour earlier. Just as he’s getting comfortable in his current daily routine, it’s time to start pre-school. Things change quickly, and it’s not always easy to keep up. That’s just the reality – once you have a kid, you have to learn to adapt to new challenges all of the time.
Gosh. I’m making this whole motherhood thing sound pretty rough. So why do people keep having kids? Well, to be fair, it is hard to convey the rewards of motherhood in words. But I’m going to try, so without further ado, here are five great rewards I never anticipated :
- Every little milestone fills me with pride. Yesterday my son was strutting down the street in his new rain boots, so content, stepping into every puddle. He was singing some song he made up. Just looking at him, doing nothing special, but so fully formed, filled me with this intense love I can’t describe. I couldn’t believe that I made this cool little person that now just walks along singing.
- I feel my life has a greater purpose than it did before. This one is thrilling, yet a bit terrifying. There is a little person in this world who depends on me. I am his mother, and my parenting (and even just my actions) will inform much of the man he will one day become. That’s quite the feeling of a greater purpose.
- I’ve never felt I had a stronger community of family and friends. Good friends and family have never been more important to me than they are now. I appreciate my parents and in-laws more than ever. They provide me with much needed advice and help! I now understand why people move to communes — and why people say it takes a village.
- I see the world in a new way. By nature, I’m the impatient, efficient, all-work-and-no-play type. My son helps me to stop and smell the roses. Literally. He’s always stopping to smell the flowers. He helps me live in the moment and enjoy the world as a small child would see it.
- There is no one else I’d rather spend my time with. My son is three and I still miss him every day when I’m working. I like work, and I like having time to myself, but there is absolutely no one else I’d rather spend time with than my son. The best feeling in the world is when my son runs to me with a huge smile on his face when I come home. It feels so good to matter so much to someone.
Having kids means a whole lot of sacrifices, but it also means a new life that is more fulfilling in ways I never imagined. These moments with my child are indescribable, and I have experienced love in a way I never felt before. I’d happily trade a lifetime without ceramics, for just an hour with my son.