Since becoming a mother, almost five years ago, I have learned more than I ever anticipated. Going into this, I knew I would learn a ton about parenting. After all, there is no manual and you figure things out as you go along. What I didn’t expect is how much I would learn about myself. Motherhood has brought all my flaws to light—in a very beneficial way—and it has forced me to see the world through new lenses.
I think what we all know about motherhood mainly comes from what we experienced as children with our own mothers. Good or bad, they are the people that gave us our first glimpse into what motherhood means. The problem with that is, although most of us have great moms who did their best, many of our moms struggled in ways we may not understand, and what they taught us about motherhood may not have been the best example.
Sure, most of us figure things out as we go along, but it would have been awfully nice for me to get a grip on a few things before my little ones entered the world. Motherhood is the most important job we will ever have in life, so although we learn as we go, having at least some information upfront sure can help a lot.
Here are eleven things I wish I knew about motherhood before having kids:
Trust your gut. Moms are notorious for second-guessing every decision they make. Don’t do it to yourself. You know what’s best for your kid, and as long as you love them and have their best interest at heart, your instincts won’t lead you in the wrong direction. Have some faith in your ability to parent well.
You will miss sleep. People act like you will mainly lose sleep when your kids first come home, but I am now convinced that I will never sleep the way I once did. Even when they are no longer babies, your kids will each have their own sleeping patterns, and they will soon have plenty of activities that make even sleeping in on the weekends impossible. You just need to be okay with it.
No two kids are alike. Having more than one child proves that no matter how great of a parent you are, your kids can each have a potentially different reaction to your parenting style. Of course you need to provide them with structure and discipline, but remember that no two kids are the same, and you have to be mindful of what makes your child unique and what that means for their development.
You will make plenty of mistakes. Don’t compare yourself to other moms, and don’t even attempt to be perfect. All moms mess up sometimes—and I do mean all moms. We all make mistakes, and often our mistakes won’t nearly cause as much damage as we think they will. Making mistakes and learning from them is a huge part of the motherhood experience.
They will scare the mess out of you. As a mom, you will worry about your kids, but don’t worry so much that you end up with an anxious kids who are scared to take risks. Your kids will scare you. There is no way to avoid that. Just try to be prepared, and remember that if they get hurt, your reaction to it can potentially do more damage than whatever it is that hurt them. Raising kids who are resilient is a lot more important than trying to raise kids who will never scare you.
It’s okay to let them know you are flawed. When I was a child, the adult was always right and they certainly never said sorry. I have a different approach. If I make a mistake, I sit and talk to my kids about it, showing them that although I am the parent and I establish the rules, I certainly am not perfect. Kids benefit a great deal from realizing that the person they admire most in the world makes mistakes. It makes it a lot easier for them to process and learn from their own mistakes in life.
They want your time more than anything. Kids love toys, treats and all things fun, but they don’t love that stuff nearly as much as they love spending time with you. I know it can be hard to find the time when you are working and juggling so many responsibilities, but try your best because that quality time matters a lot.
They track your every move. I was raised to just do was my parents said—regardless of what I saw them doing. I honestly can’t say that was very effective. Remember that children bring to light all of your bad habits, and they are inclined to mimic them too, because they want to be just like you. Try your best to set a positive example because they are watching.
They need individualized attention from each parent. When you have more than one child, making time for one-on-one bonding is critical. Each child needs your time and attention and a different way, plus spending that one-on-one time with them allows you to uncover things about them that you didn’t even know.
They grow up super fast. I know this is so cliché, but it is so very true. Kids grow up incredibly fast, and you will never get a chance at those early years again. Life is busy, but if you allow the busy-ness of it all to prevent your from enjoying precious moments with them, you will regret it.
They aren’t you. Even the child that reminds you a lot of yourself isn’t you. Let your kids be who they are, and encourage them to discover their own path in life. Having a kid is not your do-over—it’s their chance to explore life and shine in their own way.
BMWK moms, what do you wish you knew about motherhood before you had kids?