What Real Moms Wish They Knew Before They Had Kids
Parenthood throws us a lot of curve balls. Particularly in the first year of a baby’s life, but really, the surprises never stop.
Recently, I stumbled upon an article on Romper called “37 Moms Share What They Wish They Had Known Before Having Their First Kid.”
Naturally, it made me think about my own experiences and what I wish I knew before I became a mom.
In case you’re now wondering, my biggest shocker was that it never even occurred to me that having a baby would be hard on my relationship with my husband. And I’m a relationship therapist! It just wasn’t something that people talked about then. (You can probably guess now how I chose my specialization!)
I also had no idea that getting a baby to sleep would be so hard. I remember thinking, “Aren’t babies supposed to just sleep practically all the time? Why is getting mine to nap such work?”
Both of those things really threw me for a loop. Had I known and prepared for those things in advance, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so hard or felt so critical of myself.
This got me thinking… Geez, hindsight really is everything. What other wisdom had I been missing out on at the time by simply not asking others what threw them for a loop too? I wonder what the women in my own circles would say they wish they had known about before they became moms?
So, I decided to kick off a conversation.
My staff and I started group texts with our mom pals and some of the women in our families. We heard moms talk about how hard breastfeeding can be for some women, about how grateful they were to have hired a doula (or how much they regretted not having one), and how they wished they considered that the baby blues or depression could happen to them. And of course, someone always mentions the exhaustion!
I have to say, I wish I would have done this little experiment much sooner in my parenting life. The conversations have been so smart and full of encouragement. (If you want to see some of the highlights from those conversations, read all the way to the end!)
Now, if you’re a Type A perfectionist who wants to win at all the things (like me) then of course doing all the practical things like getting your finances in order, reading parenting books, and delegating meal deliveries for after the baby arrives will give you a lot of peace of mind. Of course, if you can make those things happen, please do.
However, I want to pose a different idea:
What if you asked the mommas in your life about what they wish they knew before they had kids? What might you uncover?
Try it out. Then reflect a bit: What surprises you? What makes you feel better about how you’re doing things? What leaves you with more questions than answers? What makes you think, oh, that’ll never happen to me?
Do you feel better, more connected and supported, after asking? Where do you want to dig deeper?
If any of it leaves you feeling a little unsure or overwhelmed (or you just like to feel prepared and meet other parents), I want to invite you to my upcoming workshop:
Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival Guide to Baby’s First Year.
In this workshop, we cover all the things you won’t learn in birthing classes or pregnancy books, from how to ensure you have help at home when you need it (so you can, you know, shower and stuff), to what to do when your crazy aunt that likes to “just drop by” at an inconvenient time, to what sex and intimacy will really be like. Yep, we go there!
Most importantly, you’ll learn how to make sure your relationship stays rock solid after the baby arrives and how to be flexible when the unanticipated happens!
Don’t have time to ask your friends and relatives what they wish they knew?
It’s OK---I’ve got you. Scroll on down to read some nuggets I uncovered by asking mine! (Don’t worry, they gave me permission to share!)
“I wish I had learned to be better at surrendering. I struggle with that still. Being ok with a messy house, living out of laundry baskets, etc. But more than that, I wish I would have been kinder to other moms. I just had no idea how much of a struggle it can be and I wish I would have realized how hard other working moms had it.” - Sarah A.
“I really wish I knew (and was fully comfortable with the knowledge) that breastfeeding or formula really does not matter one bit as long as your baby is fed. (They all end up eating McDonald’s anyways). Also, it is so important to take time for yourself. You cannot give from an empty cup no matter how hard you try and having ‘me’ time will make you a better mom in the long run. (And keep you sane enough to remember who YOU are outside of being a mom).” - Ashley M.
“I wish I knew how much strain it puts on every aspect of your life, but mostly on a marriage. I found it hard to put my relationship first, before the kids. I now realize that that is the one thing that was needed most FOR the kids...to have a good marriage.” - Julie D.
“I wish I had been better at journaling. What I did journal -- I love to read over and over again. My kids said some funny things! Mom guilt is another biggie! Becoming a mom is like joining a club and as a new member, I was looking around to see what everyone else was doing and comparing. I realize now what a big lesson it is in trusting your intuition and being true to yourself. I think the more I learn to accept myself as I am, the more I can be available to my son.” - Mary C.
“I just wish I knew how much doubt came with parenting. A big one for me is trusting that I'm doing my best. That I'm being the best mom that I can be. Not going by what the new big parenting book is saying I should do. I've read so many and it seems like the more you read, the more they start to contradict each other. Trusting that I'm making the best choices that I can for my family. And just hoping that I'm not totally f---ing them up in some way. Also learning how to parent two totally different children. What works for one kid does not work for the next, and trying to get ahead of the curve instead of always being behind.” - Hannah S.
“I wish I knew how to form relationships with other people after having children and my life became centered around the children. I wish I had known how to remain myself.” - Christy R.
“I wish I wouldn’t worry so much about everything when it comes to them. I need to let them grow and become more independent. I am so worried that something could happen to one of them. I don’t know how I will handle it when they are driving.” - Shelley B.
“My “idea” of what motherhood would be...clean house, entertain for every holiday, do all the Pinterest crafts, hair done, work out, know what day of the week it is...throw that out the window!!! I’m really not complaining. We all struggle in one way or another...or if you are like me....struggle in all ways! Lol. That’s life. Roll with the punches. Life never plays out as expected. Enjoy all the trials and tribulations.” - Jessica C.
“I definitely wish I would have known how much stuff you don’t need! And the fighting. I was not prepared for the fighting. I used to watch Nanny 911 and I’d be like, ‘um, my kids will not act like that, how can these people not control their own children?’ ...And here I am feeling like I can’t control my own children who literally fought over an imaginary toy yesterday!” - Amber G.
“Nobody talks about this, but I had no idea how much our sex life would change after kids. Not only does my interest fully depend on how much rest I’ve gotten or how stressed I am (if we can even find the time!), but some of the things that used to “do it for me” before baby just don’t work anymore. And I didn’t even have a traumatic birth or anything! I can’t imagine what it must be like for some moms who may have had a hard pregnancy or birth.” - Anonymous
“The magnitude of the emotional change is something no one can ever prepare you for. It’s been way harder to maintain my mental health, but also the best time of my life. Also, the amount of administrative work of running the family and how it generally falls to the mom.” - Laura K.
“I wish I would have understood how hard it would be for us to parent with one of us in grad school. I feel really limited in how much I can work or how much money I can make, because if I take on too much, then my partner will never finish his dissertation because he’s the one picking up the slack at home when I get busy. (We tried daycare and it wasn’t a good fit for us.) And when his schoolwork gets busy or he has to travel for conferences, literally all I can make time for is running the household and being the mom. Nobody can do everything, especially not simultaneously. Relationships take good communication and a near constant negotiation of time.” - Niki S.
“You will be perpetually tired for 18+ years!” - Carrie S.
“Every mom I know has always said how tired they are, but it’s one of those things that you just can’t fully understand til it happens to you. This kind of exhaustion just doesn’t compare!” - Anonymous
“I think when you’re a first time mom, you’re nervous about doing it right and being a good mom and you forget to relax and enjoy... You don’t get those moments back.” - Peggy V.
Truer words have never been spoken.
If you’re an experienced mom reading this, let’s keep the conversation going. Let us know what you wish you knew before you had a kid in the comments below!
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