I can't count the number of times I've experienced something entirely strange and new in my five years as a mother, only to flip through page after page from my library of parenting books, wondering, "Why didn't somebody tell me about this?" Between all the blogs, parenting magazines, and books that I pored over before having my daughter, none left me fully prepared for motherhood. Every day with my daughter grants me something else new, unexpected, and, often, wonderful. Here are three things that no one told me about raising a kid.
1. As a parent, you will be judged for absolutely everything.
Everyone will want to give you their two cents about how you should raise your kid. You will be judged for simply having a child (and you would have been judged if you chose not to). Many people will tell you that you're too old or too young. You will be judged if you get your kids vaccinated, and you'll be judged if you don't. You will be judged if you don't breastfeed, and you will be judged if you do it for more than a few months. All Hell will break loose if you mention that you spank or co-sleep or homeschool (or don't do any of these things) in the wrong company. You will be called a helicopter mom if you spend a lot of time with your kid, and you will be called neglectful if your child plays independently. You will be told that you're poisoning your kids if you don't feed an all-organic diet, and you'll be told that you're uppity and stupid if you do. If your child is sick, someone will blame you. If your child has behavioral or learning problems, almost everyone will blame you. There is no way to be a mother without facing constant criticism from everyone around you. No one warned me about this.
2. Your child will love you more than you expect (and perhaps more than you deserve).
I had no doubt that I would love my daughter, but I could have never anticipated how much she would love me. So many parenting books and blogs paint a picture of motherhood as one-sided affection, with children tolerating their parents in the best of times and hating them in the worst. That's not my experience as a mother. My daughter tells me she loves me dozens of times a day. Eskimo-kissses and squeezy hugs are part of our daily ritual when I drop her off or pick her up from school. She wakes me up with snuggles every morning and sings me lullabies when I'm sick. She tells me I'm the most beautiful person in the whole world and constantly thanks me for being her mommy. I'm not a perfect parent and I've made more than my fair share of mistakes, but, much to my surprise, my child adores me unconditionally. No one told me to expect this… Though I have been warned that these years of mommy-worship will be long gone by the time she's a teen.
3. You will not be the same person ever again.
Everyone warned me that my life would change after I had my daughter (who could possibly expect that it wouldn't?), but no one told me that motherhood is a process of metamorphosis-- that it would change not just my life, but me. I am not the same person I was before I became a mom. I don't have the same thoughts, the same priorities, the same beliefs, the same vices, or even the same core personality that I had in my pre-mommy years. Now, I think of every person I meet as someone's child. Every obstacle I encounter is filtered through the lens of "How will this affect my daughter?" All of my feelings are stronger. My love is deeper, my pains are sharper, my joys are greater, and my fears are more intense than ever before. Becoming a mother didn't just changed my life; it actually changed who I am at on a fundamental level. That's not something I expected at all.Parenthood is full of shocks and surprises, both good and bad, and there's nothing in the world that can prepare you for every aspect of motherhood. What are some of the most surprising things you've discovered about parenthood… and were you warned about them?
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer and Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not busy keeping up with her wonderfully eccentric five-year-old daughter, she writes about a diverse array of topics including health, pets, parenting, and activism.