Moms' Dirty Little Secrets

Thing 1? The favorite. Thing 2? Not so much.Thing 1? The favorite. Thing 2? Not so much.Not liking how your child's turning out or regretting what you gave up? Here's why you shouldn't kick yourself

By Fernanda Moore

Since my son Zander was born 11 years ago, I've talked to countless moms about the myriad ways kids have altered our lives. Most of the time, we agree, motherhood is pretty wonderful -- yet, truth be told, taking care of kids can get even the best of us down. What the experts don't tell you, and what other moms are sometimes loath to admit, is that there are a few dirty little secrets involved in child rearing. In the interest of full disclosure, I've listed some of the very dirtiest -- and how to come clean with them so that they lose their power.

Secret #1: If you have more than one child, you'll probably have a favorite.

"I'm blown away by how adorable one of my kids is these days," I recently confessed to my friends Jenn and Kate. They smiled -- they're both moms of two -- so I went for broke. "The other one, however, is a total pain," I said. "Everything he does drives me nuts, and I can't wait to get away from him." (Related: The 6 most annoying things kids say -- and how to respond without stooping to their level.)

From the looks of horror on their faces, you'd think I'd just copped to infanticide. Jenn and Kate swore up and down that they loved their kids equally, and that even if one did happen to be a tiny bit cuter or more endearing once in a while, they'd never let their preferences show. Sure, they remembered how the first kid suddenly seemed gigantic and uncouth when they brought home the newborn sibling, and they even recalled the flashes of protective rage they'd felt when Thing One "accidentally" hugged Thing Two a little too hard, or worse. But this was normal -- all the books said so. Feeling a preference once the helpless-infant stage had passed? That seemed taboo.

Coming clean: Imagine you have two husbands. One sits in his underpants all day, scratching himself and drinking beer in front of the television. The other one brings you flowers, tells you you're beautiful and fascinating, and hangs on your every word. Which one would you want to sleep with? (Related: The chore wars: How to ditch the scorecards and make your marriage feel more like an equal partnership.)

Okay, it's not a perfect analogy, but you get my point. "I think it's crazy when moms don't admit they have favorites," says Beth Resweber, a mom of four who lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. "But it changes. At any given time, one of your kids is going to be stuck in some behavioral rut. My most colicky baby, who cried nonstop and needed tons more attention, now sets his own alarm, gets ready, and does homework more efficiently than anyone else. In the end, it all evens out."

Remember, family dynamics are meant to be plastic, and acknowledging that sometimes you simply mesh better with one kid than another can help you understand and tolerate the times your kids' own allegiances shift. "In any case, feeling fonder of one kid is always temporary," Resweber says. "My love for all of them is bottomless." And the silver lining? Going through a rough patch when you're not in sync with one of them can make the inevitable reunion with that child that much sweeter.

Secret #2: Raising kids gets much easier physically as they get older...but much harder mentally.

When my kids were tiny, there were times when all I wanted was enough space to take a shower, enough peace to eat a meal without interruption, and enough energy to make it through the day. But I took solace from friends with older kids (and from the soothing words of books and magazines), all of whom assured me I'd eventually make it out alive. (Related: How to get the "me" time you deserve.)

Imagine my chagrin when I found out that for every reason it's easier to parent a sixth-grader than an infant, there's an equal and opposite reason it's more difficult. Staggering around on three hours of sleep was hard, but at least I didn't have to think too much. Talking Zander down off a homework ledge (when I barely remember algebra), trying to figure out a tactful way to cope with an overbearing teacher, offering advice that isn't hopelessly lame when confronted with some social conundrum like not being invited to the cool kid's birthday party -- I'll take caring for a baby any day. And I'm not alone.

Coming clean: "My biggest mental challenge with my five-year-old is that I need to be more creative with everything," says Nikki Brooks, a mom of two who lives in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. "When Kiersten was a baby and didn't want to do something, we were able to get her to do it anyway -- she didn't have the ability to negotiate! Now she stands her ground and has a few of her own beliefs, and it's a challenge to find a way to guide her in the right direction without smothering her independence." And now that Kiersten is in school -- riding the bus and spending most of her day with people her mom doesn't know -- Brooks has found that she's had to give up some control. "But when I see how happy she is getting off the bus, I know it's worth it," she says.

Continue reading this article: Admitting that taking care of kids is a slacker's long as you don't try to do anything else at the same time.

So...what's yourdirty little secret? Spill!

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