There are so many times I’ve thought to myself, “I wish I had a crystal ball so I could know the future”. However, when it comes to motherhood, I wish I had a time machine so I could talk to the version of myself before I became a mom. That woman (aka me) didn’t have a clue! For those that are navigating the intricacies of motherhood, this post is for you. Here are the things I wish I knew before becoming a mother:
THE 15 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I BECAME A MOTHER
1. You can never be fully prepared to be a mom.
Sure, you can have the basics like a crib, changing table, and diapers, but the true complexities of motherhood? No way. You can read every baby and parenting book out there, take every course, and speak to every mom, and you still won’t be prepared.
I don’t say this to freak out any mothers-to-be.
I say this because parenting isn’t one-size-fits-all. Every kid is different, and the moment you think you’ve got the parenting thing under control- BAM!- something new happens. Your kid is always changing, and their preferences and needs will change. What worked today may not work in a month (or even tomorrow, as is usually the case in my household). The only way to be a mom is to actually be a mom.
I was one of those pregnant women that thought I could study my way into motherhood. I did well in school by studying, so why not apply that same principle into motherhood? So I read. A LOT. Guess what? Those books didn’t prepare me for the helplessness I felt the first night when I tried every technique I read, and nothing would make Brielle stop crying. I had to figure out what worked for her, and that took trial and error and a lot of tears (on her part and even more so on mine). Motherhood is a constant work-in-progress.
2. Parenting is HARD. SUPER HARD.
It is the most physically, mentally, and emotionally draining thing you will experience in your life. It will test you in every way possible, and it requires endless patience.
I wish I knew before becoming a mother that parenting will always be a challenge. I thought that taking care of a newborn was the most demanding thing, until Brielle became a toddler. Then she became a little kid, and I had a whole new set of challenges. Parenting doesn’t get easier. It just gets different.
3. Parenting is the biggest responsibility you will have in your life.
Being responsible for the well-being of another human being is a privilege, but is an overwhelming responsibility. It is one that should be taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you should feel you have to do everything right (because that is impossible), but it does mean that the precious life of an innocent child is in your hands. It is up to you to do your best to guide that child into a self-sufficient, well-rounded, kind, compassionate adult.
4. You will love your child more than you ever knew was humanly possible.
I know I’ve probably terrified many new and expecting moms with the first three. However, of all the things I wish I knew before I became a mom, this one matters most. The love you will feel for your child is immeasurable. You will feel like your heart actually grew because you won’t understand how it is possible to love that much.
I want to clarify something though. You know those movies that show moms feeling this instantaneous love the moment they hold their child? That is simply not the case for all moms. Hormones are soaring, you’ve just endured pain that can only be described as torture, and some women struggle with postpartum/peripartum depression (PPD). Just because you don’t feel that kind of love at the beginning, doesn’t mean you won’t.
When I had Brielle, I was overwhelmed.
I was in complete shock (she came 6 days early), and I was in a panic. I looked at Brielle and I felt connected to her, but a part of me also wanted to run. FAST.
I remember hysterically crying to my father-in-law 3 weeks after I gave birth. My husband had to go back to work when Brielle was 1 week old, and I couldn’t get Brielle to stop crying (she had acid reflux, had her days and nights mixed up, and she had a set of lungs on her. She actually made herself hoarse on many occasions). I was sad all the time, I wanted my old life back, and I felt guilty and like a failure for feeling that way. I was too overwhelmed and depressed to fully grasp the extent of my love for her, but once I did, WOW.
5. Educate yourself about postpartum depression.
I wish I knew this before I became a mother because I would have recognized the symptoms. I was extremely depressed for many months at the beginning of Brielle’s life. Some of it was due to my husband’s lack of presence, some was due to the challenges of being a new mom, but a lot of it was hormonal. Had I spoken to my OB-GYN or a mental health professional about it, my quality of life during all those months would have probably been a lot better.
“Peripartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite…Peripartum depression is different from the “baby blues” in that it is emotionally and physically debilitating and may continue for months or more. Getting treatment is important for both the mother and the child.“ ( Psychiatry.org , 2019). Please know that there should never be any shame about seeking help if you are struggling.
6. Privacy is a thing of the past.
Once you have a baby, time to yourself is limited. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom without my little bundle of joy accompanying me. She would cry hysterically if I wasn’t within her view at all times. My body was no longer just mine. I had a baby come out of me, and she was now breastfeeding around the clock. Although I wouldn’t take back those times with her for anything in the world, it was a huge adjustment. I was being touched, vomited on, and producing milk constantly. Even when your baby gets older, your kids will still be all over you, and you will often have an audience in the bathroom.
7. Self-care and boundaries are crucial.
You can’t set boundaries with a baby, but you can implement a self-care routine for yourself. I wish I knew before I became a mother that it is crucial to practice self-care. Parenting is demanding, and you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Figure out a time to Implement self-care.
It can be when the baby is napping or when your husband is with the baby. It can be when the baby is in the playpen. Don’t take it for granted, as it is easy to overlook it with all of life’s demands.
When your child gets older, continue to practice self-care. Remember that looking out for your mental well-being is a priority, no matter the age of your child. You can also start to state boundaries with your children such as, “I don’t like when my arm is grabbed.” or “I will be able to help you in five minutes.” Your needs matter, and it is up to you to verbalize them. Obviously, boundaries have to be set with children based on their age and ability.
8. Remember who you are separate from being a mom.
I wish I understood the importance of this before I became a mom. For a long time, I completely neglected my identity besides being a mom and wife. I am a Stay-at-Home-Mom, and those responsibilities completely enveloped me and my identity.
Hobbies and other things that bring you joy should be done daily, if only for a few minutes. There should be time for YOURSELF and who you are as a person, separate from your family roles.
9. You will not enjoy motherhood all of the time.
I feel that so many moms believe they are supposed to soak in every moment of motherhood. There are times when that is not the case. I don’t relish when I am trying to get something done and my child is screaming for me. My daughter having a meltdown is not something I find enjoyable. I don’t soak in when my daughter refuses to listen to me or acts disrespectful. I can love being a mom without loving every moment of motherhood. It is so important to know this before becoming a mother.
I’ll take it one step further. There are moments that I miss the freedom that comes with not having any children. When my daughter was first born, I missed it like crazy. However, that does not mean that I ever regretted being a mom. There is not a single moment when I felt that way. I always love my daughter, and I will always choose her. I can miss and occasionally look back wistfully at my pre-motherhood life and still not want to trade being a mom for anything in the world. You can feel both, and that IS OKAY. That does not make you a bad mother. It makes you human.
10. Motherhood will give you strength you didn’t know you had and make you feel fears you didn’t know existed.
I lived in New York my entire life (with the exception of living in NJ for a year) and moved to another state because I felt it was best for my daughter. People literally took bets on when I would return to NY because I am such a creature of habit. I argued with every member of her student support team to get her tested and have an IEP created (and I am an introvert and have social anxiety). Additionally, I dealt with my husband’s addiction while taking care of a newborn and raised her by myself because it was what I needed to do. I am capable of things that I probably wouldn’t be capable of otherwise because of my love for my daughter. She is the reason why I strive to be the best version of myself.
Alternately, she is the reason why I fear so much. You don’t know the meaning of worrying until you have a child. I worry if she knows how much she is loved and how my choices will affect her. I question if I am doing it all wrong. No matter her age, I will always worry.
11. Your child will teach you more than you teach your child.
It is a parent’s job to teach and guide their child. However, Brielle has taught me far more than I could ever teach her. She taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. She taught me how to be a better person. My daughter taught me the importance of working on myself to be the best mother I can be. She taught me that perfection is an illusion. Brielle taught me what matters most in life. She taught me how strong I really am, and how powerful a mother’s love truly is. Most of all, she taught me that I can be the kind of mother she deserves, regardless of the fact that I didn’t have that kind of mother myself. She taught me that I get to make my own present and future regardless of my past.
12. You will see beauty and joy that you didn’t see before.
Getting to view life through the eyes of your child is the most amazing gift and privilege. I didn’t have a happy childhood, and so I cherish this even more. Seeing my child smile and hearing her laughter is a blessing and one that makes every difficult moment of parenting worthwhile. It is a gift that I will never take for granted.
13. You will struggle.
This is something we all experience, and I wish I knew this before I became a mother. There will be times when you will want to draw the covers up over you and hide. You will feel overwhelmed, sad, and/or a plethora of other emotions. People experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiousness, fear, etc. Having a child doesn’t make those feelings go away. You have an added stressor now that you have a child. Motherhood is a struggle in of itself, and when you add that to the revolving door of responsibilities, it amplifies those emotions.
It is okay to struggle. It is okay to not always be okay. You are not superwoman. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is be honest that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. Show your child that life can be rough and don’t pretend that you’re always okay. Model healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with your struggles and to teach your child healthy ways of dealing with life’s obstacles.
14. Motherhood can be isolating
I felt very lonely when I became a mom. I didn’t have any friends with newborns, and there weren’t any groups for new moms in my area. Moving to a new place without a support system made it even more isolating for me. I have heard countless stories from moms who felt extreme loneliness after having a child. “Surrounded by new life – screaming, crying, unappeasable new life at that – can be far from the idyllic picture of new motherhood often portrayed. It can actually be an incredibly lonely and isolating time in a mother’s life. For many women the postpartum period can be a time of hardship, confusion, drastic change and intense loneliness” (CT Examiner, 2019).
15. Your priorities change.
Having a child really does change everything. Every decision you make, every action you take has an effect on your child. It is no longer just about you. Your child needs to be your number one responsibility and your priority.
I wish these were things I knew before I became a mother. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and I would have understood that it was okay to struggle. Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but is not for the faint of heart. Grasping the complexities of motherhood is what allows mothers to truly embrace it. It is only then that we can accept it fully, with all its dips and peaks.
What do you wish you knew before becoming a mother? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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3 thoughts on “15 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mother”
Naomi P Lane says:
I really relate to item 14, motherhood can be isolating. While I was breast-feeding, I felt really house-bound. I wish, looking back, that I had felt more confident about baring a breast in public, but I didn’t. Finally, after several months, I switched to bottle feeding. I know I should have kept going longer, but I just wanted to bundle her up a go out to visit friends. I know now that if I’d kept breast-feeding just a few more weeks, it would have become much easier and automatic for me.
M L Douglass says:
This post is fantastic! It is so real and raw and I relate to every word. I still can’t use the bathroom on my own and my son is 16 months. Hopefully one day I get a little privacy back. Thank you for saying all the this so many are scared to say. Parenting is wonderful but it is crazy hard!
I’m so glad this post resonated with you! If it makes you feel any better, my daughter is 8 and still likes to try to accompany me into the bathroom! ;-)I am very appreciative of your kind words and feedback! You are absolutely right- parenting is wonderful, but it is also incredibly hard. I’m really happy that my words offered you some support on this crazy journey we call parenthood! <3- Randi