Dear New Mom

Because even when you finally get their room clean, they have a mind of their own. Fact: you can’t get crap done with kids.

Hello friend. How are you? Tired? Overjoyed? Overwhelmed? Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. You’re not alone. Millions of mothers have done this before you, and there’s probably nothing you can throw at us that we haven’t heard before. And all those books you read to prepare you? They only tell about half of the story. Yes, they talk about dads taking turns “getting up with the baby during the night.” But you know what? Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Some men are just wired differently and can’t function the next day with little sleep. (Moms always can, even if we’re face-plant tired.) And some men can actually sleep through a baby screaming for more than half an hour straight. Yes, it’s annoying. The books don’t talk about this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good dads, it just means your expectations will need to shift if you’ve been counting on them to share nighttime parenting duties 50/50. And sometimes, you’ll hit them with a pillow over the head or curse at them while they’re happily snoozing. That’s ok, too. (Just don’t use anything harder than a pillow, and if you’re tempted, seek therapy.)

And at some point, when you’re starting to get your sea legs and actually feel like putting on makeup again, you’ll start to feel a false sense of optimism. You’ll tell yourself, “This isn’t so bad, I CAN do it all! My house can be clean, my kid can always appear in public in un-stained clothes with a snot-free face, and my stomach will someday return to its former state.” Well, for some women (Hollywood celebs), this might be true, but it’s just not realistic. Or desirable, even. When your daughter has her own child someday, and is struggling with these same issues, wouldn’t you rather be able to tell her, “Oh, honey, it’s ok. I’ve been there too.” I mean, who wants to hear, “Well, you know, I did it all. There was never cheese smashed into the carpet, and I got back into my old jeans in six months.” Blech. Don’t be THAT grandma.

There’s another thing I’d like to add. You know those moms who make it look so easy? Unless your’re intimately familiar with what goes on behind her closed doors, it’s probably all a front. That’s what Instagram, selective Facebook status updates, and Spanx are for. She wants you to think she’s got it all pulled together, that her kitchen counters would always pass a white-glove inspection, her kids never smear boogers on her Coach purse, and she and her husband make wild, passionate love with the lights on every night. For some reason, she needs her image, and that’s ok. She probably needs more help than the rest of us (ok, she definitely needs more help).

If you just remember these three things, you’ll feel a little better about your new role, and not feel like such a massive failure.

1. Your hormones are whack, and will be for a long, long, long time. (Try years.) Just accept this new roller coaster ride, and maybe you’ll even throw your hands up and say, “Whee!” when the car comes crashing to the bottom. Or, just keep lots and lots of chocolate on hand. It helps, too.

2. You can’t get crap done. Just let it go. Those Christmas cards might not get sent. The kitchen floor might be perpetually sticky, and your backseat might never be completely free of Cheerios, milk splatters or an explosion of toys.

3. You’re their mom for a reason. You’re not perfect, but they don’t need you to be. Someday, they might even tell you they hate you (even at three years old during a massive meltdown). But you know what? They don’t mean it. They love you. They need you. You’re just right for them.

And remember, when you’re feeling down, we’re here for you. You can come over to our messy house, let your snot-nosed kid play with our snot-nosed kid, and help us polish off that hormone-induced pan of brownies we just baked (and burned a little).

A conversation I wasn’t ready for, but managed not to screw up

Helping my daughter navigate friendships can be messy, but just like finger painting, it’s worth it!

My preschooler had been peppering me with questions and statements and demands and stories and random animal noises all evening and it was easy, so easy, to tune her out and go about my business with an obligatory “Mm-hmm” and head nod every once in awhile. But as I was brushing out her hair in the bathroom before bed, I felt a pang of guilt. I needed to listen to this child. She was being sweet and curious and I could almost sense the pliability in her young brain, ready to learn.

I opened up my ears, and closed the doors in my mind to outside distractions. I simply focused on my sweet daughter. Her world is rapidly expanding, but right now, I’m still firmly at the center of her little universe. This was a big moment.

“Anna, are you excited for preschool in the morning?”
“Yes! I love preschool!”
“So, tell me about all of your friends. Have you made any new ones?”
“Todd. He has black hair. Not like me.”
“Oh ok, is he a nice boy?”
“Yeah, he’s my boyfriend.”

(This is when the room started spinning a bit. Her boyfriend?! She’s 3! But I know this is normal. Right? Right?! Don’t freak out. If you freak out, she’ll be afraid to tell you about things in the future. She has nothing to be ashamed of, but I want her to know she’s not old enough yet. And I know it’s innocent and cute, but it’s just not appropriate. It’s not a big deal, right? But it is. Because this conversation will start a series of conversations for years to come. I didn’t want to screw this up.)

“Okay…did he ask you to be his girlfriend?”
“No…I’m going to tell him tomorrow.” (Oh my, I have an assertive little girl on my hands.)
“Well, sweetie, I’m glad you have a special friend, but having a boyfriend or girlfriend is for when you’re older. Like a grownup.” (She calls teenagers grownups.)
“But, he’s just a kid boyfriend.”
“Yes, he can be your kid friend, or special friend, but not your boyfriend. Okay? You’re not in trouble.”
“Okay, mommy. Can he be my brother?”
“Um…sure. You can call him brother.”
“Hooray!”

She ran out of the bathroom into the living room for “tooth inspection” with daddy (our nightly ritual). I wanted to let my husband know about the conversation we’d just had, and I wanted my daughter to know her father was on the same page. She seemed to comprehend our agreement, and didn’t seem ashamed or embarrassed. She just seemed happy and innocent, and still a little girl for just a brief while longer. She’ll probably come home with a different boyfriend tomorrow, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Preschool Today, Presidency Tomorrow

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She wants your vote in 2044!

Right now, my daughter is sleeping. Her blond hair is tousled from erratic tossing and turning, and she’s probably still clinging to her chosen cuddle object of the moment—a wiffle ball bat. Her Little Mermaid jammies are too snug, but she insists on wearing them, for fear that they’ll be handed down to her baby sister once she’s officially outgrown them. Right now, she is blissfully unfettered. Her imagination runs wild, never having been tamed by the four walls of education, until today. 

In a few hours, my daughter will enter “the system.” Two years of preschool will be followed by twelve years of “big kid” school (as she calls it), and then….who knows? She’ll be out in the world. Will she attend traditional college? Will she go on to get her Master’s? Her PhD? Or will she immediately start a family, or travel the world, or even join the military? (I think she’d rather like being a drill instructor.) 

Will she go on to accomplish great things? Or will she live out a happy, but nondescript life? Will she run for office someday? Will she run for president?

These are the questions running through my head this morning. While I know I’m racing far ahead of the day at hand, I can’t help myself. My little baby is maturing at the speed of light, and being in school is only cranking the wheel faster. I know one thing’s for sure. She’s SO excited about preschool. She has been practicing wearing her backpack around, and when she saw the sentimental look on my face, she assured me, “Don’t cry mom. I’m just going to put books of learning in here.” 

Books of learning. And art projects. And notes from your teacher. And someday (hopefully years from now), notes from a boy. There I go again, taking it too far. Just like last night, when I was tucking her into bed. I scooped her up in a bear hug, repeatedly kissed her sweet head, and told her, “I just can’t believe you’re starting preschool. You’re all grown up!”

She pushed me aside (who wants hugs from mom?), looked me in the eyes, and said, “MOM! I’m just a little kid.” Yes, honey. You’re just a little kid. And this is just preschool. And I’m still freaking out a little.

Listen up, young couples

Children will eat you alive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Hey. You two. With the lovey-dovey nicknames and hands that seem magnetized to each other’s backsides. I have a bit of news for you. Right now, you’re enjoying the freedom of youth and childlessness. As you should be. Live it up. Live it up now.

Because someday, you’ll be just like me. Maybe not within the next five years, but probably within the next ten. No? You think you’re so different? You think you will forge a different path to parentdom? Maybe. But I doubt it. Few get by unscathed. If you think parenting is as hip as the celebs make it look in that glossy magazine you’re reading, then you’d better find out a way to get rich real quick.

Soon enough, you’ll be the one in yoga pants (today’s more fashionable sweat pants), dangling a baby off your hip while you stir Hamburger Helper with your free hand and kick a half-deflated beach ball across the scratched-up linoleum floor for your toddler to chase. Yes, if it were a dog, it would be called “fetch.” But, it’s your kid, so you call it “ball-a-rific” or some other fantastical name. Classy.

And yes, you’ll be the one with split-end infested hair thrown up in a sloppy bun sitting in the doctor’s office, trying to entertain your feverish baby while she screams uncontrollably and your bored toddler keeps asking (loudly) why “that lady standing in line has such a big bottom.” So proud.

And finally, believe it or not, you’ll one day be standing in line at Target, arguing with the cashier over a discount on diapers, causing quite a scene, when a young couple behind you will snicker and unabashedly roll their eyes. You’ll turn to them and say (with a forced smile), “This will be you someday.”

Oh yes, this will be you someday.

The Mrs. in the Mirror

Moms, some days it’s hard to let ourselves be loved exactly how we are. We think he must be up to something when he shows affection. How could he possibly be attracted to this? Doesn’t he see these dark circles? Doesn’t he feel the extra pounds I’ve put on? When we reject ourselves, we can end up rejecting others without even realizing it.

You wonder why I wonder
Why you’re staring at me
When I look in the mirror
I don’t see what you see

I see a tired mother
You see a grown-up girl
I see an empty shell
You see your whole world

I rarely put on makeup
You hardly seem to mind
I stress and fret and fuss
You just want me to unwind

I worry that you’ll see
When the day is done
This mom is not the same
As the girl who was so fun

It’s not the looks of yesterday
Nor the body that you’re after
It’s the carefree, the sparkle
The smiles and the laughter

You worry that I’ve changed
That my love’s up on a shelf
But it’s hard to let you love me
When I don’t love myself

So tell me that I’m pretty
I’m more that just a mother
More than just the Mrs.
I’m more than any other

I promise she’s still here
The girl without a care
I’ll try to see your version
Of what I look like in the mirror

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Do you love your reflection? I know most days (if not all), I don’t.                   (from sheknows.com)