I have been thinking about this a lot and wondering why? Why is it that we think we know what it takes to be the perfect mom and then, come to find out, we don't know as much as we thought we did? I think I've narrowed it down to three major things ...
1. Before I had Micah, I severely underestimated the emotional connection/attachment/investment that I would have for this tiny human being. Oh sure, I knew kids were great, I'd heard how much they change your life. But to actually have him in my arms and feel those emotions was a different story. And it impacts everything I do and all the choices I make. Discipline isn't as cut and dry as I thought because punishing my boy is about as enjoyable as sticking my fingers in a hot toaster.
And worrying. Oy. The what-if scenarios my mind was (and is!) capable of imagining was multiplied by infinity as I worried about everything from germs on a paci to the emotional damage I must certainly be incurring by allowing my child to cry in his crib while I made myself a sandwich. My emotional drive to protect this tiny little person might have even lead me, earlier this year, to sass back to a three-year-old who was just teasing my barely two-year-old for still using diapers. That may have happened ...
Those new emotions are such a crazy mine-field. And they make all the difference.
2. Before I had Micah, I severely underestimated the relentlessness of it all. Let's just say that newborns, especially nursing newborns, care very little about your need for space. And, come to think of it, neither do infants or toddlers. The other morning my son came to me at 5:45 am (less than an hour before I needed to wake up), tossed his sippy cup in my direction and said, "Mommy, want to get me some more milk?" (For the record, no, no I don't want to get you more milk ... but I will do it because I love you).
There is no real "break" for mommies. You work long hours and are still on-call at night. The kiddos never cease needing food, clothes, snuggles, and playtime. It really is wonderful, but it never stops. And that can drive you to do things you thought you would never do, just for sanity's sake (Curious George tv marathons, anyone?).
3. Before I had Micah, I severely underestimated the levels of fatigue I would experience. Newborn days, certainly. But even after Micah slept through the night (and stopped sleeping through the night, and then started sleeping through the night ...), I was, and still am, operating on levels of sleepiness I'd never pushed through ever before. And, it is my personal theory, that the reason for this never-ending, extreme exhaustion is the level of emotion and constant demand involved with motherhood (see points 1 and 2 above).
Knowing now all that motherhood entails, I let out a slight chuckle when I think about the girl who claimed she would never let her child have a messy face or sleep in her bed or disobey. There was so much I had never even considered would become factors before I actually started living life with my sweet boy. And, now that I have, I realize that obsessing over messy faces and sleeping arrangements isn't that important. And the obedience thing, hopefully I'm setting up good patterns now that will pay off in the future because right now ... yeah.
Motherhood is an amazing, breathtaking, overwhelming, joyful, exhausting, unbelievably humbling experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
What would you add to the list? What did you severely underestimate before you had children?