It’s two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and I’ve just strapped my 2.5-year-old into her car seat for a ride. Where are we headed? Nowhere. We are simply driving around aimlessly until she passes out. If you aren’t a mom, then you might think that sounds a little crazy. Why would you be driving her around? Why isn’t she just sleeping in her crib?
I went into motherhood a little blindly.
I had been a babysitter as a teenager but that was basically the extent of my training. At age 34 pregnant with my first child, none of my good friends had become moms so I hadn’t had a window into what being a Mom was really like. It turns out there are so many things that you can’t know until you are in the thick of it. Even if you read every parenting book out there, every kid is different. There truly is no rule book and we are all basically winging it.
Here are a few things that I wish I had known before my kids were born.
Babies aren’t born knowing how to go to sleep.
You have to “sleep train” them. I feel like sleep training was my first real challenge as a Mom. I quickly realized that if I were to maintain my sanity, this new little person in my care would need a regular bedtime and regular bedtime routine.
Car naps are a thing.
Kids don’t naturally nap every day until kindergarten. Getting out their mats and laying down peacefully after lunch in their classroom is made for TV bologna. Both of my kids gave up their nap (which basically means that they refused to do it anymore) around age 28 months. It’s not that they don’t need their nap anymore, it’s that they simply will not stay in bed to do it. Hence the beginning of this article.
Toddlers are crazy. They want what they want when they want it even if it makes no sense at all. Big emotional meltdowns will happen. Let it go. It’s part of their development and your job is to help them learn to recognize and handle those emotions rather than stop them. If you are in the throws of the toddler phase, I highly recommend reading Toddlers Are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault by Bunmi Laditan.
Potty Training isn’t just this thing that you do over a weekend with like one or two accidents.
While there is a method out there called the “3-day method,” accidents can carry on for years. Sometimes toddlers just don’t want to do it and then there are 900 options on how to help them. Potty charts, the potty fairy, M&M’s, etc.
Shopping or taking a toddler anywhere is like taking a wild monkey off of its leash. Odds are they don’t want to sit in the cart and definitely not the stroller after turning 2. You have to carry all the snacks from your pantry and a drink and a toy or you most certainly risk them throwing a huge fit and even then it may still happen. Definitely never attempt to shop anywhere right before nap time – you are just asking for it.
You do not have an amazing immune system, you just don’t have kids.
They will get sick and inevitably you will get sick, too. Mothering when you are sick is the worst. Kids are germ magnets and they will lick anything. Bottom of a shoe, shopping cart handle, any surface in an indoor play place, literally the floor in a Walmart… all good licking options for toddlers.
You will lose your sh*t.
Kids are these tiny little unreasonable humans that make constant noise and need a snack every 2.5 minutes. Despite loving them enough to literally die for them, you might find yourself yelling “for the love of God, get out of the tub!” The “mom guilt” is real. It comes on swiftly when you look into their sweet little watery eyes and think how could I have yelled at this little baby! Do your best and then apologize to them. You are human and apologizing will teach them to do the same. Don’t beat yourself up, forgive yourself, try to do better next time and move on.
You need other moms around you.
Motherhood is hard for everyone. It’s easy to assume when looking at pictures of smiling little angel kids on social media that yours are truly the only kids who are little feral goblins. You need those moms who are willing to share their struggles with you so that you can know that you are not alone. I watched a mom carry her kicking and screaming kid from the park the other day, and the mom I was sitting with turned to me and said, “Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s kid does that.” So true.
Never say never to a minivan.
That minivan might start calling your name when you see how easily your friend’s kids get themselves in and get bucked on their own. Your priorities might change a bit when you become a mom. I can hear you saying “Not me… I’ll always get my nails done every week and a half!” But the things that you care about before kids might not hold the importance they once did because other things might be more important.
Self-care isn’t just a buzzword.
Because you are caring for these little people now it might be easy to forget about caring for yourself. You will have to figure out what self-care looks like for you because it’s different for everyone. When they are little and still napping, maybe self-care is using that time to listen to a podcast and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee. Maybe self-care is joining a fitness center that offers child care so that you can workout in peace. You will have to make time for yourself and don’t ever feel guilty about it. Making time for yourself will make you a better mother.
So the next time you are in Walmart and you pass a toddler in the middle of the aisle screaming or possibly licking the floor, just remember we are all trying our best out here.