There is a moment in most women’s lives where they hold a baby, see a cute child, and they suddenly want a child of their own more than anything else in the world. I like to call it baby fever. Who doesn’t love a sweet little newborn? Even when they are squalling, they are so tiny and cute.
What no one tells you, however, is that the 7 pound newborn turns into a full fledged monster as a teenager. No one warns you of a few of the things that are not so great about parenting. Below are ten things I wish I’d known before becoming a parent.
1. Babies are a 24/7 job
Yes, they are definitely cute and sweet and all that, but they are also work. A LOT of work. Between changing diapers, 2-3 hour feedings, laundering the clothes the baby spit up on, washing the baby because she also spit up all over herself, and trying to get the baby to rest, you will get very little sleep those first months.
2. You will be grossed out
At some point, and likely a lot o points, you’ll be so grossed out that you’ll want to hurl. Think diapers that explode out the back and all the way up into your baby’s hair. You’ll have to launder clothes and sheets and bathe baby, all the while choking back your urge to throw up.
3. You’ll spend many sleepless nights
Whether it is a child who is ill and calls for you every few minutes, or it is a teenager saying out past his curfew, you will lose out on a lot of sleep. This isn’t just for the first month or two, but an ongoing thing that goes on even after your child is grown.
4. Everyone you know will offer you advice, whether you ask for it or not
Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether or not your baby should be on a schedule, what schedule, what you should feed your baby, if you should let your baby cry and a million other topics. The truth is that you simply have to learn to trust your own parental instincts and do what is best for you and your baby. Relatives and friends may mean well but ultimately this is your child and you are the one raising him.
5. You’re not going to look hot and you won’t care
The days of spending three hours getting ready to go out are gone. Even if you do somehow manage to find an hour to primp, the baby will just spit up on you as you head out the door. Instead, go for classic looks, simple to put together pieces, and opt for a simple hairstyle, such as short or wear long hair up in a loose chignon.
6. You’ll love your child, but you won’t always like her
Just like us, children aren’t perfect people. Your child will lie to you, make huge messes, back talk when she hits her preteen years, do at least one rotten thing as a teenager and even aggravate you as an adult. Do your best to address the behavior while validating the person and it will all turn out okay in the end.
7. That cute baby turns into a teenager
The adorable little baby will turn into a teenager one day. The bear hugs she gives you today will turn into “don’t touch me” comments and she will fight fiercely for her independence. My husband and I used to teach youth. We’ve raised two daughters. Our niece lived with us for a while. I can assure you that every teen alive does something at some point that is rotten and will infuriate you.
Use these situations as learning opportunities. Let your child suffer the consequences. If she stayed out until 3 a.m., take her car away for two weeks and make her ride the school bus. If she got drunk at a party and you found out from another mother, ground her from attending parties.
The one exception I had with my daughters was that if she was drunk and needed a ride home, she should call me and I would not lecture or punish her. We might talk about it the next day. However, I really felt she needed that safety net if she found herself in a situation she didn’t know how to get out of.
Then, there are the moments of heartbreak. There is nothing worse than seeing your child heartbroken and knowing all you can do is offer a hug – if she’ll even let you.
8. You’ll make more trips to school than you thought possible
Especially if you stay at home and work or just stay at home (that’s work, too, btw!), your child can and will call multiple times a week with tasks. “Mom, I forgot my field trip money.”, “Mom, I sat in chocolate, can you bring me new pants?”, “Mom, please bring me lunch. I hate this food.”
You’ll grow weary of making these trips, but go ahead and make them as you’re able. This time passes so very quickly and then you’ll miss being on a first-name basis with the school secretary.
9. That teenager grows up
Then, one day you blink and your child is graduating from high school and headed off to college. Suddenly, this little being you’ve watched out for since she was in your womb is going out into the world alone. You have no control, very little input, and all you can do is pray and hope that she learned what you tried to teach her.
10. It is all worth it
In the end, being a parent is the greatest journey you’ll ever take. You’ll look back on it and remember moments of joy, tears of pain, and you’ll realize that you had a hand in shaping this amazing adult that baby has become.
I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. My life would have been incomplete without my daughters. I can’t imagine a world where they don’t exist. So, despite sleepless nights, trips to school, moments of heartbreak, I am so blessed I got to experience it all.