I always thought that life wouldn’t change much after having kids. I would continue to work full-time. I would have nights out with friends and finding a sitter would never be an issue. If the kids were sick, Grandma or Grandpa could pick them up from school. My husband and I, in addition to being able to afford yearly family vacations, would take a yearly adults-only vacation. I would continue to wear heels to work until I was physically unable to walk in them (probably around age 90) and going without makeup was never an option. I would go to the salon every eight weeks and attend other appointments with ease. I would always have weekends to catch up on sleep. My kids would never watch Dora and would always be dressed in cute clothing. If I had a girl, her hair would always be brushed, and I would give my kids a warm bubble bath every night and snuggle with them any time they wanted.
My goals and priorities have changed greatly since being blessed with two kids who fill a hole in my heart that I didn’t even know existed. I love them with every ounce of my soul, but the reality of my current situation is that, while I wouldn’t trade them for the world, I have no clue what I’m doing.
I started staying at home when my daughter was 9 months old after we had just moved to another state—no grandparents, no friends, no extra help. It was my choice to stay home, a decision I made in fear of having no family support outside of my husband in a town I knew nothing about. I didn’t know who to ask for day-care referrals or if I would find a job that I loved as much as my previous work. Staying home was an easy decision because it was safe for me at the time. Besides, I could always go back to work, right?
I currently spend the majority of my days filling sippy cups, wiping noses and diffusing screaming matches. If my kids are sick, I’m also sick, and not just with a runny nose—like puking up my stomach, lying on the bathroom floor fearing the next fallout because my husband is flying first-class to California, and I’m alone with two sick kids and nothing is fair and the world is ending, you know, that kind of sick. Five and a half years later, my husband and I have never been on our adults-only vacation. In fact, we’ve only taken one family vacation because it turns out traveling is expensive. (Edit: We just had our first kid-free trip last weekend, and it was glorious!)
You know what else is expensive? A sitter. So instead of going on dates, I use my babysitter budget to attend doctor and dentist appointments which are always booked at least three months later than they should be. Another expense, women’s clothing. My heels have long worn out, and I no longer have the need to wear real clothing. Yoga pants and T-shirts have taken over my closet because they are cheap, easy to clean, and I know exactly what size I need when I’m running into Old Navy to stock up while my son is screaming in the stroller for more snacks because he can’t go three seconds without having something to chew. Makeup? You must be joking.
The truth is, I’m totally out of my element. Most days, I’m trying to keep my head above water in a life I never imagined for myself. I don’t know how to do this Mom thing. It’s like it’s Opposite Day every day. Wasn’t I supposed to be at work this morning? Where did these stretch marks come from? Can’t I call Grandma to help get Layla to her doctor’s appointment so Jack doesn’t miss his beloved swim class? I love them dearly and wouldn’t change it for the world, but good grief, this is not what I expected.
I am jealous of the confident moms. Motherhood comes so naturally to those women. I suck at this. I go to bed feeling guilty about something every night. The kids watched too much TV, we didn’t leave the house today, Layla’s hair hasn’t been brushed in two days, I didn’t give them their vitamins (for the past six months), Jack needed me and I told him to “wait one more minute” so I could finish laundry and forgot about him so he moved on. I’m sitting here writing a blog about the fact that I feel out of my element while one kid naps and I’m making the other one lie down because she’s grumpy? Yep, Guilty McGuilterson.
I feel like my kids deserve more, and I can never do enough. Maybe it’s because they are growing up in an environment so different from how I was raised. My grandparents literally lived next door, and the other set was a bike-ride away. If I asked my mom for ice cream and she said no, I just marched over to Grandma’s and got me some ice cream. My kids’ grandparents live halfway across the country now. Maybe if we had family in town I would feel more confident. Maybe I’d go out more or feel more energized just knowing free, yet loving, help was an option.
I do enjoy my time with the kids. As I send my oldest to kindergarten, I am thankful to have had her with me for the last five years. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the interactions and responsibilities of working. Why can’t raising two citizens of the future generation be enough for me? I know—it’s because I secretly hate arts and crafts and can’t stand the smell of milk and/or pee-soaked diapers. I still gag when I have to suck boogers out of my kids nose. Nothing prepares you for these things.
Being a mom is hard when you have the expectations of motherhood not changing your life. So if you are a version of my former self reading this (I’m talking to you pregnant moms sitting in an office eating lunch while you browse blogs with your heels kicked off), let all your expectations go. Life gets messy with kids, and I’m not just talking about all the poop. They will turn your world upside down and open your eyes to a love you can’t even imagine. Don’t underestimate your ability to handle it, but don’t over-emphasize keeping your life as you know it.
In a world of Pinterest perfect parents, we like to share the best things in life but sometimes we forget about the importance of sharing the struggles. I don’t think I’ll ever find my confidence in motherhood. My kids are growing and with that comes new phases in life. Just when I think I have it figured out, things change. I can’t be alone in this. Am I?
Today I’ll celebrate the fact that because I feel like I suck at parenting, I’m probably not.
So if you feel like a failure at motherhood, welcome to the club. If you go to bed with Mom guilt every night, you are not alone. If you haven’t left the house in two days because you just can’t build the confidence or energy needed to deal with your traveling circus, that’s OK. Your kids will never know and will love you unconditionally no matter what.
You lose a piece of yourself when you become Mom. But maybe, as I’m finding out, you needed to let go of that piece in the first place. Turns out yoga pants are pretty comfortable.
In summary: My kids love Dora, and I’m a hot mess who’s doing her best and trying not to feel guilty about it. It’s the story of Motherhood my friends.
Photos by Kaite Hall Creative.