10 of the Hardest Truths I’ve Learned About Motherhood

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Nobody will think your kids are as awesome as you do.

My first bitter taste of this phenomenon came when my oldest son learned to wave, and it was just so freaking cute. He’d wave adorably from the cart at random people in the grocery store, and while a few would wave back, others would just look at him and walk past. I wanted to yell, “This baby was waving at you, you jerk! Wave back!” How could they not see how sweet this little guy was being, and take the time out of their shopping to acknowledge him? Hmmph.

It doesn’t stop with things like this, though. When they’re toddlers acting a fool in public, and people are casting judgmental glances, you get the urge to explain: “He’s not a brat, I promise! He just hasn’t had his nap today!” When they’re in school, and you get called because they’ve gotten into some sort of trouble, you desperately wish you could show their teacher the wonderful kid they can be at home. But the reality is, nobody else — except for (hopefully) your child’s other parent, and possibly grandparents — will ever see your kid for the gem they really are and praise them accordingly.

Having one kid isn’t easy, but it’s a lot less tough than having two or more.

Back when my husband and I only had our first child to worry about, we had a little more freedom. There was one nap schedule, one feeding schedule, one little body to clothe and feed and maintain. Once our second came along, though, it was like juggling — and each subsequent kid was another ball added to the rotation, which makes it exponentially more tricky. With more than one kid, you have to consider each individual’s ever-changing needs and schedules. And if you think it gets easier as they get older and more self-sufficient … well, it does in some aspects, but just wait until they all get social lives and extracurricular activities and you’re the one managing it all. Talk about juggling!

You’ll never feel 100% confident in any of your parenting decisions.

You will second-guess yourself constantly, with almost every decision you make on your kids’ behalf, no matter how trivial it is (and if that decision backfires — which it does sometimes! — you will blame yourself). With every new baby you bring into the family, you’ll feel almost as clueless as you did when you were a first-time mom. You will wonder if you’re raising them right, if you’re doing enough to support them, if you’re striking a good enough balance between strict and permissive.

You have to learn to seem happy when you’re actually … not.

No one says you have to be sunshine and roses in front of your kids 24/7, but there are definitely periods of time — sometimes long ones — where all you want to do is lie around and be mopey. Whether it’s just a bad day (thanks, PMS) or you’re going through some substantially heavy life stuff, there are times when you want nothing more than to wallow in your sorrows. But our little ones are perceptive, and it isn’t a kid’s place to shoulder grownup problems, so you have to soldier on like everything is fine. You do it, for their sake, but it’s hard.

It’s painful when they start to pull away.

There comes a time in every kid’s life when they become less dependent on you, and while that sounds like a dream when in the trenches of toddlerhood, it’s a hard pill to swallow when it actually happens. Realizing that you are no longer the epicenter of their universe, and that there are people they’d rather spend time with than you — or worse, that you’re near the bottom of the list of people they want to spend time with now — is tough. No two ways about it.

Despite all this, you’ll love them with an intensity that will amaze you. 

Even on those days when your kids have driven you to the absolute brink of insanity, you would still go to any lengths to protect them from harm. You’ll look at them while they’re (finally) asleep, or during one of those rare quiet moments, and your heart will melt into a puddle. And this sums up the magic of motherhood: it is both the best and the hardest experience of your life, but you can’t imagine having it any other way.

… Even if you do fantasize about that sometimes.

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