What I Wish I Had Known Before Having Children

Monday, July 18, 2016

Oh, hi there!  This is me, making three kids ages 4, 3, and just-turned-1 look easy.

Just kidding, I know I'm a hot mess.

Today, I am sharing eight things I wish I had known before I became a mother.  Keep in mind that I was a teacher before having children, so of course I knew all about child-rearing;)  (Face palm!)  Even when I had a six month old, I was still pretty certain of this fact.  Well folks, turns out that kids keep throwing you for loops!  And you, as parents, learn pretty quickly that you know nothing.  This past year has easily been one of the most stressful of my life, and I do not say that lightly.  It has also been 100% worth it.

So, pre-kids Monica, here's what I wish you had known...

1) Having children will make you more compassionate for all living things: You will feel heartbroken for a smashed snail on the sidewalk, thinking of its mother.  Little baby ducklings in a trail on the running path will make you choke up. And you won't be able to watch the news any more as it makes you way too distraught over the sadnesses happening to mankind.

2) Remember that parent you judged?  You will be "that parent:"  This applies to even after you've had your first baby and judge the moms losing their cool toward their toddlers while at Target.  You do NOT know the answers for most parents out there, because you don't know their real circumstances: the quirks and challenges of their kids, how hard their day has been, how little sleep they had, the bad news they just received, how unsupported they are, the finances they struggle with, or the whole myriad of other stresses that are impacting their parenting.  Have compassion toward all parents, because you will quickly learn what it feels like to be "that parent" while struggling with a deranged toddler in the aisle at Target.

3) Find your thing: You need friends.  You NEED hobbies.  You need time to yourself.  Find your thing, something that fulfills you outside of motherhood.  You cannot consistently give your children what you don't give yourself: love, time, and fun.

4) Consistency is everything: Sure, this is true in terms of being present and loving with your kids,  and having routines which guide your life. But consistency reallllly matters with discipline.  Get your warning system and your go-to consequences figured out and stick to them.  Even if that means putting your kid in time out in the church bathroom once their three warnings are up.  Also, when you say, "1.... 2..... " you better say, "3!" without delay, and follow through with the next EXPECTED step immediately.  Otherwise, your kids will be in complete control.

5) GUILT can either follow you all day every day, or can be a TOOL: Parenting is the most humbling venture you'll take part in, IF you are doing it right.  Being humbled is a good thing, so own the fact that you don't have all the answers.  However, guilt can easily control your life.  Instead of letting guilt fester you, keep you up at night, or encourage you to coddle your children to make up for your mistakes, allow guilt to be a tool that guides you to monitor where you need to improve and try again, quickly and often.  Then brush off that guilt, and move (humbly) forward.

6) You will alternate having bad feelings toward your children and loving them so much it hurts: In the same day, you will fantasize about running away from these little monsters and then later obsess over photos of them while they sleep.  You'll have moments where you'd give your right arm for 10 minutes alone, but once you are 10 minutes away from them you can't wait to get back to your little ones.  This is completely normal.

7) Nothing is more stressful than your children not getting along, day after day: Your kids will have very strong, very different personalities.  Their big needs will be very demanding.  They will struggle with each other, to meet in the middle of their opposite natural tendencies.  The stress of trying to successfully accommodate these little ones' divided needs and their wear-and-tear on each other will almost drive you to insanity.  But take heart!  Glimpses of them loving each other and getting along WILL come, and gradually be a more common part of your family picture.

8) Love is the answer: Always.  Read to your children with love.  Play dolls/trains/games with them, with love.  Teach them to play by themselves, do chores, and be friends with each other, with love.  Above all, DISCIPLINE WITH LOVE. You can being doing the "right things," but without the right motivation behind those actions they will carry less value.  Your children will feel the difference between a mom who reads to them out of guilt or resentment, and a mom who reads to them out of love.

I really could write about this topic all day, but I think I'll end it by telling pre-kids Monica this: You will not be the perfect mother--not even close.  Being a mother is the most soul-sucking, soul-searching, but somehow soul-fulfilling adventure of your life. Your kids will make you a better person, and you'll never, ever trade all the stress for a kidless life.  Not ever.

(PS: My outfit was my birthday gift to myself (thank you, Self!).  And per usual, all items were purchased at 40% off clearance, although I'm a little embarrassed how much I spent, but you only turn 30 once, right?! (I'm on a self-induced spending freeze now....): Shirt // Skirt // Shoes)

Want to read some other moms' lists?  I'm blogging on this topic alongside a great bunch of other ladies you can see below.  If you'd like to participate in a Mommy Style Monday series, please see Madeline and Kiana's blogs to learn how.

Kiana at Glitter & Donuts
Madeline at CaseyLand
Erica at Good Job Momma
Beverly at What a Day
Justine at Little Dove
Amy at Harris Inc.
Bekah at These Are The Days


  1. Love your post! And your outfit. I need to write down all of these things so that I don't forget!

  2. I agree with everything on your list. I would add to mine: "Motherhood brings out weaknesses and bad habits that you never knew you had in you." Apparently, I'm a stomper. Meaning, sometimes when I'm just soooo angry and frustrated, I stomp my feet on the floor. Yep. Just like a two-year-old. That's me. Who knew?

    I also am an occasional swearer now. I never swore until my 2nd child was born (I now have 4, ages 5 and under) and I always thought it was because I was just an awesome, well-balanced human being who had sufficient command over her emotions. Nope. The real reason I never swore before I had kids is because I had never been driven to a point of such desperation and frustration! I never use name-calling expletives. That's not really how I roll (I swear to help myself feel better, not to make others feel bad... yes I have rules for my swearing habits). But a good 4-letter expression of exasperation SURE feels good every now and then.

    1. Oh, man--I'm a stomper too. And a door slammer. Also, a shouter. SO many things I would never have thought I'd do and be like, but at least I am being humbled to the dirt, right?! I love hearing about yours!!!!!

  3. What a great list. Love it! Love your bright cheery outfit too!

  4. What a great list. Love it! Love your bright cheery outfit too!

  5. i have definitely been that mom at target! haha i love all of these, especially what you wrote about guilt.

    1. So glad I'm not the only one!! Got a few stares yesterday, in fact, when my children kept standing in the cart and mama had had enough.

  6. Number one!! Always! I cry all the time over things on the news or sweet baby animals... I was just telling my husband I think something might be wrong with me! You're so wise Monica. I love this post!

    1. It's like your heart grows for everything around you. Didn't expect that!

  7. To the pre-children Monica (and all others): You will do things that you carry with you for years, and then you will discover that your kids don't even remember that it happened. I vividly recall me screaming all too regularly at my kids in the car for a period as we dragged ourselves to school in the morning, hating myself as I did so. When I apologized for it a few years ago (again), they all looked at me with tilted-head, quizzical faces. They genuinely did not remember these awful rides. Either that or they are the kindest people ever. I feel the love, no matter which it is. And apparently they do, too. (from Jennifer VerDuin--greetings from Alameda!)

    1. Jennifer!!! So fun to hear from you--we miss Alameda! That makes me feel worlds better. I think we have that kind of moment all too often around here, so thank you for sharing that. I really hope they have more good than bad memories from this time, and that at least will carry me through!

  8. omg, number 1! I would always feel sad about the news involving violence against children, but now it's just too much to bear :(
    I looove #4. I know I mentioned not judging other moms in my post, but I get kinda peeved when other moms don't follow through with their punishment. But I know I do the same from time to time, so that's that!

  9. Haha to #6!! Oh my gosh that is so true. I often think that I always LOVE my children, I just don't always LIKE them very much, lol.


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