How-To Book: Not available in stores

When I was pregnant with my son, I spent lots of time wondering about this impending new job they call motherhood. Well, maybe wondering isn’t quite the right term. Daydreaming? No, that sounds pretty nicey-nice and well, dreamy. So probably not.

I think the term would be obsessed.

I obsessed about this new job classification and title. Because that’s what I had always done at work. There were always so many questions that came along with new responsibilities. Jockeying for position within the company, figuring out where on the proverbial ladder you now stood.

Or if you were just holding the ladder for the others.

So the questions about motherhood kept streaming through my mind (probably when I was supposed to be, well, working). Some of the answers didn’t come for several more months, when I had secured the job and was firmly entrenched in it.

Job probably doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like a mild form of indentured servitude.

Is this a promotion?
Well sort of. You’re not the youngest one in your department anymore.

What’s the title?
Chief Executive Purveyor of Milk and Diapers/Head Nurse/Child Psychologist/Sanitation Supervisor. The title doesn’t matter; it changes daily hourly.

How will it look on my new business cards?
Your business card becomes the scrap of dried-out diaper wipe you write your phone number on and give to that nice mom at the park, hoping beyond hope that she’ll call because she seemed to think you were normal.

Well, she did smile and nod a few times when you described that horrible, sticky rash. Which in retrospect was a bit awkward, since it was your rash and not the baby’s.

What will I DO?
And there it was. The biggest question about this whole motherhood thing, and it couldn’t be answered by simply combing the pages of What to Expect When You’re Expecting (first edition…yeah, it was that long ago). Because I spent a lot of time doing just that; trying to find that answer so I would be prepared.

Sixteen years later, I am still figuring it out.

There really was no way to prepare for any of it. Because the thing nobody tells you is that nobody has ever raised your kid. So there’s no book, no podcast, no DVD series that will prepare you.

You will find great advice that may or may not work for you. Sometimes the sheer volume of information overwhelms you, especially with the ever-present Internet. And those well-meaning grandmothers at the grocery store whose advice is so ancient that if you followed it, CPS would likely get involved.

So you just take it as it comes. From diaper rashes to teething; odd crawling styles to pronating feet; speech delays to pronoun confusion. You research, commiserate, whine, drink wine, and do some more research.

At times you are just plain bamboozled.

And through all of these phases and crazes you are actually doing it. You are parenting.

Good for you.

If someone had actually been able to give me, in great detail, the job description for this motherhood gig, I may have laughed. Or asked for a raise.

Maybe I would have been scared.

The benefits of being a parent can’t be quantified, and are unimaginable until you actually become one. These benefits far outweigh some of the tasks required of you that previously would have made you gag.

Sucking gallons of snot out of little noses. Cleaning up vomit-laden sheets and baby at 3am. Driving around the block to quiet a fussy baby. Crazy play dates that result in goldfish cracker sediment ground into your new carpeting and family pets missing large clumps of fur. Picking up the pieces of your child’s broken heart and piecing them back together when friendships go sour. Helping with Algebra homework.

You get through these tasks because you reap the benefits. Cuddling at 3am when your baby is sick. Watching your toddler smile and laugh during that crazy playgroup. Seeing that adorable little face light up when you walk into the room. That look of triumph when they learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike. Those I-can’t-squeeze-you-any-harder hugs.

If subsequent kids come along in your family, they are never the same as the first. Your new-found parenting expertise doesn’t apply to this new kid. But now you have more tools to roll with it, and it’s not as daunting. You start to feel like you can really do this motherhood thing.

You might even find that you start doling out advice in the grocery store.
This post is linked up to Word Up, YO!, which is masterminded by KLZ, Natalie, and Liz; The Word of the Week is:

bamboozle

header 150x150

Mother of the Year – BK (Before Kids)

Kludgy Mom
 

This post is part of my homework for Gigi at Kludgymom‘s Back to School, Back to Blogging extravaganza. Maybe that’s too big of a word. It’s really more of a workshop, without the horrible catered food and boring keynote speakers. And there’s no dress code.
I chose the writing prompt “How were you a better mom BEFORE you had kids?” which was suggested by Cheryl at Mommypants. Who, by the way, is hysterical and shares my love of candy corn pumpkins.
———————————————

Before I had kids, I rocked the parenting world. At least in theory.

I had fairly strong opinions about everything from pacifiers to breastfeeding; stay-at-home mothering to cloth diapering; potty training to driver’s training. I was sure I had this whole parenting game down even before I suited up for the kickoff. Carol Brady would have nothing on me.

Then I gave birth.

And the walls on my Mommy Castle turned out NOT to be made of stone, but of sand. Or maybe they were made of glass. People in glass castles shouldn’t throw diapers.

Or use pacifiers.

But from the very first few days at home with a new little one, you are tested. He deprives you of sleep, nutrition, and personal hygiene. Simple daily tasks remain undone after hours spent doing what? You aren’t even sure you can answer that question. Your whole world revolves around his needs. And his cries. You love, love, love him but your love affair with your pillow has become a thing of the past.

So in a sleepy stupor you consider trying out the pacifier, the one they sent you home from the hospital with.

I told the nurse (rather smugly, even), “We won’t use a pacifier! It will cause nipple confusion! Damage the alignment of his future teeth! Delay his acquisition of speech and language! We won’t need it, so save it for some other mom.”

Yet, in the no-so-quiet of the night, after rocking and feeding and changing his diaper and driving around the neighborhood in a stupor….it called to me. The pacifier that somehow came home with me despite my protestations.

Just give it a try. What can it hurt?

And that little bit of flexible plastic, that ugly-as-heck nipple-like thing becomes the best.thing.ever. Because it helps calm the baby. He is instantly more content and drifts off to sleep.

I felt naughty, almost like I cheated at The Mom Game.

But then I slept; we all slept, and I never looked back.

The pacifier was one of many, many things that I swore I would do/never do as a parent. I am still finding new things now that I have a tween and a teen. I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to parent. Nobody has ever raised your kid. This is your stint on The Apprentice: Parenthood.

And Donald Trump can’t fire you.

So while I may have considered myself quite the perfect parent before I had kids, I was wrong. But I have grown into the perfect parent for my kids. And I’m still a work in progress.

Oh, and Carol Brady? She had Alice.

I rest my case.

Critical Parenting Updates Available – Click Here!

I ran an update on my computer software today.  It made me wish we could run updates on ourselves as easily.  I don’t just mean get a makeover, buy new clothes, try a new recipe, change careers….been there, tried that, got the merit badge.

I’m talking about a Parenting Update just one click away.  Free with original sign-up as a parent.  Free updates for life!

I say this because the parenting I did even just six months ago no longer applies.  The rules keep changing.  No, I guess the kids keep changing and the rules have to adapt.  But there’s no book, no podcast, no flowchart to make these decisions any easier or more obvious.  Each kid and each situation is different.  One size doesn’t fit all.  Even in the same family.

No sooner have we decided that it’s OK for the kid to play out front ALONE (without parents hovering nearby or peeking through the blinds) than the kid wants to ride her bike over to visit a friend.  A few months of bike rides and they are asking to go to THE PARK.  Is that OK?  Don’t the Scary People sometimes go to parks?  We think, think some more, set ground rules, and let her go.  After visiting said park with friends for a period of time, they up the ante and ask to go to the convenience store on bikes.

A request to hitchhike cross country to attend Mardi Gras can’t be far behind.

When the kids were little, most decisions seemed easy and obvious.

       “Can I eat the Hershey bar for breakfast?”  No (but I can).
       “Can we get a horse?”  No.  Horses eat and poop more than I am willing to deal with.
       “Can I take these empty beer bottles for show and tell?”  No, we need to recycle them or the beer fairy won’t bring more.  And it’s not appropriate for kindergarten.

Easy stuff.

So by the time they have moved through elementary school, we parents start to feel smug.  Experienced.  We haven’t lost them yet and they haven’t gone to join the circus, so we MUST be doing something right!  Middle school?  Bring it on!

And they do.

I really DO feel like a good-enough parent most of the time.  I listen and try not to immediately tell them what they are doing wrong and why.  I try to be loving and caring, even when doling out punishments or delivering lectures.  We are flexible but firm. 

But lately I have realized that this just won’t end any time soon.  The parenting phase of our lives seems to begin with pregnancy and end when we lie down in a wooden box in the dirt.  I used to think that just getting them out of high school would require most of the parenting.  Then friends warned me about the college years, when they are using your money to find themselves and want to change majors as often as they upgrade their cell phones.  OK, get them through college and they are on their own!  Adults!  No, friends with young adult “kids” have told me this isn’t true either.

Plenty of my own friends are still being parented quite regularly by their parents.

So if I could click my mouse and have all of these critical updates delivered to my brain now, it would save me a lot of thinking in the future.  And I certainly need to limit extra things to think about, since I can’t seem to find my keys or remember my grocery list.