I assume that as parents, we all sort of look at our lives as split into two distinct time frames – before kids, and after kids. And while I’m not saying I would ever choose one over the other (that’s not true — I’d go with the kids), they are inarguably different. Before I had a son of my own, I spent a lot of time thinking and wondering about what kind of mom I would be. I had a lot of experience with kids, and even worked for a year as a nanny, but I knew none of that translated into being an actual parent.
I assumed a lot of my inherent personality traits would carry over into parenthood – like it or not. My neat freak tendencies, anxiety and worries, tendencies to overschedule and overplan – surely I’d continue to do all of this. What I have found is that parenthood has surprised me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.
My name is Emily, and my car is covered in Cheerios.
Before you have kids, it is easy to assume you won’t be “that mom” and you won’t do “those things.” And while you will probably stick to your guns on some of it, other things will suddenly seem much less important in the bigger picture.
Here are all the different “moms” I didn’t think I’d be, that of course I’ve ultimately become. Let me preface by saying that there is nothing wrong with any of these – like I said, these are all things that I do. But it’s funny to think about how naive I was before, and how different things are now.
I Am “That Mom” 1 of 10
Click to see all the ways motherhood has surprised me!
The Mom Who Drives A Car Covered In Cheerios 2 of 10
The weekend after we found out I was pregnant, my husband and I took our two older cars to the dealership and traded them in for a shiny, new family-mobile. We took great care to buy a rear gate and sturdy floor mat for the back, ensuring our dogs wouldn't destroy our beautiful new interior with their dirty paws. We religiously cleaned, vacuumed, and removed trash. And then we had a baby.
It started with small things like extra lightweight blankets, a spare diaper bag with outfits and supplies in case of a blow out, and a few little toys to entertain in the car seat. Eighteen months later, my car looks like something from my former nightmares. The backseat is completely littered with books, noisy toys, sippy cups that have been tossed during tantrums, and yes - cheerios.
We spend more time in the car than I'd like to (due to where we live), and I've struggled to keep Cullen happy and entertained during stretches of 20+ minutes. We went through a phase where he would always fall asleep in the car coming home from whatever we did that morning - leaving me with a tired, napless toddler in the afternoons. I learned that snacks were a great way to occupy him on the way home, and I usually chose Cheerios because I wanted to ensure it was something with a very low choking hazard. Unfortunately, it has a very HIGH mess factor.
A few weeks ago, I took our car to the gas station during nap time and did a full clean out. Threw out trash, wiped down sticky windows and consoles, and vacuumed every last Cheerio out of that place. Since then, I've enforced a "no snacks in the car" rule, unless under close supervision (other parent riding in the back seat). I'm sure I'll cave eventually, and I'm definitely willing to chill out and relax now as a parent, but the Cheerio car is taking things too far.
The Mom With An Instagram Feed Of 620 Baby Photos (and counting!) 3 of 10
Yep, I'm that mom. And if my cell phone camera was better, I'm sure this number would be doubled. As it is, it's nearly impossible to catch anything but a blur of my son running past, but I still try on a daily bases. I go in waves where I Instagram four pictures in one day, and then nothing again for a week. What can I say? I love seeing his features accented with different, fun filters, and what mom doesn't love sharing a cute photo? I can't really apologize for this one. Instagram is essentially an outlet for obnoxious brags and over-sharing, so I'm at least in good company.
The Mom Who’s Kid Is Addicted to the iPad 4 of 10
This one is particularly embarrassing, mostly because I resisted it for so long. I was totally convinced that my child would be happy without excessive electronics and over-stimulation. But part of me also realizes that this is part of his generation, and how (most of) the kids his age are going to grow up these days. For the most part, it's unavoidable.
With that said, it IS unnerving when he freaks out and shouts "iPAD, iPAD" over and over pointing to it, refusing to let up until one of his embarrassed parents gives in and tosses him the tablet. We started by mostly using it during travel - many a long plane ride has been possible due to his collection of kids' apps. And while we didn't use to use it at home much (for him, that is), I got a little more relaxed about it during a very long, dark, rainy winter. Afternoons inside seemed to last an eternity, and when we were both itching for some relief, the iPad came down off the counter.
I'm actually okay with him using it here and there. Like I said, I think it's going to be an important part of the way he learns going forward, and all of the apps he has are educational and interesting. But I do wish he wasn't quite so hooked on it. If given the choice, he would do it for hours on end. In reality, he's usually limited to about 30 minutes (unless we're on a plane!).
The Mom Who Buys Elmo Pajamas 5 of 10
Similar to my fantasies about not having an abundance of technology and battery-operated toys, I also for some reason assumed we'd avoid an association and familiarization with popular childhood characters. I realize this makes no sense, and I know this is the most annoying thing said to pregnant ladies everywhere - but when you don't have kids yet, you really have absolutely no clue what it will be like, no matter how many kids you "know" and books you read. Learning to laugh at your pre-mom self is part of the ride.
I shared yesterday how Elmo has joined our household. In fact just this morning, my son popped his head up from his crib at 6am and immediately started saying "Elmo, Elmo!" and holding up his new stuffed friend. And while at one point I probably would have found this horrifying, it actually makes me really proud. I love that he's learning so many new words and associations every day. Befriending Elmo and pointing to all things Elmo-related (iPad, TV, books) just shows me how much his little wheels are turning, and how much more he's learning. Elmo can stay.
The Mom Who Gets Up at 5:30am Voluntarily 6 of 10
Ever since my son fell into a (relatively) predictable sleeping pattern - right around his first birthday - I've been setting my alarm and getting up before him. This is a big departure from the early days when I would lay in bed and beg him to go back to sleep for just five more minutes. Of course, not getting up three times a night has made a world of difference.
Now that he sleeps through the night, I get plenty of sleep myself. My husband and I go to bed a reasonable hour (usually before 10), and so by the time the alarm goes off at 5:30, I'm tired but not devastated. And while I never thought I'd be someone who voluntarily gets up at 5:30 (when I don't actually have anywhere to be), I've found it to be a really nice time in my day. I can squeeze in an extra workout if I want to, but more often than not I use the time to work. I spend about 30 minutes showering and getting ready (a rare luxury a year ago this time!), and then I sit at my kitchen counter with my laptop and get a head start on my day. It makes me feel a lot less behind on work, since I know I won't get back to the keyboard until after lunch (nap time!).
The Mom Who Lets Her Son Get Really Messy 7 of 10
I have always been a bit of a neat freak, and in some respects that hasn't changed. I still can't stand to leave toys strewn everywhere - I pick them up every night before Cullen goes to bed. I make our bed every morning, adjust the pillows on the couch all day long, and I have a constant stream of laundry rotating in and out of our bedrooms. Sadly, these tidy tendencies don't carry over to all places in the house. Our sink is always full of dishes, my closet has a heap of clothes on the floor, and our car is just plain scary.
So the point of all of this is that I thought I would be really bothered by the giant messes that tend to follow toddlers wherever they go. And while yes, I do pick up his toys, most of the time I'm so happy to see him having fun that I don't care if it means a little extra cleanup or laundry at the end of my day. I laugh because I really thought I'd be freaked out by dirt, mud, sand, sticky food, boogers - all that good stuff. And these days I feel like I hardly notice it.
We were at the playground the other day and Cullen plopped down in the dirt and started picking up handfuls of it like he would do at the beach. The sun was shining, it was 70 degrees outside, and we were hanging out with friends - I couldn't have been happier. I knew that him playing in the dirt meant he'd need a new outfit after his afternoon nap, but who cares? I don't spend a lot of money on his clothes (in part for this reason!), and I'm happy to let him get a little messy as he learns to explore and discover the world around him. However sticky and icky it might be.
The Mom Who’s Kid Is Naked All The Time 8 of 10
To follow up my last point, we spend a lot of mornings out and about. This usually involves getting sweaty, messy, or covered in food. Of course I am referring to both of us.
The way our daily routine works out, Cullen gets up and gets a diaper change, and then plays in his room or upstairs for a bit. I don't bother getting him dressed yet, because I know he will be covered in food after breakfast. Once he eats and gets cleaned up, we head upstairs to get ready for the day. Finally, some clothes. We're out for a few hours in the morning - zoo, playdates, story times, etc. - and then back home in time for lunch and a nap. I personally hate sleeping in pants, so for some reason I just assume every does. I mean who wants to sleep in jeans?
So before his nap, I always strip Cullen of his pants, socks, and shoes. I usually leave on whatever base layer he has on top, whether that's a onesie or a t-shirt. Our afternoons tend to be a lot more low key - playing at home, chasing the dogs, and sometimes a trip to the neighborhood playground or a walk outside. If we're indoors, I don't usually bother getting him dressed again.
Ultimately, my son ends up naked for half of the day. He seems more comfortable, and I am less compelled to spend a million dollars on his clothes, so it's a win-win.
The Mom Who Takes Her Son Out For Donuts 9 of 10
Let me start by saying that of course there is nothing wrong with occasionally eating a donut. In fact, I highly recommend it. But after Cullen was born, my husband and I got into a really bad habit of existing mostly off of sugar. We live in an area where we are surrounded by amazing (vegan!) bakeries, and in the early days of newborn-hood, they provided a quick and easy snack and escape from the house with a new baby. Of course, we still ate normal meals too, but many a weekend breakfast or lunch consisted of cinnamon rolls and large coffees.
When Cullen was around 8-9 months - eating solid foods but still not totally understanding the whole "meal" concept - we realized we were going to have to cut this habit quickly. We needed to model healthy eating for him, and honestly - we couldn't expect him to sit there and munch on sliced banana while we downed half a dozen donuts (that actually happened).
So these days we're trying a new approach. We try to eat like Cullen does. Of course I don't mean finger foods and things chopped into tiny bites. But our overarching rule is, "if you wouldn't feed it to Cullen, don't eat it yourself." It's actually pretty effective, and in ways I didn't expect. We eat better because we focus on balanced nutrients, complete meals, and variety of colors on our plates. But it's also made me ease up a bit on my "food rules" for Cullen (if you can call them that - it feels like an overstatement).
While I'd like to be mindful of his sugar intake, and I'm still a dedicated ingredient label reader, I see no problem with taking him out for treats from time to time. It's good for all of us.
The Mom Who Has Learned to Slow Down and Celebrate Joy 10 of 10
More than anything, I really worried (ironic, no?) that I'd be an anxious, hovering mom who could never relax and just chill the heck out. But somehow, it hasn't happened. Of course I have my moments like any parent, but for the most part we take our days slow - one adventure at a time.
I see my time differently. I look at work differently. I love nothing more than a carefree day with my family, enjoying something as simple as a good lunch or a nice long walk. Memories are made through little things like an unsolicited kiss, a new word, or a completed puzzle. Life is simple, but it's also really really good.