Back in my previous life as a childless woman, I had some grand plans about the sort of mother I would one day be.
Didn’t we all?
It’s not a characteristic unique to mothers, of course — everyone, in some way or another, envisions their future selves in an unrealistic light. The person we end up becoming, hopefully, is not a failure for her dissimilarities to the imagined ideal; rather, she is remarkable for her adaptability, shaped by the circumstances she has encountered along the rough road of life.
Or maybe I just suck as a mom. I mean, that is entirely possible, too.
Here are three things I always said I wasn’t going to do when I had kids…and then went ahead and did a whole lot of.
I was never going to…
Breastfeed longer than six months
Not only was I unfamiliar with the mechanics of breastfeeding before having my child, I was afraid of the act itself. I didn’t grow up around anyone who successfully breastfed, and didn’t start hearing much about it until I was pregnant. At that time, it was horror story after horror story of bloody, cracked nipples and exhausted mothers and insufficient milk supply and thrush and mastitis. There seemed to be no end to the potential disasters that awaited me. I’ll do this, I thought to myself. But only for a little while. I was both convinced that it would be difficult and prematurely certain that I would hate it.
And, maybe most of all, I was worried about swearing off wine for that long.
Well, my daughter is 18 months old now, and we’re still nursing, so I’ll let you speculate as to how accurate my paranoid visions of painful, inadequate breastfeeding ended up being. Yes, it was hard at the beginning. Yes, it took a lot of getting used to. But yes, I found it to be entirely worthwhile and rewarding and just plain useful. Once I got the hang of it, the sheer convenience of it is proof, to me, that our bodies are divinely crafted. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, if my daughter is upset, I have the ability to calm her. I have the ability to make her feel safe and secure and nourished.
And I still enjoy the occasional glass of wine, too.
Be one of THOSE moms on Facebook
You know her. The lady whose timeline is littered with blurry candids of her kids doing the most mundane things in the most uninspired poses. “Someone loves Cheerios!” she chirps beneath a shot of her diaper-clad son glaring at her from his high chair. “Daddy’s girl!” she proclaims while sharing a photo of her toddler passed out in the arms of the child’s equally exhausted father. “Little stinker!!” is typed beneath every other post, most of them weirdly frozen action shots with her disastrously cluttered house visible in the background.
I’ll post one picture of my kid each week, no more. This is what I promised myself in the hospital, as I cradled my newborn in the crook of my arm. I won’t be one of those crazy women.
And then my daughter yawned adorably, and I CAUGHT IT ON CAMERA, GUYS!!! And…1800 Facebook albums later, here we are.
Look at my phone constantly
I will experience every moment, I said. I will never let my child think she is second to a digital device. I will leave my iPhone in the bedroom during the daytime hours and focus every fiber of my being on being present to my child.
What I did not understand was how utterly draining — emotionally and physically — parenthood can be. What I did not anticipate was that my Facebook app — and the prospect of a 90-second break from reality every half hour — would, on occasion, be my salvation. I love my daughter and I love being a work-at-home mother; I love playing kitchen and grocery with her, I love reading to her, I love chasing her around the house, I love snuggling her and rocking her to sleep. But y’all, she is awake from 6:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. and sometimes, when she’s watching Mother Goose Club, I just need to flip open Instagram and look at some memes real quick, you know what I’m saying?
The list, I promise you, goes on.
But I’ll tell you one thing I always knew about how I would be as a mother. I always knew I would do what felt right for my child and for my family. And when you live by that golden rule of parenthood, it’s hard to have “nevers.” Life happens, things come up, people have needs – you have needs – and you do the best you can.
That being said, I’ve got a whole list of things I’ll never let my teenage daughter do. I’ll let you know in 2029 how that’s going.