Written by The Mom
I’ve grown so much since having kids. I’ve become a better person. But it’s not in the way I was expecting.
Before I had kids, I imagined I would be the perfect parent. Everyone wants to be the perfect parent with the perfect home. You know; patient. Always loving. Never yelling. Love and understanding.
I had images in my head of what “parenting” was. A girl twirling in a spotless kitchen in her dress (clean and fresh out of the dryer), hair brushed and done up in adorable pigtails. A boy chatting excitedly about his day at school, showing off his new drawing that he made for his sister, chatting and playing together. The dinner table set with steaming, hot food (complete with healthy vegetables and a side dish). Toys put away in their place before bedtime. Kitchen floor swept and mopped every night. Then off for baths before bed. Story time, songs, and drifting peacefully off to sleep.
I knew parenting wasn’t easy. I heard it over and over again from our friends who already had kids. You will be exhausted. You will not have enough time to get everything done that you want to. But still in my mind, I imagined facing these days with a smile, a positive attitude and, if not boundless amounts of energy, at least enough to get everything done every day.
The perfect parent.
If I could go back in time five years and show myself a snapshot of my life right now, younger me would’ve turned away in shame. Younger me would see me, now, in pajamas at 3 p.m. because I’ve been too busy or too tired to shower and get dressed. I would see Now me driving through fast food, even though I’ve sworn never to eat that crap again. I would see Now me letting my kids watch another show, too many shows.
“You have snot on your shirt and you look like you haven’t washed your hair for two days. How could you have let yourself go so much?” younger me would say to Now me.
“And what’s with your daughter? Her hair isn’t done up in a cute way. She’s wearing pajamas under her tutu. I hope you don’t take her out of the house looking like that!’
“You have how much money in your bank account? You still have debt?? What happened to having your life together, girl? Where’s our five bedroom house? You said your kids would never have to share a room and here you are with three kids in a three bedroom house! And you can’t even keep it clean, there’s stuff all over the floor. Even a puddle of water!”
“Look at you. You haven’t exercised in so long. Why haven’t you made time to take better care of yourself?”
Stop. Look closer. Look beyond what you see on the surface of the picture of my life. Look underneath.
My babies have colds. We snuggled and rocked and read stories all day. That’s why I have snot on my shirt. That’s why I haven’t washed my hair for two days. They need their mama. Yes, my daughter’s hair isn’t done. She wanted it down so it would fly behind her when she dances. She chose that outfit: her tutu over her pajamas. She’s 4 and she insisted on wearing it. She’s so independent, just like we always wanted in a daughter. Yes, we don’t have much money in our bank account. Our kids are sleeping in the same room. But listen! Hear them whispering and giggling together before they fall asleep? They’re such good friends! I hope they will always remember these beautiful memories and the bond they’ve formed.
You noticed the Play-Doh on the floor. My kids were having so much fun with that. My daughter picked pink for Aurora, yellow for Belle, and blue for Cinderella. She built a castle all by herself and then knocked it over on purpose. I guess we were laughing too much to notice that some pieces scattered on the floor. The water all over the floor? That was my 2.5 year old son. He wanted to get mommy water. He filled up my cup for me and carried it over all by himself. He was so proud of himself for doing something nice for me. He’s so thoughtful. Some of it splashed out and he wanted to wipe it up. He didn’t do the best job but he tried so hard to make me happy that I didn’t want to point out his mistakes.
You’re right. I’m not as healthy as I should be. I had postpartum anxiety and some other health issues after my baby was born. It isn’t easy. I needed a lot of support. Some days I hardly had the energy to get out of bed and take care of my kids. But I always did. Some days I did exactly what was needed of me and nothing extra. Some days that meant my kids watched too many shows. But I was always made sure they had what they needed. I’m so proud of myself for what I’ve been through and how far I’ve come. I’m slowly getting better. Changing my exercise and eating habits is a big part of that. It’s a huge work in progress. I have a long ways to go with myself, but I’m making sure my kids are learning healthy eating habits. I’m teaching them things I never learned about how to take care of your body.
You see now?
“Yes, I see now,” my past self says. “I see my life in five years. I see the mess. I see the struggles. And it’s all perfect.”
And it is.
My past self was right about some things. My daughter does love to twirl. My son loves to chat, and he does make pictures for his sister. He is so thoughtful and sweet.
There is food on the table. There might not be a side dish and it might not always be steaming hot, but we have plenty to go around. The house is not always clean at the end of every day but there is evidence that we played, and laughed, and lived in it. My kids don’t usually sleep through the night but they know that both their mom and dad are there for them 24/7, even in the middle of the night, no matter how tired we are.
There is love, and understanding, and sometimes yelling… And because there is yelling there is forgiveness, and more understanding, and growth.
I’ve grown so much since having kids. I’ve become a better person. But it’s not in the way I was expecting. It’s better. It’s more full than I ever could’ve imagined. It’s harder, too. The joy and blessing we squeeze out of those tough days is all the more sweeter because we’ve worked so hard for it.
I sit here now, and imagine myself talking to Future me.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “You’re doing a great job. Trust me, one day you’ll miss wiping those snotty noses. One day you’ll miss the Play-Doh all over the floor. Hang in there, they still have so much to teach you.”