Friday, January 9, 2015

3 Things That Surprised Me About Being a Mom

Everyone has crazy, romantic notions of what being a parent will be like until they actually become one. Since I became a mom after a 4 year emotional and physical marathon, I had plenty of time to fantasize inaccurately.  Here are the top three things I got REALLY WRONG....

1. It's Expensive. I mean, really EXPENSIVE.

Before Daniel and Lily came home, I did some preliminary calculations of what becoming parents would mean to our budget. I looked up the price of diapers and formula. I briefly considered what day care might cost. I knew having kids was expensive and shuddered at what college might cost.. but hey, college is a long way off and we'll join Costco and it'll be fine!

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.


First of all, Costco is awesome, but I've never walked out of there having "saved" any money.  I do get a good bicep workout from pushing an overloaded cart up and down the aisles though...

Secondly, diapers and formula are the tip of the iceberg of parental expenses. Soon you are buying underwear and socks and school uniforms and summer clothes and winter gear and shoes. Oh, dear God the shoes! I think I've gotten on top of their wardrobes and then Daniel grows out of or blows out the knees of his pants (or both), and Lily's shoes don't fit her and our "emergency" trip to the shoe store is costing me $100. I still haven't gotten over the sticker shock for a pair of boots we bought Daniel 2 years ago.

And then there are the activities and classes and lessons and class trips and water bottles and school supplies and end of year gifts for teachers and the sports equipment and the Frozen merchandise. Oh, the merchandise.

But the Frozen on Ice tickets?... Worth It.
And then there are the groceries. The special organic kind of yogurt that is the only one they will eat and the $5 a jar salsa that Daniel finishes off in a day.  And 4 different flavors of jam because each of us likes a different flavor of jam.  And the two different kinds of organic almond milk. And the bread, dear Lord the loaves of bread we go through!  Formula was a bargain compared to what we consume now.

And then there is keeping healthy - the hair supplies and the only kind of lotion that works on their skin which happens to be $10 a jar, even at Costco. The co-pays. The endless need for new toothbrushes. How does a jar of toothpaste only last a week? Last month the dentist was really pushing them to use mouthwash (There is a Frozen brand!)... and all I could think was, 'Great, ANOTHER expensive item to buy at Walgreens.' So now we have two new bottles of mouthwash, which they are going through at an alarming pace.

Anyway, what can I do- they have to brush their teeth. But if I could, I would gently tap my 2010 self and say, 'I know you are all kinds of excited about becoming a mom and all, but you might want to really start a sensible savings plan and give up ever buying new shoes for yourself because you, my dear self, are going to be BROKE.'*

2. It's not like teaching. Or rather, I'm a different mom than I am a teacher.

I've been a teacher for many more years than I've been a mom. So I thought I had the whole dealing with kids and all their annoying wonderful qualities down pat. I was so wrong about that.  Being a teacher is so different than being a mom. Or maybe, because I'm a teacher, I'm a different kind of mom? Or maybe, I have a finite amount of patience and tolerance for mess and they are pretty much used up at work?

All I know is, in the classroom I'm creative and patient and I love a good messy project! At home I'm strict and intolerant of any kind of mess and my patience is pretty thin.

Messy kids at school? No problem! Messy kids at home? I FREAK OUT.
I don't know why this is. I thought, before I became a mom, that I would LOVE to spend my days coloring and making things out of clay and empty boxes. Now I hide all our art supplies. I wouldn't even have any art supplies at all, but they keep coming home with homework assignments that require markers or glue. Damn teachers.

It may be that I'm terrified of mess because I have a daughter who thinks the whole house is her canvass, and who has a knack for finding the one and only permanent marker we own 10 seconds after I've hidden it. (HOW, how does she do that!?) After scrubbing marker off my couch and digging play dough out of my rug art projects are just so unappealing.  Now she does homework under my watchful eye, and then quick! as soon as she is done the markers go back on the high shelf.

Homework: a special kind of torture.
Reading with your (hates to read, reads poorly) child at home: another special kind of torture.

At work I have enormous reserves of patience for kids' learning curves. I've taught hundreds of kids to read -some with pretty significant learning challenges. When Daniel was struggling through his Kindergarten readers I would internally battle not to scream at him. "THE, the word is THE! It's on EVERY PAGE."

I lost that battle with myself more than once. Reading together was definitely not the idyllic scene I imagined pre-motherhood.  I'm so grateful that my now third grader does his homework all by himself in his room where I can't cringe over his handwriting or spelling errors. I'm pretty sure he is happy about that too.

3. It's bittersweet. 

Before I became a mom I imagine that life would be like a road with lovely sign posts marking the milestones... A Facebook movie of parenthood, if you will. That we would celebrate and cherish each wonderful "first" for our children and be constantly moving forward.

And we do: we've got the Facebook movie of first lost tooth and first days of school and first dance recitals.

But every milestone, for me at least, is tinged with sadness. The first time he loses a tooth is also the last time he will have all his baby teeth. It's one more step away from being my little boy. Away from me.

We are so happy to have Lily sleeping in her own bed (Shhh! Don't tell anyone! Don't jinx it!) But sometimes I miss having her warm little body snuggling next to me. When I rock her at night I often wonder, is this the last time I'll rock my baby to sleep? My baby who is starting Kindergarten next Fall and who barely fits on my lap.

Look at that sweet little face under that huge hat. 
Sigh. Andrew thinks I'm crazy. But every time I turn around my children seem to be three feet taller. There always seems to be both too much time ("Mom, can I play on the iPad? I'm BORED. Mom! I wet the bed! Mom! Mom! Mom!")... and never enough.

Which I why I'm still typing away in this little space- to force myself to record our days, both good and bad. To give me an excuse to look back at their sweet little faces, and to remember that I never did know what the future holds, and certainly don't now...

* I'm well aware than in the context of the real world (and certainly in the context of our Ethiopian-American family) we are hardly broke. We are lucky to live a very comfortable life. Or so my Visa statements inform me.

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