I had it all figured out. I was going to be a stellar mom. I knew it all. Yes, before I even had kids. We know how that story goes – I had the children and I laughed at my smug former self.
Yup, I did not have it all figured out, I still don’t, and probably never will. There are motherhood truths that I never imagined, and are ever evolving. The list does not end. At this very moment with four children under the age of 7, here are my 10 truths.
1. I have so many more fears.
It’s not just the fear of the big bad world out there, just waiting to grab my children. It is illnesses like bronchiolitis in a 6-week old preemie. A bloody cut on the back of the head of a 2-year-old. The broken heart of a 5-year-old whose best friend decided to be BFFs with someone else. The fear that your child with special needs won’t fit into regular school. It’s all the things that come with parenting, navigating daily life and its challenges.
2. Motherhood is a juxtaposition. I need people. I want to be alone.
When you have four children, you’re never alone. I crave me time. I want to be unneeded for an hour. When I have that hour, I miss my kids. I want to talk to someone, anyone. I want to be around people. I want someone to hold my hand, or put their head on my shoulder. I want the warmth of little bodies. What is wrong with me? Nothing. Motherhood is just that. A juxtaposition. A complex, tangled thing.
3. I doubt myself daily.
Some days, I feel like Supermom. I tell myself, I’ve got this and I believe it. The wily fingers of Doubt creep in nonetheless. Am I doing this right? Should I be sterner? Do I spend enough time/ too much time with my kids? Am I feeding them right/ depriving them too much? Am I saying too much/ too little?
4. I did not realize my capacity for patience.
I’m the person who rolls her eyes at people who walk too slow, or take too long at the checkout line. Patience is not my virtue. But I can answer 1,985 questions about Peppa Pig, so yeah, I’ll take that as a plus.
5. My capacity for love far exceeded my expectations.
When I was expecting my second child, I thought there was no way I could love him as much as I did my first. I was wrong. When the twins came along, I was pretty sure I couldn’t love them all the same. Wrong again. If it’s possible, I love all four even more than when I first became a mom. It is possible. To the point where I feel like my heart could burst.
6. I can dig deeper. When I think I can’t, I can and I do.
My twins were premature. They were in NICU for two weeks. I stayed strong and focused, shuttling between the hospital and home, between my younger two and older kids. I slept little, worried a lot, but I didn’t crumble. I dug deep. When my husband travels and I solo parent, I always dread it. But we always come out unscathed and none the worse for wear. We parents have more in us than we think.
7. Children are fascinating and surprising.
I fully expected my second child, the baby of the family for over two years, to be upset by the arrival of not one baby, but two. He proved me wrong. Not only did he accept them and his new position as big brother (and middle child), he embraced it. He loves his babies, as he calls them. Also, how kids sleep with 586 Hot Wheels, is beyond me.
8. I have discovered true beauty in my surroundings.
Cheesy as this is, it is true. When your children are not hurrying along as you do (read #4), you tend to notice more when your eyes are not just focused on the road ahead. I’ve seen baby birds, pretty purple flowers, and a clear blue sky. It’s one of those blink-and-you-miss-it-times.
9. Parenting challenges many relationships – with your spouse, your own parents, your in-laws, your friends.
With each child that has come into our family, I’ve had some kind of fallout with my husband (we work it out eventually). Over the years, my relationship with my in-laws have shifted, sometimes towards the good, other times, not so much. And friends? My friendships have evolved. Some have slowly fizzled out. Others remain “Facebook friends”. I understand that. My priorities have shifted, and it’s not towards upkeeping certain friendships.
10. Time goes by too quickly. Time moves too slowly.
Time plays mind games with me. I look at my oldest child and wonder when his baby face morphed into big kid sharpness, hinting at the young man he’s growing into. I wonder when my 4-year-old’s vocabulary expanded, and I struggle to remember when he started stringing sentences together. And yet, the two weeks my twins spent in NICU felt like the longest time ever. Minutes ticking by, moving as slowly as their weight gain. Yet, here they are, nearly two years old. We say “the years are short and the days are long”. I say “the days and years are both long and short.” Embrace each day as it comes, that is all we can do.
Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, a writer, and publisher. A former PR and marketing professional, she is the owner of Little Love Media, specializing in blog book tours. Alison’s writing has been featured in Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and Club Mid. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends (Fall, 2014), and has an essay in another, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood (Spring, 2016). She is also an editor at BonBon Break. Alison lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).