There’s nothing like firsthand experience to prepare you for motherhood. Seriously. You can read every parenting book on the market, but only being in the new mom trenches — sleep-deprived and sore all over — can open your eyes to the realities of your new role.
“We come to motherhood with preconceived notions and stars in our eyes,” says Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, a licensed clinical social worker, the author of Motherhood Without Guilt: Being the Best Mother You Can Be and Feeling Great About It, and a psychotherapist in Oak Brook, Ill. “The truth is motherhood is tedious, repetitive, sometimes even boring and definitely not glamorous.”
Which is not to say motherhood isn’t wonderful (it is!), but it still helps to know all sides of the story. Here, five surprising things no one ever tells you about being a mom — plus how to cope with them.
You’ll be tired and achy longer than you might expect.
Some new moms are fine a month or so after the baby is born, but most women need eight weeks or longer to physically recover. (And don’t expect to be Beyoncé-slim by then, either.) How long it takes depends on whether you delivered vaginally or had a C-section, how much sleep you’re getting, and how fast your hormone levels settle down.
“Give yourself permission to recover in the time that’s right for your body,” says Rosenberg. And be sure to bring extra ice packs home from the hospital: The pain down there can be excruciating for a week or more, even if you’ve only had a small episiotomy.
Your baby will bore you.
There’s nothing exciting (or intellectually rewarding) about changing diapers and doing multiple loads of laundry 24/7. “If you’re bored taking care of your newborn, don’t feel guilty or think something’s wrong with you,” says Rosenberg. “The early days of motherhood are all about repetitive, tedious work. Babies don’t do much except eat and sleep. Most babies don’t even smile until they’re 8 weeks old, and it can take three to six months before they’re able to connect with you emotionally and intellectually.” Make peace with the boredom, because before long, you’ll be chasing after a toddler — and toddlers, with their boundless energy and strong wills, are anything but boring!
You will read Goodnight Moon 1,000 times.
So your 3-year-old is obsessed with playing in the kitchen at preschool? Or maybe she insists on hearing the same bedtime story every night or eating grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Not to worry. Preschoolers get fixated on activities, toys and foods for no single reason: Some may want to master a task, while others find comfort in a familiar routine. Sure, it’s oh-so-aggravating behavior, but it’s age-appropriate and most likely won’t mean anything for the long term. When your child is ready to move on, she’ll move on. As Rosenberg explains, “Your child could play kitchen simply because his friend likes to play kitchen — and he likes his friend more than the other activities that are available.”
You may lose some of your friends.
New moms don’t have a lot of time and energy to socialize. The result? Friendships may get strained — and not all of them will survive. “Soulmate friends will still be there for you because the bond is based on your connection as human beings,” says Rosenberg. “But playmate friends may not be available until they have kids too, because the bond is based on hanging out together.”
Other moms will drive you crazy.
The playground mother who brags nonstop about her child’s achievements. The school mom who dominates PTA meetings. The playdate mom who turns her kids’ birthday parties into can-you-top-this extravaganzas. You’re bound to run into all types.
What to do? Disengage! Competitive parenting is a sport nobody can win. But don’t become so aloof around fellow moms that your child turns into an outcast. “Be sociable enough so the other mothers are willing to send their kids to your house to play,” says Rosenberg. “But when the competitive talk starts, say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize it was this late. I have to go.’” And don’t worry; you’ll find nice, laid-back mom-friends too!