As all parents know, there's sometimes a significant difference between parenting expectations and reality. So today, I give you four things that you think you know but don't really know until you have kids.
#1 Parenting is a 24/7 job. Sure, you may anticipate the sleepless nights spent rocking a wailing newborn...but you don't anticipate the night your older child gets sick and keeps you up for hours the night before a really important business meeting. Or that you will face literally years of being unable to go to the bathroom without a small person following you in. Or that any plans you make for the foreseeable future will be made with the caveat, What do we do with the kids? The thing about having kids is, they're always around. And even if they're not physically with you, they're still top of mind. Always.
#2 Sleep will become the most important commodity. From the moment your baby is born, your life will revolve around his or her sleeping patterns. You will crave sleep the way you once craved sex or Ben & Jerry's, and you will bargain and trade for it over anything else. And even when your children are regularly sleeping through the night, for many years, your life will be dictated by their sleep schedules. When will they need to nap? How late can they stay up if they don't nap? Should we leave the party or try to put them to bed here? Is it worth the effort or should we just pack it in and go home? And so on.
#3 Potty training will take over your life (for a while). In truth, my first wasn't bad. Once she made up her mind to do it, there was no turning back. But before that, there was a long stretch of accidents and frustration and wondering what we were doing wrong or if we were pushing her too hard. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of the messes of parenting, and I'm really not looking forward to going through potty training again with kid No. 2.
#4 Sometimes, you won't be the parent you want to be. I don't know about you, but when I imagined what I'd be like as a parent, I often pictured myself doing crafts with glitter glue at the kitchen table, with Christmas carols playing in the background, or baking chocolate chip cookies with two smiling girls who'd jump up and down in anticipation as I proudly took them out of the oven. And sometimes, that's what it's like. But more often, I'm gritting my teeth as I count to five at the top of my lungs and threaten to revoke TV-watching privileges while my preschooler screams bloody murder and throws herself into contortions on the kitchen floor. I have to accept that, while I'm not always the model mom, I'm doing my best. That's got to be good enough.
And a bonus #5: no matter how different your day-to-day life may be from what you'd imagined, you'd still do it all over again. In a heartbeat.