I must have blinked sometime recently (blinking counts as sleep when you’re a parent, right?) because, suddenly, my little baby is a year old.
How did THAT happen?
I swear I was pregnant like last week and he was born yesterday, wasn’t he?
My best friend (and mommy guru, oracle of all things motherhood) told me when I felt like I was drowning in the early days of maternity leave that, when you have kids, “the days are long, but the years are short.” Boy, is that accurate!
So what have I learned this year?
I’m not going to list everything because I’d be writing that list until he was two, then need to start the list of things I learned in that year. But there are some big ones worth mentioning.
One of the first things I learned: I don’t know that I could be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe when kids are a little older, but those first couple months when the hubby went back to work before summer started were ROUGH. Don’t get me wrong: being a working mom is ridiculously hard. I miss Jacob all day and wish I were with him, but if I were home with him all day every day with no breaks, I think I’d go insane and start writing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” on the walls.
With that said, I have TERRIBLE SAHM FOMO (Stay-at-home mom fear of missing out). I 100 percent WISH I had the means to be a stay at home mom and I’m DESPERATELY looking forward to my summer home with him. DESPERATELY. I absolutely NEVER want to go back to work when it’s time. But I also recognize that having some adult time is good for me. (Granted, I’m not sure teaching in a high school counts as “adult time,” but I’ll take what I can get.)
However, I also could never afford to be a stay-at-home mom either. So maybe some of this is my brain tricking me so I don’t spend all day crying. But in one sense I’m a better mom to Jacob when I’m absolutely dying to see him at the end of the work day. (Like literally. When they spring a meeting on me at the end of the day, I will cut someone to get home to my baby!)
I could, however, be a stay-at-home dog mom quite happily. But I’d be able to go to the gym, go shopping, shower, pee with the door closed, etc with just dogs. Despite what I thought prior to having a child, babies are a different ballgame altogether.
I learned to try to sweat the small stuff less. I know that everything feels catastrophic in the moment, but the reality is, we’ll get through whatever it is. Whether it’s the baby not gaining enough weight or a flat head or physical therapy or whatever pain in the ass is coming next. Is it going to suck at the time? Yes. But we’ll figure it out and come through on the other side.
I learned that I can’t be perfect. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give up and stop trying, but it’s okay if people see the flaws. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide all of my imperfections from everyone, but that stupid helmet taught me that I can’t do that anymore because I’m no longer just me. I’m a mom. So there are going to be times when I get to school with scrambled egg in my hair (happened yesterday) or spit-up on my shirt (thank god we’re past that phase!) or other general less than perfectisms. And that’s okay. And if anyone judges me for that, they’ll understand when they have kids. Or not. Who cares?
The cool thing is that I DO care a little less about that now. I laughed about the hair eggs and asked if the kid who pointed them out was hungry. And on a serious note, I have to admit that the responses that I got when I posted about Jacob’s helmet helped me realize that, despite what you see on social media, no one’s life is perfect. Everyone has all kinds of crap, most more serious than mine, that they’re dealing with. They’re not all broadcasting theirs in a blog, but I’m not broadcasting ALL of mine either. (Yes, dear reader, I keep secrets from you. #sorrynotsorry.)
I’ve learned that being a mom is one of the hardest things in the world. I was NOT sympathetic enough to my friends with kids before Jacob was born. Like oh my god, this is HARD. I’m feeling a lot of delayed-reaction guilt that I made my best friend drop everything and come to the Jersey shore for my bachelorette party when she had a four month old and an almost three year old at home. She fell asleep pumping at the kitchen table after we went out one night. Now that I’ve been there and get it, I can’t believe she loves me enough to have dropped everything for me that weekend and I can’t believe I was a big enough jerk to ask her to. I also have NO idea how people do this with two or more kids. How does that even work? I’m exhausted just THINKING about a second baby!
I’ve learned that planning doesn’t work. I’m a big planner. And prior to pregnancy, those plans were beautifully executed because I was good at planning. Babies, however, are plan kryptonite. Breakfast yesterday? I planned to be on time for work with food-free hair, but I was late with hair eggs instead. If I plan to go somewhere, I can virtually guarantee that Jacob will poop right when I’m about to leave, or refuse to eat, or find some new way to prevent that from happening. But I keep making those plans, beating on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the hands of a plan-destroying baby (toddler? I guess he’s not TECHNICALLY a baby anymore. BRB crying forever).
I’ve learned nothing is THAT gross. Okay, maybe that’s not technically true, as lots of things are REALLY FREAKING GROSS when you have a baby. But you deal with it. My mother loves to tell the story (no really, she LOVES to tell this story. Like in front of my friends, boss, cashier at TJ Maxx, you name it) of the time she took me to the grocery store in a primitive 1980s baby carrier and I pooped down her shirt and she didn’t even notice until she went to put me back in the car. As Forrest Gump and the shirts say, it happens. And you clean it up and you deal with it. And if you make fake gagging noises when you’re cleaning something super gross, Jacob will laugh hysterically. (My brother and sister-in-law were horrified when we were trying to get Jacob to smile for a picture with his new cousin and we started gagging at him. It worked though!)
I’ve learned that I need to find time for myself. There are three main components to keeping Sara happy and sane. Reading, writing, and exercise. All three of which are INSANELY difficult to find time to do when you’re a new mom. The exercise part was fine when it was warm out because I would take long walks with Jacob, but once it got cold out, that got much harder. I can’t work out at night because I’ll never sleep if I do it that close to bedtime (I’m the world’s worst insomniac). Mornings are out because I already have to get up an hour earlier this year than I did pre-baby to get him ready and I’m not yet getting enough sleep at night to get up at 4am to work out. So I am HEAVILY (no pun intended when I’m not exercising) anticipating the return of warm weather.
Reading wasn’t that hard to reinstate because I just added in 20 minutes at bedtime. I love my Kindle because it tells me how long it’ll take me to read the chapter that I’m on, but it gets hard when I’m reading something that I love because I’m always like, well, I could read ONE more chapter. And then suddenly it’s midnight and I want to die. But that’s only happened a couple of times so far because the desire to sleep still wins out most nights.
Writing has been a challenge, but that’s why I started this blog. I also just signed with a new agent for my new book and she seems awesome, so I need to start revisions ASAP. That’s going to be tricky because I don’t work well in short chunks of time. I work best when I have a couple of solid weeks of time to sit down and focus. But it’s important enough to me that I’ll find a way.
And finally, I’ve learned that motherhood is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love Jacob more than I ever thought possible and I’ve learned that THAT makes all of the rest of it worth it.