As my youngest baby nears two and my oldest baby nears five, something is happening in my world. The “fog” is starting to lift. Having three children in less than three years has made motherhood an all-consuming job. For almost five years I’ve been living in a perpetual state of chaos and fatigue. It’s been a hectic pace but I’ve squeezed a lot of learning into this chapter of my life. Here are 20 random lessons I’ve learned on the job:
1. Motherhood redefines pain, exhaustion and love; the order of which depends on the day!
2. If you want to make any friends at mothers’ group DON’T tell them if your baby is sleeping through the night at eight weeks. Feign tiredness and nod sympathetically if you want to connect.
3. First-time mothers know their baby is 21 months and 6 days old. Second-time mums know vaguely in months, and third-time mums round up or down to the nearest year.
4. Nursing a baby while nursing a hangover is worse than labour.
5. Sometimes those infomercials you watch blankly in the dead of the night actually seem like good ideas.
6. More than once you will find yourself pushing an empty pram, rocking a shopping trolley or swaying from side to side even when your baby is not with you!
7. The old-fashioned height measuring system on the back of door is much cooler than the high-end wall decals flooding the market.
8. When you go out without your first-born baby you feel naked. When you go out without your second-born you call to check in with the babysitter. When you go out without your third-born you don’t want to come home!
9. Bribes, rewards, incentives: call them what you like, they all mean the same thing and there’s a place for them in my mothering book.
10. Nappy wipes will dominate your life for years, but their uses extend beyond babies’ bottoms.
11. Your child who never sleeps during the day, won’t eat anything, and throws tantrums, will miraculously transform into an angel when their dad is looking after them.
12. There is a lot of code in motherhood around child behaviour: “Spirited” is a nice way of defining explosive, intense behaviour, and an “energetic” child is most likely strong-willed, stubborn and unable to concentrate.
13. Kids’ birthday cakes do not have to be Pinterest perfect. I’ve spent hours – actually days – assembling the perfect Castle Cake and immaculate fairy cakes. The one they declared “The Best Cake Ever” was the $5 chocolate mud cake purchased from the supermarket.
14. The crinkly kangaroo pouch of skin that was once your tummy is here to stay. Accept it and think of it as a “souvenir” from your pregnancy.
15. The bonds boy-cut knickers that now replace your matching sets are also here to stay.
16. You eat a lot of humble pie as a mum. The things you swore you’d never do become necessary for your survival (for example, refer to 9).
17. Treachery (like feeding your baby formula) is best committed not by the traitor herself but by a hired assassin (dad).
18. When you think you’ve cleaned up the last of the vomit, be prepared for one last spew all over the bed linen you’ve just replaced. There’s always one more after the last one.
19. Forcing your toddler to go to their room for quiet time when they are not tired doesn’t always work. Feeling smug one day, I told my 3-year-old she had to have a day rest, if not a sleep. As her room fell silent I applauded myself for being firm and enjoyed an hour of peace. When I later opened her door to discover a hand drawn mural in pink highlighter the entire length of her wall, I didn’t feel so smug after all. But refer to number 10 for the saviour!
What’s missing from this list? What lessons have you learned on the job?
* First published on Essential Baby.