To say that no woman is ever prepared to be a mother is an understatement. Whether motherhood finds you at 18, like it did me, or at 41 like one of my friends, there is nothing a book or a mother of 12 can tell a new mom that can prepare her for the happiness she will encounter at the very sight of her baby, or perhaps the total opposite.
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” does not mention the ugly crying that follows when the milk just won’t come, the swollen lady bits or the sheer terror of bathing your baby for the first time in a way any mom can process and feel at the same time. But with time, we get better at it, we wing it, we make it up as we go and we do the best we can.
We become experts at curing boo boos. We search the internet to find out what words mean so we can seem cool around our kids and their friends.
Years pass, children get older, we get the hang of the mom thing, then… BAM!!! Something hits you that no book, no movie, and no experienced mother can prepare you for; your baby is ready to spread her wings – she is ready to leave the nest and start one of her own.
Suddenly, you feel like a failure, unwanted, like you are not enough, like your home and everything you have provided and sacrificed up to that day doesn’t matter. You feel like you are really that unimportant in their life that they would much rather live with someone you barely know and sustain themselves with Ramen Noodles and tap water than stay in their warm home with a full pantry, and a loving (and let’s not forget cool) mom.
The hardest part of being a mother is not welcoming a child into the world. In my opinion, the hardest part of being a mother is seeing your baby’s mattress and plastic totes full of NSYNC blankets and bobble heads being loaded into a minivan and knowing that the little twerp is HAPPY about it. Perhaps even worse than that, is coming home from work and finding an empty space where her pile of shoes used to be, and nothing the echo of the broom as you sweep up the last gum wrappers and hair ties left behind.
I am here to tell you this, brace yourselves, mommas, you are in for a ride. It will hurt as the days go by and then all of a sudden you’ll realize this: your baby left your home…NOT you. That baby moved on to become the independent, strong, amazing and fierce person YOU raised them to be. He or She is okay being on her own because YOU gave them all the tools to make it on their own, to fend for themselves, to become a resourceful and useful member of society all on their own and they owe it all to YOU.
You may feel like the entire time you were raising them was another sequel to Bad Moms but guess what?? YOU MADE THAT BABY WHO TURNED INTO A AN ADULT WHO CAN DO ANYTHING SHE SETS HER MIND TO. So, YES, I am taking all the credit for the woman my baby has become. I see and hear all my lessons when I walk into her apartment, when I speak to her boyfriend and when I see how amazing she is at being a stepmom. I taught her well and gave her all the tools she needed to succeed.
One day your baby, boy or girl, WILL leave you, it will leave a hole in your heart for the baby that walked away, only to be filled by the adult you created. You will call each other 5 times a day, you will share too much information, some that will make others blush and some that will make others question both of your sanity. You will still worry about your little bundle and will wake up at 4:30 in the morning and you will still bring them food and medicine when they are sick, but now they can get their own darn Taco Bell, make a mess out of their OWN apartment and they won’t steal your lipstick or shoes anymore!
Most of you reading this won’t have to worry about your empty nest for a while. I started my mommyhood adventure when I was really young, and my baby and I, well, grew up together; so her moving out felt like losing my child and my best friend at the same time. It was hard and it still is, because she taught me as much about being a woman as I have taught her and I am proud to say that the bond still and will forever remain. So to prepare you for that dreaded day, my advice to you, dear mommas, is this: Tell your babies how much you love them every day. Tell them they are important every chance you get. Brush their precious locks every single time the opportunity arises, but also teach them about life.
Teach them about safe sex. Teach them about about never settling, about never allowing a partner to make them feel inferior. Teach them how to bargain shop, how to do laundry, how to make a grilled cheese and a cup of coffee. Teach them about good books, good food and the importance of “if it sounds too good to be true, it just may be,” because while they are little now, they won’t be little forever. And though we want to protect them and keep them in a safe cocoon, the world is cruel and strange and there is a lot to be learned and they should learn it from you, if you know what I mean.
They ARE listening to what you say and they DO care about what you are teaching them. Even when they spend all their time in their room or with their friends, they are picking up what you are dishing out.
Our babies will always need us, whether big or small. Look at us! We still need our moms, and for us lucky ones who still have ours around, doesn’t it feel amazing to be able to have mom to run back to? Guess what? That will be you one day, and believe me, it feels amazing when they come back to you for advice or for just a cup of coffee. I know I will have to go through it again. My little one is now 13 and I am not prepared to see that one leave me, either, but boy am I thrilled to see the places she’ll go and how my mind will be blown by her fierceness, her strength and her accomplishments, just like her sister.
In the words of Robert Munsch, to our babies – mine and yours, I say this…
I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”