Parenthood doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but it does come with a serious set of consequences if you mess up as a mom. In a world where American children are at an extremely high risk of being bullied to the point of suicide, becoming victims of sexual assault, or catching the Ebola virus, parents need to exercise extra caution and panic.
Now that I’m “settled in” to motherhood, I find it easy to forget just how difficult it was to figure the whole thing out. If I could go back in time, these are the things I would tell myself.
1. You’re going to hate them for a while.
It’s a big myth in the parenting world that the minute you lay eyes on your newborn, your priorities change and you’re overcome with this sense of love and connection with your baby. That’s simply not true. In fact, most mothers feel no more connection to their newborn than they would any other damn thing that came out of their body; ready to dismiss the crying imp like a used band aid.
If you don’t immediately love your child, it’s not only okay, it’s perfectly normal. Every woman has the impulse to neglect or discard their infant, and we’re made to feel shame about it because the women who act on those impulses are painted as sick twisted individuals rather than what they really are – impatient. Give it some time, and eventually you’ll get over that urge to drown them in the bathtub.
2. Then, you’ll be indifferent.
Once your resentment for your child wears off, you’ll enter a transition period. You’re not just suddenly going to love and adore them. You’ll cope with the fact that you’re not able to have fun anymore. You’ll cope with the fact that they have irreparably damaged your body – either by wrecking your elasticity or leaving you with a hideous scar on your stomach. You’ll be able to forgive them for this.
But, you still won’t love them. That takes even more time, several years in some cases. For now, you’re in a period of indifference. You’ll notice that while at first you were repulsed by your child, you’ve learned to sort of just accept their existence and you’ll start seeing that you’re not in this alone. Lots of women are plagued with motherhood.
3. Everyone is a babysitter.
The best part about being a mother is that everyone is always willing to help you, and despite what you might initially think, you never really need to pay for a babysitter. You can ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your child when you want to go out for some drinks, or you can leave an older child, or a well-trained (preferably larger) breed of dog in charge of the household while you’re gone. Don’t think for a second that paying someone money to watch your child makes them any more qualified than an elderly relative or the television.
4. There’s a fine line between disciplining your child, and beating your child.
I don’t know your beliefs, but this is a spank-positive household. I knew from the minute I gave birth that I wouldn’t be one of those moms that lets their child speak back to them in public or get away with crying. I knew I was going to hit my son, but when it finally came time to hit him, I didn’t know how hard to do it or with what.
Unfortunately, every child is different, and the process of determining whether to use a belt or your hand, and how much force to apply, takes time. I had to spend several years explaining the marks on my son to other parents and teachers. But, now that I know how to hurt him just enough that he learns his lesson, my son is mark free and I no longer have to worry about him using the DVR without permission or touching my collection of American Girl dolls.
5. Eventually, you’ll learn to love them.
It takes time – a lot of time – but eventually, you will love your child. Just hang in there, don’t give up, and familiarize yourself with the consequences of parental neglect. Just look at all the cases around the country of parents that are leaving their children in hot cars, thinking that they can simply write it off as a mistake. That doesn’t work anymore. You will be arrested, and you will end up in jail.
I remember the first time I realized my son was a blessing. He was seven years old, I had just been dumped by a man that was two-timing me, and I just wanted to sit in my room and be alone for a while. Mason, my son, came in to my room, and I raised my hand to him assuming that he was about to pester me about dinner. But, pester he did not. He showed genuine concern. He wanted to know who hurt me. He showed me that even with my makeup smeared and his stomach empty, he loved me because I am his mother.
That’s the true beauty of motherhood; it’s that no matter what, you’ll always have this person that’s intrinsically linked to you. You brought them into this world, and they have an emotional responsibility towards you. They have to love you no matter how old, ugly, or mean you are. And once you get to that point of motherhood – you’ll never be alone again. You’ll always be special.