The moment you see that little plus sign on your pee stick, the fantasizing begins. Rocking her to sleep in your Pottery Barn glider. His fingers wrapped around your thumb drifting in a milk-drunk haze. Spying your older child staring in awe at his new snuggly little sibling.
Those precious moments do happen, and they’re everything you pictured. But sometimes your baby will projectile vomit formula over said rocking chair. He’ll turn your nipples into ground beef after a non-stop nursing binge. Your toddler will “lovehisbabysistersosomuch!” until he beans her with a binky in the face moments later.
Parenting is as incredible as you dreamed about. It’s also smellier, messier, grosser, and more infuriating than you ever imagined. As a mom, you’ll quickly learn you’ll always feel loved, but never feel appreciated. In the end, the bond you have with your child is worth all the snot, vomit, and sleepless nights in the world.
Three moms at every stage in parenthood—from their first through their sixth—share what they expected when they were expecting. And more importantly, how reality actually turned out.
Amber, new mom to twin boys
OTHER PARENTS LOVE TO FREAK YOU OUT
“Take what you hear from people with a grain of salt, and don’t think what they say is how it will be. Almost everything I was told would happen didn’t happen…I had read and been told horror stories by twin and singleton parents. I was prepared to be so sleep-deprived and ready to lose my mind that when it didn’t happen, I was overjoyed! The boys are on their own feeding schedule, and they eat at the same time.”
GO WITH THE, UM, FLOW
“One of our boys pees any time you change his diaper. My husband went to change him, and he started peeing a long flow [the baby, not the husband]. Once he got that under control and cleaned up, the baby started pooping. All my husband had was a measly diaper wipe that didn’t help. He just scooped it up and had poo all over his hands. He came into the kitchen and didn’t know if he should wash right away or go to the trash!”
STAY CALM AND KEEP A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
“Just breathe! Your kids train you at this stage—you’ll learn their wants and desires, and life revolves around them. Cuddle as much as you can since at this age, they can’t be spoiled. Follow your momma instinct—it won’t lead you astray. And most important, let people help! That was the hardest for me. Remember the bad times won’t last long, and the good times go by too fast!”
Lisa, mom to two daughters
EMBRACE CHANGE AND FLEXIBILITY
“Raising the second has been a lot easier than the first in so many ways. You know what to expect, and you learn they’re not as fragile as you think they are. Honestly, I feel like my second has been forced to suck it up at times. I let her play more, get dirty more, and I certainly don’t keep her on a schedule as much as I did with my first.”
RESENTMENT IS THE NEW NORMAL
“Regan [their second baby] was exclusively breastfed and only wanted me. If Kyle opened the door, she would scream, and after many attempts to break her out of it, no such luck. With the flu, colds and allergies, and kidney stones, I would pump and pump—I was the sole provider to her no matter what. Of course, 12 months of only me didn’t get me much time out of the house. I would remind, swear, curse, elbow Kyle, and even downright cry at times in the middle of the night when I heard that little cry. I wanted Kyle to feel bad. I wanted him to appreciate me and everything I was doing to keep this little human alive with no sleep. After her first birthday, things started to get better, and after we bought our new home, she has gotten to the point of sleeping all night and loving Kyle and me the same.”
SAVOR EVERY SWEET MOMENT
“We took Raine to one of our ultrasounds…It was quiet, then all of a sudden we hear, “OMG, mommy, mommy, daddy, daddy, the baby has ankles, feet, and toes.” We laughed, and said yes. Looking back at the screen, she was silent with a weird look on her face, and you hear, “Mommy, the baby has no shoes on.” Raine was very concerned for a few days that the baby was not wearing shoes and asked over and over why.”
Stephanie, mom to six
RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN
“I’ll always remember this rule—before our first was born, my husband and I talked about various rules and expectations we thought we’d have for our home. We wanted to stay organized, so one of them was developing a system for toys where our kids would only play with one at a time, then clean that toy up before playing with another one. HAHAHA! Nope! Fast forward six kids and many, many toys later, I’m still sifting toys off every surface on a daily basis. Another ideal rule broken—vegetables at every single meal. I had good intentions, but I’ve learned that if I can save my sanity by serving the kids a quick meal of nuggets and fries, it’s well worth it.”
YES, THERE’S TIME FOR EVERYONE
“I never wanted my kids to feel overlooked simply because they’re part of a big family. To that end, I fit in quality time with each kid by taking advantage of the time I use for mundane things (like errands, shopping trips, etc.) and bringing one specific child along. While the task we’re accomplishing may be ordinary, we have fun joking, eating something delicious, and bonding along the way. I also make a point to spend time with each kid, even briefly, at bedtime—stories for the younger children and talking with the older ones. It’s another way to check in with each child and remind them they’re important as individuals.”
YOU JUST HAVE TO LAUGH SO YOU DON’T CRY
“With so many colorful personalities under one roof, there’s always something funny happening, even if it’s not so funny in the moment. Usually, it’s the passing comments that the kids make that are so funny, and they often don’t realize how funny they are.
For example, one day as I came out of the bathroom, my five-year-old ran up to be me and blurted out, ‘Mommy, are you going to be mad or sad? Which one?’ That was an alarming question, so of course I began responding with, ‘Why? What happe-“. She turned and yelled over her shoulder, ‘Guys, it’s gonna be mad so wipe it up!’ ‘It’ was a massive lemonade spill.
Was it funny at the time? NO. But time has a way of making kid catastrophes funny. Time, and Clorox wipes.”