9 Things I Didn’t Know Until I Became a Mom

My child is completely dependent on me for her safety and care, and it's terrifying to love someone so defenseless.
Publish date:
May 11, 2014
parenting, kids, moms, mother's day

I love Mother’s Day because it is the one day of the year when I am celebrated for all the work I do as a mom, and I can shamelessly ask to be doted upon, to indulge in spa treatments, for breakfast in bed and fresh cut flowers. That’s my jam.

After six-and a-half years, I can say with certainty that being a mom is no easy feat. Before I had a child, I couldn’t begin to comprehend what it would be like. It’s difficult to put into words, but here are at least 9 things I didn’t know until I became a mom…

1. I didn't know I could love in such an unconditional, proud way.

I had no idea this kind of love existed. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Having a child is like having your heart walk around outside your body.” This is really true. I am completely vulnerable. When I love another adult, I know that they are autonomous beings who can take care of themselves, but my child is completely dependent on me for her safety and care. It is terrifying to love someone so defenseless. I feel exposed. And yet, when loving someone in this way, even the smallest gesture of affection brings immense joy.2. I didn't know how to fully appreciate my time.

Before I had a child, I spent hours of my life staring at the wall, daydreaming. I owned my time and I could do anything I wanted with it. Now, I practically need to ask permission to do anything. I need to make sure someone will be available to watch my daughter if I want to go to yoga class or have drinks with friends or write at the coffee shop. Sometimes, using the bathroom is the only private time I have all day. My time has become so incredibly valuable to me that when I do have time alone, I try not to waste a minute. I love being alone now in a way I never did before. 3. I didn't know I'd believe in fairies again.

I never gave much thought to them in the mundane adult world of practicalities, but now fairies are at the forefront of most of the conversations I have with my daughter. We build special houses for them, leave them food and sing them songs. I never stopped believing, I just stopped considering it. I’m still very much a kid myself, especially when it comes to imagination. 4. I didn't know how to take care of myself.

Back in the day, I did things that made me happy with little concern for the consequences. Now, nearly everything I do is for my child and my family. I barely have time for the things that keep me sane -- the basics like exercising, eating, or socializing -- let alone things that keep me happy. Waking up to a child bouncing on my bed when I have a hangover is miserable. I can’t afford to get sick anymore; I need to take care of a child and I don’t want my kid to catch what I’ve got. Now, I have to be more conscious of what keeps me healthy and makes me happy and make sure to do it. 5. I didn't know how much sweetness was in the world.

I love the intellectual stimulation of adults. When I was at home with my child, I longed for adult interactions, but I also learned that there is a lovely, soft underbelly to the world that adults often ignore in favor of sex, drugs, cussing and violence. I don’t want my daughter to watch girls in skimpy outfits shooting fireballs at each other. I want her to watch Care Bears sliding down rainbows. There is so much sweetness in a child’s world, and in our world, if we are open to it.6. I didn't know I sucked at science.

Or at least I don’t remember anything I learned in science class, probably because I haven’t really needed to use it. What does it matter which planets are next to Venus or where lightning comes from or how radios works? Apparently, it matters to my kid. Her search for information is insatiable. Thank goodness for the Internet.7. I didn't know the only constant was change.

Just when I’d start getting a handle on the sleepless nights or the temper tantrums or the whining or the poor food choices, everything changed and I had to start over. It has been a practice in patience, non-attachment and living in the moment. I feel more present in my life than ever before.8. I didn't know how intensely moms can support each other.

I polled some moms in my community for ideas about what they learned when they became a mom, and I received dozens of comments, many of them similar to what I said above, some of them very serious, some of them silly. Each one was eager to give helpful input. I have been fortunate to be part of a tight group of non-judgmental moms with a great sense of humor. They helped me through some tough times and always have advice for me when I need it.9. And last but not least ... I didn't know how much my own mother devoted to me and my siblings.

This one’s for you, Mom. Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day!

What didn’t you know until you became a mom?