A well-documented phenomenon occurs regularly around pregnant first-time mums and I can’t help but take part. Let’s call it The Realism Checklist.
Maybe it’s because pregnant women glow too much from all those pregnancy hormones?
Never fear, we—your fellow mums and card-carrying, seasoned professionals—are overwhelmed by the need to prepare you for what’s ahead. I swear we can’t stop the words from coming out:
‘Childbirth, it wrecks your body.’
‘I don’t think my pelvic floor will ever be the same again.’
‘I feel like I’m dying from lack of sleep.’
‘Let me tell you about lochia.’
Unsolicited and definitely unwelcome, The Realism Checklist begins to take shape. I promise you, pregnant mama, all this scaremongering comes from a good place. Please understand; we were surprised by the pains of motherhood and we just want to make sure you are well prepared.
I rejoice to see the diversity of the stories about motherhood shared so openly. Like any journey, role or transition, motherhood features a gamut of emotions. But I wonder if I dive too quickly into the points of The Realism Checklist?
After recently noticing the look of quiet despair on a pregnant friend’s face I began to think about the power of acknowledging the pleasures of motherhood. So, let’s put The Realism Checklist aside for a moment and consider the surprising benefits of becoming a mum.
Surprised by joy
There are people who just love kids. You know the ones: playful, always coming up with fun games and content to crawl around on the floor. Those people who seek out the attention of children.
I am not one of those people.
Just two years into my motherhood journey I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy my child. I really, really like him. From his sweet and tender personality to his insanely cute laugh—I even like his sweaty, musty toddler smell.
Surprised by softness
The crucible of motherhood; the sheer amount of selfless sacrifice combined with tender love and patience has softened me. I am more nurturing and quicker to find empathy.
Motherhood has tuned my heart to listen to the needs of another. It has refined my emotional responses and extended my patience.
Of all the changes, this might have surprised me (and my husband!) the most. I’m a self-confessed fiery redhead, known for short-tempered door slamming and passionate rants. But something shifted when our son was born. My short fuse grew longer as my capacity for patience extended.
Surprised by productivity
The first few months after our son was born passed in blur of nappies, checkups and midnight feeding sessions. Before I could breathe my paid maternity leave was up and I had a work project ready and waiting to go.
I optimistically joined the world of work-at-home-mums and immediately faced the task of balancing work with life—all in the comfort (read: self-generating mess) of my own home.
I quickly developed a strategy to make the most of the short nap time window. As writing and editing work was only possible while my son slept, I would set a timer to count down from one hour. I told myself I would not be distracted—by housework, by Facebook, by TV—for one hour at a time.
It was frightening how often my mind would turn to distraction, but the ticking timer helped focus my attention and I knuckled down. Sometimes the hour was longer or (sadly) much shorter depending on the length of the nap. But whenever I got a chance to focus the timer was back on and—with sheer grit and determination—I’d finish off that hour!
I became the master of flexible scheduling, time-shifting tasks I could do with a baby in one hand to our son’s awake times. I learnt to clean the bathroom while my son sat watching in a high chair. I learnt all about baby wearing (and still regularly thank God for a wonderful invention called a Manduca!). I learnt the best slow-cooker recipes. There’s a saying: ‘if you want something done ask a busy mum.’ True story.
Surprised by creativity
Along with an increase in time efficiency came a release of creativity. Motherhood made me relax. My productive timetable actually allowed me room to create, laugh and dream.
My professional world began to grow and I developed new contacts, ideas and plans. I felt inspired and refreshed by my new outlook. I no longer had time to waste on projects I hated, so I focused on the ones I loved. I prayed hard, worked hard and leant into the chaos of life with children.
Does The Realism Checklist really exist?
Yes. Nothing truly great in life comes without cost.
But there is more to motherhood than realism. There is wonder; there is joy; the most insane cuteness; an explosion of profound emotions and the aching feeling of coming home.
At only two years in I barely think about stretchmarks or lochia anymore. No, my days are filled with sleep-deprived and deliriously joyful moments of grace. I can only hope I continue to be surprised by the pleasures and benefits of this wonderful, God-given gift.