10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Mom

I have been a stay-at-home mom for about a year and a half now and I think I have learned more in the last 17 months than I did during four years of college. The trouble is, my new set of skills is a less appreciated, taken for granted, not noticed, and often mind numbing.

I know that sounds kind of harsh but I truly feel like mom skills are often disregarded completely. They are glue, they are necessary, they help everything function, but they are kind of invisible (unless they are not done).

I am the magic laundry washer, dish washer, dinner cooker, grocery buyer, and high-chair clean up patrol. These things get done every day, the house stays clean, my family stays happy and taken care of. It never ends. (Read 7 Tips Guaranteed to Make Your Home Feel Cleaner)

Before I became a mom, specifically a stay-at-home mom, I just had no idea what it entailed. My rosy vision of life after my baby came was far from reality. So, with that in mind, here are ten things that I wish I had known before becoming a mom.

It Is Hard

I gained a whole new level of appreciation for my mother after I became one myself. It really is a tireless job. I don’t think there is any other job that requires you to be on call every hour of every day. There is this tiny person who depends on you for everything. Then, if you breastfeed, that dependency seems even greater because that tiny person literally needs you near all of the time (Read 9 Reasons I Hated Breastfeeding and the Five Things that Helped Me Keep At It). Then there is a home to look after, and meals to cook, and a million things to do and remember each and every day. Motherhood is no walk in the park and is not for the faint of heart. This is hands down the hardest job I have ever had.

There Is Not More Time

I specifically remember a day when I was sitting at work rubbing my pregnant belly and thinking how nice it would be to not have to get up early and to sleep in and play with my baby. . .I know pretty bad. I was very naive. As a new mom, I did not have time for exercise, or leisure activities, or showering, or sleep.

There were many things that I thought I would suddenly have time for once I quit my nine-to-five and stayed home all day but I just didn’t. I was busy every minute of every day and I could never quite pinpoint what I had to show for it. Rather than having more time, I found I had less and that it was very precious. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Miss Going to Work

In the beginning, I was so jealous that my husband got to go to work each day. He got to go and use his brain, speak with other adults, contribute to society, get paid, and most importantly, leave the house.

Now, I am not saying that stay-at-home moms don’t use their brains or contribute to society (I think they probably contribute to society more than any other profession) but in the first few months it was hard to realize that. I had to tell myself each day that my baby was alive and well and that I had done a good job. I also had to reconcile myself to a new working standard and come up with ways to make motherhood a job that I wanted and could handle (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom).

You Will Feel Lonely

Going from a job where I was engaged with people all day long to hardly seeing anyone was tough. I had days and weeks where I just felt lonely and trapped. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my baby more than I thought possible but mentally and emotionally it was a huge adjustment.

You Will Feel Stagnant

Like I said earlier, I have learned tons of new skills as a mom. I can change a diaper anywhere, I can clean my house, I garden, I understand kids clothing, I can get stains out, I cook much better than I used to, and the list could keep on going.

Despite these new skills, I often used to feel stagnant. I wasn’t going to school, I wasn’t creating (much), I just didn’t feel like I was moving forward and learning (even though I was). Mom learning was just different than the academic learning that I craved. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Get Better at It

Time, practice, and necessity make motherhood easier. Eventually, you will be able to go to the grocery store without fear and sleep again and have a hobby. As hard as it is at first, it gets better and more enjoyable as time marches on. (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom or Easy 2-Step Time Management)

You Will Give Unconditional Love

I try to give and get unconditional love to and from my husband and I think we do a fairly good job. However, the love I give and get from my baby is a little bit different. Mostly, I think because it was so automatic. I knew as soon as he was in my arms that I would do whatever I could to keep him safe and make him happy and help him to be good. Before having my son, I had heard plenty of stories about instant unconditional love and for me, they were right. (Which surprised me since I am not really a baby person.)

You Will Get Unconditional Love

This is the one that surprised me. I knew (or at least really hoped) that I would love my baby but I didn’t expect or think about, the fact that he would love me too.

When he was little he was always happiest in my arms. Now that he is bigger, he gives me his biggest happiest smiles. He runs to my open arms, he hugs my legs, he calls my name when he is sick and sad and tired, he climbs into my lap, and he looks at me like I am the most important person in the world.

My husband is top notch and loves me with all his heart but there is something to be said for all of the love and trust that you get from a child who is completely dependent on you. It is humbling and makes me a better person daily.

 

You Will Have Magical Moments and Days

For ever monotonous, unappreciated moment there is one full of magic. Being home all of the time is often very dull but it is often wonderful. The law of opposition is definitely in full force for stay-at-home moms.

Keeping a home and raising a child requires that many of the exact same tasks be done over and over again. Laundry. Dishes. Cleaning the bathroom. Wiping down the dang highchair. However, being at home all of the time also allows you the opportunity to see many firsts and to know that you were a huge part of them.

I got to see my little boy roll over for the first time, take his first steps, say his first word, paint his first picture, smile for the first time. I get to see the look of pride and accomplishment on his face when he learns new things, I get to be here as his sense of humor develop, I’m the one who secretly watches him from the doorway when he pretends to read to his toys. So, as hard and sometimes slow-moving as motherhood is. I wouldn’t trade it for something else.

 

It is Worth It

Motherhood is hard, tiring, lonely, and busy. It requires more love, patience, and faith than anything else I have ever done. It takes all of your time and so much practice. But it is worth it. There is not a more fulfilling, life changing job out there and don’t let the world convince you that your time could be better spent. This is where it is at.

My question for you. If you could give your pre-mom self one piece of advice, what would it be?

 

Seven Tips Guaranteed to Make Your House Clean

If you are anything like me, then you find it hard to function when your home feels dirty. I have a hard time doing anything fun or even sleeping when there is clutter. This unfortunate quirk has forced me into several habits that help me keep my house clean all of the time (or at least the majority of the time) so that I can focus on something less boring.

Decide Which Areas in Your House Bother You the Most

The number one area in my house that bugs me, is the kitchen. If my table is covered in stuff (which happens incredibly quickly) or my floor has gone a day too long without sweeping, I have a hard time thinking. The kitchen is followed closely by my bedroom, the front room, and the family room. I have found that when these areas are clean, my whole house feels clean.  So, I pick a handful of rooms that I can control and put my primary focus and effort there.

On the flip side, I have given up trying to bring order to my husbands work areas and surfaces. I shut the door to the office, laundry room, and garage and pretend they aren’t there. He has a different way of working/organizing. To me, it looks like a mess, but it works for him. So yeah, I trick myself into believing I have a clean house.

This tip is hard because it asks you to accept the fact that you don’t have control over the whole house. The more people you live with, the less clean your house is going to be (simply because everyone’s definition of clean is different).  Accept that, and you are halfway to a clean house, more freedom, and less restricted happiness.

Don’t Collect Junk

This tip seems easy but it definitely takes conscious effort. When L was little, I found myself at the store a lot just to be somewhere that wasn’t home. While I was at the store, I would buy stuff. Stuff I did not need and sometimes even want.

It is one hundred percent easier to keep a  clean house when you are not filling it with purposeless stuff. So, buy deliberately, with a clear purpose in mind. Ask yourself why you are buying something, what and how often you are going to use it, and where that thing is going to live when it is not in use. If you can’t come up with convincing answers to these questions, don’t buy it.

On the same note, getting rid of the junk you already have makes your house cleaner and less cluttered.

Have A Place for Everything

If your item passes the, “is it junk?” test, from above, then make sure it has a home or definitive place within your house where it belongs. We live in a small house and I organize a lot. So, the “homes” of my objects change from time to time but everything always has a place where it goes. The idea that everything has its own spot, should make it easy to put away.

Put Things Away Instead of Just Down

Like I said earlier, my kitchen table collects everyone’s stuff like that’s its job. By the end of a busy day, it can have everything from half eaten food to shoes on it. Yeah … shoes. Unfortunately, the table is the junk drawer of the house. This, to me, is unacceptable because you know we eat there and… I need the kitchen clean to think properly.

This tip, when implemented by everyone in the house literally keeps the house clean. Put dishes in the dishwasher when you are done, put clothing in the laundry basket after you take it off, put the toys away when you move onto a new activity. . . If everyone puts their stuff away in its predesignated place when they finish using it or enter the house, then the table or floor or counter does not become a dumping spot and clutter disappears.

Admittedly, there are only three people in my house right now and of the two of us who understand this concept, only one of us implements it. However, I still think it is a habit to strive for. Even though I am the only one who does it, it still keeps my house drastically cleaner than it would be if I didn’t do it.

Have a Quick Morning Task List

Each morning, I spend 10-15 minutes on my quick cleans. These are things that keep my house tidy and running with minimal effort (because mornings are hard).  I should also note that if I manage to do these items before my baby wakes up they take hardly any time. If I wait until he is awake to “help me” they take a good hour.

The first thing I do is make my bed (2 minutes). This makes it far less likely that I will have a nap during the day and it immediately makes my bedroom feel clean. The second thing I do is collect the laundry from the day before and sort it in my laundry room. If I have a full load ready, I start it and set my phone timer to remind me it is going (2-5 minutes). The third thing I do is make sure the dishwasher is empty and the dishes from the night before are put away so that my counters are clear (2-5 minutes).

Doing those three tasks each morning makes it so that my house feels clean, I have a place to put dishes other than the counter for the rest of the day, and guarantees we will have clean clothes.

Do a Nightly Walk Through/Task List

On the flip side of the day, I spend another 15-30 minutes making sure my house is ready for the morning (nights are not as hard as mornings). After I put my baby to bed, I fold and put away any laundry I did during the day (5-10 minutes). Then I check the dishes situation: load or unload the dishwasher, wash big pans and bottles, and clean off kitchen surfaces (5-10 minutes). Finally, I walk through my key rooms and pick loose items up. We don’t have a whole lot of extra stuff so this is pretty easy and usually consists of putting away things my one-year-old moved or played with throughout the day.

Set Aside a Specific Time or Day Each Week to do General Cleaning

This is the only task on the list that takes a large chunk of time. All of the other tasks make my house feel clean throughout the week with minimal time and effort. This task helps me to keep a legitimately clean house.

I set aside each Monday (because weekends are messy) to put my house back together and do a slightly deeper cleaning. Monday is the day for bathroom cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and mopping. It is also the day I encourage my baby to help and show him how to clean. I know he is little but I want him to grow up knowing how to clean, that a clean house is attainable, and that it’s normal for boys to clean.

I have a cleaning rotation for Mondays that works well for us. If you would like more details, subscribe to my newsletter below.

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I want to know what suggestions you have for making your home feel clean. Please share your comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, read Two Step Time Managment for Getting Stuff Done.

Five Ways to Get Exercise With a Toddler (Who Loves the Outdoors)

The other night, my son woke up screaming at about 10:30 pm. Now, sleep training and crying it out are a whole other matter that I will get into later. Suffice it to say we fall into an in-between camp and pay close attention to what his crying sounds like. We always go comfort him when it is his panic or pain cry. This was his panic cry, which we have come to guess coincides with nightmares (it is very distinct), so I went. He put his arms around my neck and sighed and started speaking rapid baby to me.

 

I wasn’t smart enough to teach him sign language early on, so our communication consists mostly of the word da (with various emphasis and intonations) and lots of pointing and hand gestures. This usually works well enough but exhausted charades in the dark was a bit too much for both of us. He was sobbing again before I realized that what he wanted was not his stuffed animal, or a story, or a bottle . . . he just wanted to go outside.

I tried to explain to him that it was dark and that it was night time but he just pointed at the window and cried. It was at that moment that his Daddy came in and realized what it was he wanted. Before I knew it, he was being wrapped in a big blanket and Nick was taking him out the door. The three of us ended up on a short walk around the block in our pajamas.

Being outdoors has long been a source of comfort for him and he calmed down significantly on our short nighttime adventure. When we got home, he gave us each a hug and went right back to sleep.

My point is, my toddler loves being outdoors. I am incredibly grateful that the thought of going outside brings him comfort and happiness because I am the same way. This being said, we have been experimenting with safe activities that allow us both to be outside to get exercise and fresh air.

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Hiking

I am blessed to live in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and we take advantage of that gift at every opportunity. I wrote a post about what I learned hiking with my baby and most of it still applies to a toddler. But let me tell you, hiking with a toddler is so much more fun. I love watching his eyes light up when he sees new places and things. He loves to throw rocks in the water, watch animals, collect sticks, and touch trees.

In order to help us both get our exercise and outside time, I hike for a mile or two then let him out of the carrier to explore.  The key to a successful toddler hike (in my mind) is three-fold. I get exercise, he gets exercise, we both have fun.

Notice, I didn’t say we make it a specific destination. Pinning your hopes of waterfall grandeur on a toddler is not wise. Hike for the journey, not the destination.

Biking

Before I got pregnant, I used to ride my bike all over. However, after months of puking and no exercise, I had to give it up for a bit. Then I had the baby and surprise . . . babies can’t ride bikes or even sit in bike trailers right away. Then it was winter. So, now that he is 14 months old we are starting our rides.

He loves feeling the breeze and watching the nature right outside of the trailer and he keeps himself busy eating snacks and reading books while I ride. Each time we go, I try to make the halfway point a park. That way he can get out and run around and play before heading back. Once again, we both get exercise and enjoy the outing.

Walking

I know, pretty basic, but sometimes it is all we have time for. Hiking and biking both require a certain amount of preparation and a larger time commitment. Walking just requires some tennis shoes and the stroller. We like to go early (by early I mean before noon) when it isn’t too hot. I try to walk all of the blocks near my house so that we are never too far from home should an emergency arise.

I let him get his exercise either at the park as our halfway point while I stretch. Or in our backyard when we get home.

 

Gardening

My son loves our yard and will run through our juniper trees with his rake for hours while I get everything weeded and cut. If you are thinking to yourself that gardening does not count as a workout, then you are not doing nearly as many squats as you could be while weeding. I just figure since I am already bending over to pull weeds, I might as well do squats and stretches. Gardening often leaves me more sore than any of the other activities.

Playing

Okay, here me out. This, like gardening, is not a workout in the traditional sense of the word. But it can definitely provide some exercise. When I stop worrying about being an adult and play with my son (be it at a park, in our yard, on the hike, in the garden, in the basement, whatever,) I find I am exhausted.

Playing with a one-year-old requires lots of running and crawling and lifting and stretching. A good half hour session of free play burns calories and builds relationships.

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How do you exercise with your toddler?