Before becoming a parent, you wake up at 7:30 a.m. and wonder why you’re up so early. After becoming a parent, you wake up at 7:30 a.m. and can’t believe some miracle allowed you to sleep so late.
Before becoming a parent, your morning routine gets disrupted when you can’t decide which purse best suits the day. After becoming a parent, your morning routine gets disrupted when one child refuses to get out of bed and misses the bus, and another child insists he doesn’t need a coat until you arrive at day care and he decides he actually does need one – the one hanging on a hook at home.
Before becoming a parent, your workday is interrupted by phone calls about where to meet for dinner. After becoming a parent, your workday is interrupted by phone calls about where to retrieve your child with the 102-degree fever.
Before becoming a parent, you are bewildered by the mother who can’t stop her kid from having a complete meltdown in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. After becoming a parent, you are bewildered by the same thing, except now you’re that mother.
Before becoming a parent, a quiet and peaceful house seems unremarkable. After becoming a parent, a quiet and peaceful house seems so remarkable you’re worried about what they’re up to and whether it involves pillows.
Before becoming a parent, a long dinner signals a leisurely evening of good conversation and bountiful food. After becoming a parent, a long dinner signals that your children are refusing to eat what you’ve prepared because it looks “spicy” and “brown,” so you engage in a battle of wills to see who gives up first.
Before becoming a parent, at 8:30 p.m. you start wondering what you’re going to do that night. After becoming a parent, at 8:30 p.m. you start getting ready for bed.
Before becoming a parent, you think the following statements are mere platitudes: Having a child changes you forever. Having a child teaches you about yourself. You will never love anyone like you love your child.
After becoming a parent, you have a hard time remembering your prior life. What did you do with all that time you had to yourself? What did you think about? What did you worry about? Why weren’t you in better shape?
You always knew you were impatient, but now you realize how often you have to count to three before you lose your mind because someone just stripped naked after you spent 15 minutes getting him dressed. You always knew you were Type A, but now you realize that it takes being anal to another level to spend the evening before a business trip marking food for school lunches with color-coordinated post-it notes. You always knew that you needed to live more in the moment, but now you realize how distracted you can be, just because your son clarifies that he wants you to watch him “with your whole face, including your eyes.”
When you’re pregnant, you talk to the baby inside you, as if it’s a friend you’ve always had. At birth, you lock into each other, at the eyes, and where his downy head meets the crook of your elbow, and where your palm cups the small of her back. You marvel that this creature is yours. Together you spend full days inside the cocoon drawn from your lap to your shoulder.
She exhausts you and she exhilarates you. She keeps you company and you long for a babysitter. She makes you laugh and she makes you cry.
He starts talking and you’re thrilled. He never stops talking and you beg him to. He always wants to hold your hand. He insists on doing everything by himself. He tells you that you look beautiful. He hands you his trash.
They don’t understand that you exist separately from them. You don’t want to, and yet you need to. They are yours, you are theirs. Even when they are frustrating you to near madness. Especially then.
And you learn that it’s not just love. It’s a fierceness of conviction, a simple truth, a bottomless well.