"When are you having kids? You don't want to wait too long!"
And right after I gave birth to my daughter, this followed:
"When do you think you'll have another one? She's going to need a little brother or sister."
People, please. Get a grip on yourselves, okay? What's the hurry? I'll be the first to admit that, as humans, time is not on our side. And in our culture we feel an almost desperate urgency to CREATE! ACCOMPLISH! HURRY! RUSH! So much is at our fingertips. But relationships take time. Making a baby takes time. Building a family and a home takes time. We understand your inquiries. Really, we do. But it doesn't mean they're always welcome, particularly right after we've just put a ring on it. Or when we're still sporting giant mesh underwear from the hospital.
I have been so guilty of these things. I have been the well-meaning stranger who just didn't get it. And that's the purpose of this post. I can't expect anyone to fully understand what they haven't experienced, but maybe I can help point them in a better direction when they feel the urge to assume their words are better spoken. For those of you who have experienced marriage and parenthood, you should know better. Let's do better.
Now, while there are definitely more than just five things I didn't know before I became a wife and mommy, these are the five I've found to be most valuable. And I want to pass them on to others who don't yet know what it's like, or who have no interest in knowing but still feel the need to offer their opinions.
1) It's totally okay to have beliefs about a subject. About any subject. But if you want to make it in the world, and not push everyone away in the process, you've got to be open to the idea that your beliefs might change.
It's called being flexible. I'm not talking a commitment to your faith here. I'm talking about issues regarding finances, sex, communication, lifestyle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, raising children, and more. Before I got married, I was decidedly against a woman not changing her last name. But once I became a wife, I understood that maintaining your own identity in a marriage is not only necessary, it's healthy. And while my belief that marriage was designed for the unity of flesh, spirit, and purpose, I also think the legal red tape is a pain in the a-double-s and I can see why some people avoid it. I can also see how choosing not to change your last name is a way of holding onto your distinct identity within the marriage. Having the same surname is my personal preference, but I don't think not having one in any way prevents couples from being united.
That being said, everyone is entitled to their opinions, no matter their age, life experience, or background. But until you've actually been married or had a child, be aware the rest of us are looking at you and thinking, "Uh-huh. Just wait."
2) You will not always like your husband. Or your child.
Love is such an incredibly complex and, yet, stunningly simple thing. We fall into it but then we have to keep choosing it. Falling is easy. Staying can be hard.
To make a marriage work, you have to look at your spouse on days when things are falling apart and choose to love him or her despite the mess. The emotions attached to love are very much hormonal. Nothing proved that more to me than giving birth. But hormones change. Your free will doesn't, and that's the gift you've been given which allows you the awesome opportunity to keep working. Keep talking. Keep nurturing. Keep praying. Keep loving. Your baby is cute right now, but when she's been screaming in the backseat for half an hour you will not be her biggest fan.
I, for one, am glad that my life is not totally under the authority of my emotions because they can be fickle and impressionable. The beauty is that I get to choose. And when I see my husband giggling with our daughter, it's easy to forget the other stuff.
3) The hand-held devices are dangerous. Put them away.
I mean this in a literal sense. Have you ever been watching Netflix on your iPhone and had it fall on your face? Ouch.
I also mean it in a figurative sense. There is nothing more mindlessly entertaining than social media, but if we want to connect with people, especially our families, we have to LET. GO. AND. STEP. AWAY. FROM. THE. IPHONE.
Smart phones weren't really a big thing when I married my husband back in 2008, but my Kindle was. And so was the television. And gaming consoles. Sometimes, Pierce and I would play Super Mario Kart or Rock Band on the Wii together. But more often than not these devices served as tools that would accidentally distract us from each other. And the risk of distraction is even higher now with more at our fingertips and a busy baby on-the-go.
This is one my hubby and I still struggle with because we are both very active on social media and interested in the news. But we are getting better. And I'm telling you now how important it is to be intentional with your family because the busier you get, the easier it is to turn to meaningless entertainment for release. Take the time to turn to each other.
4) Breastfeeding hurts. So do what you've got to do.
Even if you choose not to breastfeed, there will come a time when your beautiful boobies become hard as rocks, either because you're allowing the milk to dry up or because it's been too long since a feeding. It's a fact of being pregnant and giving birth. And it hurts almost as much as contractions do. It's like getting a titty-twister for hours on end and then lighting your nipples on fire.
If you're going with formula and letting your supply dry up, I will pray for God to send you angels with ice packs. If you're nursing, you need to get your baby (or pump) STAT. People who haven't experienced this pain should be quiet about nursing moms. You don't know their story, so don't assume they're trying to make you uncomfortable or being disrespectful by nursing in public. First, it's their right, whether you like it or not. Second, it's a mother feeding her child. Hooray for babies not going hungry! And, third, if you are still vehemently opposed to a split-second flash of breast (Oh, the horror!), I'll give you an hour-long titty-twister and then we can talk.
5) When you become a mother, there will be things that people didn't tell you are hard. And there will be things people told you are hard that aren't.
Every mother is different. Every child is different. Your son's struggle with sleeping might not be mine. My daughter's difficulty gaining weight might not be yours. So have some grace for the mamas, even if you aren't one. We're all just trying to do the best we can with what we have.
What five things would you share about marriage and parenthood?