“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” – Bob Seger
I am shaking my head and my pointer finger at you, my foremothers. My mom, aunts, friends and other family members who grew up, moved out, moved up, got married and had kids before I did.
There were so many things I didn’t know intuitively about doing this adult thing, and now that I’ve experienced a great deal of them, I find myself wishing I still didn’t know about some of them. While adding years to your life can bring some wonderful moments, increased wisdom, additional inner peace, there are definitely some things that have happened along the way that have given me pause. And I don’t mean menopause. Not yet anyway; I’m sure that’s a whole other bag of treats that is awaiting me.
I put the question out to the universe; what did you not know about general adulting, pregnancy, parenthood, and aging before you experienced it for yourself? The responses I got were equally humorous, poignant, thought-provoking and heartbreaking. I had several of my own items to add to the list, and the responses I received just reinforced what I was thinking and added several dimensions.
So let’s break it down, shall we?
In the category of General Adulting:
There is no This is What it’s Like to be a Grownup prep classes in high school or college. When you’re growing up, you think Adulthood is this fantastic party where you can do WHATEVER you want, WHENEVER you want. Which is likely true for less than 1% of the world’s population. When you become an adult, you need to do things like survive on your own, pay bills, work in order to pay said bills, learn to cook, clean, balance your bank account, take care of medical issues. You need to figure out how to manage your time and finances, how to socialize, figure out how to advance your career. I remember a conversation with my college roommate Senior year (we always saved the deep conversations for right before we went to sleep and often we both drifted off mid-conversation); we were both like, wow, it will be great when we graduate and can get jobs and pay for stuff and don’t have to go to class and eat bologna sandwiches on stale bread and drink cheap beer. Holy crap, guess what? Sleeping until right before my 11:00 classes, having no Friday classes, paying $2 or NOTHING to drink cheap beer all night and following that up with bologna sandwiches and having no responsibilities? Yes please!!! We exchanged late nights for early mornings, rent for mortgages, internships for careers, and the single life to looking around asking ourselves, when did THIS all happen?
In the category of Marriage:
This is a mixed bag and honestly, I don’t want to say too much about it. I will say there has been some unpredictability in the success of marriages for my friends and family. Those two that I was scratching my head about, they are still going strong after almost 20 years. Those two that I thought were solid, they split after just a couple of years. There have been those who struggled and lost, those who have struggled and triumphed, those who have found true happiness the second time around, those who have lost their spouses to disease or accidents before they were ready, and those who have decided that marriage is just not for them. To all of my loved ones, whatever the end game is, I love you and I know you love me. ‘Nuff said.
In the Category of Pregnancy:
I don’t fart. Ask my kids. They will tell you, Mama doesn’t fart. However, when I was pregnant…holy shit, I was a walking flatulence machine. I had so many moments at work that I just put my head down and pleaded for no one to walk into my space. And I probably napped during those moments too, because ohhhhhh, the fatigue.
The peeing. When I was pregnant, I would pee, stand up and then have to sit down again to pee like my bladder was completely full.
The distraction. I will be honest, it was very difficult to focus on work or anything else when I was feeling kicks or hiccups. Cause that is just purely amazing.
In the Category of Parenting:
Oh Em Gee…the input I got about this category was off the hook. I need to break it down into subcategories. Except for two, which are Sleep and Going to the Bathroom Alone. Neither of those things happen once you give birth. They know and they will find you, in your deepest dreams or your most urgent need to use the toilet. Their faces will be two inches or less from yours in both of those situations.
Oh, and the third category: Peeing as an Adult Woman. Jumping Jacks, Jumping Rope, Laughing and Sneezing can become a challenge. Whether you’ve given birth or not, once you pass the magical age of forty, something happens. For my last OB checkup, I finally got up the nerve to ask, why do I pee a little, like, all the time? Her response was a shrug and a “well, you’re over forty had two vaginal births, so…that just…happens.” In other words, I’m too old to bother with trying to correct the problem. Deal with it. Kind of like my chronic shitty shoulder.
Parenting Little Boys:
They pee everywhere. Except into the toilet. Boy pee has been sniffed out, felt, and cleaned up from the most unlikeliest of places.
Parenting Little Girls:
They scream a lot. Like a LOT a lot. And a lot of time is spent teaching daughters how to wipe themselves front to back (aka, don’t sweep the dirt back into the kitchen).
Parenting Bigger Boys:
They still pee everywhere. And they can make you angrier than you ever thought possible. And can also make you prouder than you ever thought you could be.
Parenting Bigger Girls:
They still scream a lot. And they can also make you angrier than you ever thought possible. And after the screaming is done, there are those hugs and tears as you pull them close and never want to let them go.
General Parenting (for all ages):
There is a LOT of guilt and fear. Every stupid and inappropriate thing we say is repeated by our littles, usually at the worst moments possible. Like quoted verbatim, in front of my mother. We have moments when we realize that we have totally lost our former selves, and we decide to do something about that, or not. We feel totally stupid trying to help with our 5th grader’s math homework. We feel judged, no matter our situation. If you’re a SAHM, you feel the shade your working sisters are throwing your way; if you are a working mother, you feel the side-eye directed at you from the SAHMs because you aren’t involved enough with your kids’ school and extra-curricular activities (sidenote: those feelings of being judged are likely all in your head; most of the moms I know feel judged, but don’t judge). You’ve felt that real anger about a child who you know only by name who you think is tormenting your child. You wonder if you are doing enough to raise your child to be compassionate and kind enough, but what if they are lying to you and aren’t really all that kind to others? If you have a child whom you think is exceptionally intelligent, how do you make sure they are engaged and challenged enough at school and after school? If you have a child with intellectual, emotional or physical challenges, how do you ensure they get the correct diagnosis and assistance? And then there is the complete opposite of all of that worry and anguish; looking at your child and being absolutely sure there has never before and never will be another person who is as amazing and beautiful as this one that is your child (until the next one, two, three, etc.). The way your heart swells with emotion when milestones are achieved. The pride you feel as they accomplish things, both big and little. The way they make you laugh and cry with joy. And the love….oh the love…those times when you’re not sure if you’re cut out for this parenting gig, you’re not sure if you love them enough…and then your heart nearly bursts with just how much you really do love them. I can’t even put it into words, but if you’ve been there, you’re nodding your head right now.
So there it is. Some of it, anyway. As for myself and my kids, I’m sure there are many more challenges, surprises, struggles and triumphs in store for us as we navigate through their teen years, my middle age and beyond. I may never get this whole being a grownup thing totally nailed down, but it’s not for a lack of trying. And when I put my question out to the universe, I was amazed and encouraged by how many people experience the same thoughts and feelings.
So what about you? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? If you could have jumped forward in time and gathered knowledge about this whole being a grownup thing, would you have? Or are you good with experiencing the surprising moments as they happen?