I am super happy to be joining the lovely ladies of the Happy Wife Project for some Expectations vs. Reality musings. If you haven't checked any of the posts out, you should head over to all of them because they've all been wonderful.
It has been so great to read about other mothers whose expectations were a little rosy leading up to being mothers themselves, and while I can definitely relate on a lot of levels, it was a little different for me going into motherhood.
In the end I think that my expectations actually weren't too far from the reality of the situation, at least in the abstract. When Mike and I got married, I already had 12 nieces and nephews, and had spent many countless hours babysitting and playing with and bussing around those little ones. I lived with my brother and sister-in-law for the 2 months immediately following the birth of their second, and I nannied full time for my sister's 11 month-old twins while she finished up her masters degree. I was not clueless about how things were going to look, and I knew it would not be easy: there would be many challenges, but also many joys.
But looking back, I realize that all I was really able to do then was to imagine hypothetical future children, in the abstract, and to imagine hypothetical, abstract challenges and joys. The fact is that, at the time, I had experienced lots of challenges and joys associated with children and full-time care-giving, but never as those children's mother. I don't know if I thought much then of what a difference that might make, but I can tell you that I had a lot to learn about the concrete realities of everyday life as a mother:
I didn't really know how hard it would be to be woken up countless time each night with my first newborn
I didn't really know how horribly irritable I could be in the morning with kids who are up before the sun.
I didn't really know how hard it would be to wake up every hour to pee while so greatly pregnant or how badly in utero rib kicks from baby could hurt.
I never really knew how hard it would be to tame an angry toddler or talk one down from a fiery tantrum.
Before I was actually a mother, I had lots of ideas of how these things would probably feel: like how things felt when I would babysit or nanny, but somehow more so. And in a sense that's not that far off, except that it really is so very, very different. The differences maybe aren't so obvious with the challenges, but if I had a lot to learn in that category, I had even more to learn about the joys of motherhood:
I didn't really know how much of a blessing it would be to feel my babies' presence while they're growing inside of me, and be the first to "know" them before anyone else.
I didn't really know how much I would love holding them, nursing them, teaching them, and just getting to know them after they were finally born.
I didn't really know how funny my little ones would be when they're pretending, or trying to tell a story or a joke, or hamming it up just because, or even just sitting there.
I didn't really know how interesting they would be once they were able to have actual conversations, and how unique and different each one's personality would be.
I didn't really know how much intense love I would feel for them, and how much happiness they would bring to Mike and me.
Before I was a mother, I didn't really know any of these things because because Naomi, Bernadette, Lucy, and Baby Joseph hadn't made me a mother--their mother--yet, and I didn't know them yet. I had lots of vague ideas about what my kids might look like and be like, and about how I might get overwhelmed sometimes but always love them and take care of them, but it's only now that they actually exist that I can really love them and really know them.
My pre-motherhood expectations were fairly realistic on the whole, but I know now that there was nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood, because now that I actually have these children, I realize how much more irreplaceable and wonderful and beautiful they are, and how for all the of the concrete difficulties there are so many more concrete joys. Each day brings plenty of both, but I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I can only look forward in hope to many more years, surprises, and God willing, children to come.