I’m writing my niece (who is expecting her first baby) a letter about what she doesn’t want to know about being a mom. Maybe she’ll have the courage to read it a few years from now when she wonders why she can’t stop crying.
#1 It hurts.
We’ve already covered the pain of labor. But if you’re going to nurse your baby, be prepared for the sensation of your nipples being subjected to a nutcracker for 25 minutes every couple of hours. The good news is this pain is better with lanolin and time (about two weeks will do it). The bad news is this is just the beginning of the pain your child will inflict on you. You can look forward to being bitten, head butted, and whacked with a hard toy when you least expect it. When your little darling leaves marks, be prepared to convince those who are sure you’re a domestic violence victim that you’re just a mom.
#2 You’ll never be alone.
You don’t want to be away from your baby now. Understandable. It’s also understandable that you enjoy being around people. But trust me when I tell you that you will think Guantanamo is an amusement park when your kid gets done torturing you. Just when you fall asleep, there they are to wake you up. You go to use the toilet or take a shower and your little blessing will be banging on the door screaming for you. When you sneak off to chat on the phone, read a novel, or have some chocolate, he will appear suddenly like a stalker in a scary movie. Only it’s your life. The really terrifying thing is they never grow out of it.
#3 Your house will never be the same.
Be sure to take pictures of your beautiful nursery now, because it’s going to be trashed very soon. Newborns pee, poo, and puke on everything and no matter how much you Shout it out, you’ll be left with stains. As your little doll gets older, expect to see the wallpaper ripped, the walls littered with graffiti using various mediums, the carpet dyed, and the curtains cut. Everything you love in your house will be lost, broken, or used to start her personal landfill. Is it possible to protect your home and belongings from this destruction with gates, locks, and strict discipline, you ask? Absolutely! However, your reputation will be destroyed when your child starts a tell-all blog about her mommy dearest.
#4 You’ll abandon your principles.
Whether you’re committed to giving your kids no fast food, no toy guns, or no video games, odds are you’re going to cave. Why? Remember, you’re going to be in pain, sleep-deprived, and living in a house ready for a Hoarders episode. If you’re really going to make your child be the one weirdo who can’t go to the McDonalds birthday party, play with the other boys in a Nerf War, or use any kind of screen (they all have games), you have some family therapy in your future. The therapist will probably agree to guest post on your child’s blog.
#5 You’re going to be afraid.
Remember the hypochondria you had during pregnancy? That’s going to grow along with your child. You’re going to be certain that every disease, disorder, and cause of death is going to visit your kid. Then you’re going to be afraid that you have the opposite problem. You’ll worry that you’re ignoring symptoms that would be cause for obvious alarm to anyone who wasn’t awakened by a screaming interrogator every 30 minutes. The truth is most of these terrifying scenarios won’t happen. Unfortunately, you still have reason to fear. Read on.
#6 You’re going to be embarrassed.
You’re careful to be politically correct and not to offend people. Your child, on the other hand, will behave like an alien life form or a National Enquirer reporter who has no respect for your reputation. She will point out everyone who’s fat with a Simon Cowell kind of honesty. She will tell your mother-in-law what you said about her before she came over. She will repeat the curse word you used in a weak moment when someone you want to impress asks how she is–probably your mother-in-law. If you give your little paparazzi a Facebook-connected camera, you deserve what you get.
#7 You’re going to be disappointed.
The disappointment your child dishes up will go beyond embarrassment. Kids are like cashiers at fast-food restaurants who listen carefully to your request for no mustard, no onions, and extra ketchup and then give you the opposite. When you express your disappointment, the cashier and your kid will look at you piteously as though you just haven’t learned not to sweat the small stuff. Whether your request is no mustard or a college athletic scholarship, my advice is the same. Don’t place any special orders and you’ll be satisfied with what you get.
#8 You’re going to need help.
Like any other torture victim, you’re going to need some counseling. Even if all you do is sit and cry to another mom, do it. It’s cheaper than therapy. And for heaven’s sake, relax your rules if they’re making you crazy. A bottle won’t kill a kid who’s nursing, a serving of chicken nuggets and fries won’t destine your child for the Biggest Loser, and getting a housekeeper doesn’t mean all you’re doing is sitting around watching reality TV and eating chocolate (unless you are, in which case call me. It sounds like fun). If your husband isn’t motivated to help out, use your best vacant stare and repeat gibberish. That shouldn’t be hard for you.
#9 Your body will never be the same.
You think you’re going to be one of those moms whose body looks just as good as it did before you had a baby. You probably think you’re going to win the lottery one of these days, too. Go ahead and blow the money on the stretch mark cream and the chiseled ab workout programs. They’ll help you get through the denial phase. Sure it’s possible that you’re one of those freaks of nature, who doesn’t have an abdomen that looks like a Shar Pei puppy after giving birth. But I feel it necessary to remind you of what we covered in the truth about pregnancy. If your body is the same, your friendships won’t be. We’ll all hate you. To avoid this, be a smart girl and wear a tankini even if you don’t need to.
#10 You’ll love it so much, you’ll want another baby.
Yes, despite learning everything you never wanted to know about being a mom, you’re going to want another child. It’s crazy! My diagnosis is Stockholm Syndrome. The child has hurt you, tortured you, destroyed your house, made you abandon your principles, scared you to death, embarrassed you, disappointed you, reduced you to dependency, and ruined your chances of appearing on the cover of Shape magazine, yet you’re convinced they’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to you.
You know what? You’re right.
P.S. Very soon, you’ll be cooking for three so I have a gift for you–a dinner time survival guide.
What is it about the holidays that makes us want to be close to family? Close enough to beat them over the head with a turkey drumstick anyway.
I would argue it’s the food.
The Food Fight History is a Long One
All our problems began with food.
We were cursed after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, yes. But more salient to this discussion, the first marital spat then ensued over who caused whom to blow their specific-fruit-free diet.
One brother stabbed the other in the back when the Father liked the food he brought to the table better.
The Israelites complained about nothing more than the lack of food variety in the desert.
And early Christians bickered over what foods were okay with God to eat.
The Food Fights Continue
Today, everyone seems to have their own diet: organic, vegan, raw, allergy-free, clean, low-carb, low fat, sugar-free, two-year-old (only what you don’t want me to eat) and my dad’s favorite–seefood (you eat only what you can see).
While it can be annoying to accommodate all these preferences and necessary restrictions, the friction we have about food in our families isn’t really about the food.
But you just said it WAS about the food.
I know. Irritating. If I were your family member, I’d give you plenty of reasons to come after me with that drumstick.
It’s NOT about the food, but we act as though it is. Why?
- It’s easier to gossip about Aunt Ginny bringing one can of corn to the feast than it is to admit she’s disconnected from the family, much less to wonder why.
- It’s easier for your sister-in-law to complain about your cooking than it is to admit she’s incredibly jealous of you.
- It’s easier to complain about the food being cold than it is to talk to your brother about showing up late for every gathering.
Food becomes a displacement for hurts and hostilities that are too threatening to admit or deal with. Remember that next time someone asks you to stab them a potato.
Stuffing: the Ultimate Food Fight
There may be no food more subject to personal preference than stuffing. You love it, you hate it. You make it from a box or from scratch. You have regular, cornbread, or gluten-free. You put in giblets, sausage, cranberries, or none of the above. You drench it in gravy or you don’t.
And most people think their stuffing (even if that’s NO stuffing) is the best stuffing. Why?
Because stuffing represents the holidays and holidays represent family and deep down we’re all still little kids who believe my-dad-is-bigger-than-your-dad and my-mom-cooks-better-than-your-mom and we’re willing to get a black eye to prove it.
Don’t believe me?
How do you feel if I tell you that my mother’s stuffing recipe is hand’s down the BEST stuffing ever? As you scan down to check out the recipe, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that YOUR (family’s) recipe is better or that I’m stupid to even eat stuffing. Am I right?? Am I, huh?
My Mom’s Best Ever Stuffing
1 Box Turkey flavor Stove Stop Stuffing Mix
1 package hot dog buns, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight
1/2 loaf of bread, torn into 1/2 finger-length pieces and left out overnight
4 stalks celery chopped fine
1/2 medium onion chopped fine
1 stick butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp sage
1 32-oz box chicken broth plus 2 14-oz cans chicken broth
Tear up bread and leave out overnight to dry. The next day, preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray one oven-proof, deep casserole dish if you plan to stuff your turkey or two dishes if you don’t. Saute celery and onions in butter until almost transparent. Meanwhile, put Stove Top stuffing, sage, and eggs on top of stale bread. Add sauted onion and celery. Warm 32-oz chicken broth on medium heat and pour on top of bread and mix well. Add additional chicken broth until it’s soupy. You’ll think it’s too watery, but if you bake it without enough liquid, your stuffing will be dry. If you plan to stuff your turkey, first make sure the stuffing and turkey are the same temperature (both warm or both chilled). Bake stuffing for one hour, covering with foil the last 20 minutes.
Beyond Stuffing It: How to Avoid the Family Food Fights This Year
You can’t control whether a family member forgets the rolls, whether Uncle Dave has a few too many, or even if your mother-in-law makes a nasty face when she bites into your dish. But you can control YOU and that’s a lot.
- Don’t Confront at the Holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a little like weddings. Most people wouldn’t think of starting something with the bride before she walks down the aisle. Why? Because all her hopes and dreams are pinned on that day that she will remember forever. Your family has high hopes for happy holidays, too, and they are remembered like no ordinary days. Do you want everyone to remember the Christmas of 2012 as the one where you finally lost it and told the big mouth off and sent her running in tears to her car after having too much to drink in a snow storm… You get the idea. Save any necessary confrontations for a less emotional time.
- Keep Your Expectations Under Control. We’d be better off watching the beginning of A Christmas Carol than the end before a family holiday. Unfortunately, people aren’t on their best behavior at this time of year; they’re usually at their worst. They’re tired, stressed, strapped for cash, bombarded with the temptations of food and alcohol, and feeling pressured to eat someone else’s substandard stuffing (i.e., yours). Instead of envisioning a scene of peace and joy, imagine you’re walking into a room of toddlers who’ve gone without a nap. If you get out of there without raising your voice or hitting someone, you’re doing well.
- Avoid Resentment. 1 Corinthians 13 says that our good deeds are worthless without love. If you’re going to be bitter about hosting the holiday ONE MORE TIME or if it makes you crazy that your lovely homemade gifts aren’t appreciated, don’t do it. Avoid doing or giving anything that will make you resentful. Romans 12:18 says as much as possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone. Sometimes that requires avoiding someone. Keeping suggestion #1 in mind, either avoid seeing someone if it won’t create undue conflict or spend the majority of your time talking with people who don’t push your buttons.
- Create Your Own Holiday. Even if you’re single, you can plan a celebration to include the food, decorations, and mood of your choosing. Don’t limit yourself to a certain day either. Would you like to have a peaceful Thanksgiving meal with friends or with just your immediate family? Plan it for another time so you won’t mind as much if the family holiday itself isn’t all you hoped.
- Invite a Loving Family Member. Cain took it personally that God didn’t approve of his offering, but deep down Cain knew it was because he hadn’t brought what God asked. God absolutely loves your stuffing, even if that’s no stuffing at all. Invite Him to your holiday celebrations this year and you won’t even notice all the racket the relatives are raising. Spend extra time in prayer and worship, asking God to help you be on your best behavior. I know He will.
I plan to take my own advice this year, but I want to hear from you. What do you do to make family holidays less stressful? Please share in the comments.