One of the most difficult jobs in the world is being a mother, and anyone who says otherwise is a ridiculous person. Not only are mom’s bodies shifted and shocked in a million different ways during pregnancy, but they also have to raise, nurture, and teach tiny human beings.
They often have to face difficult realities about life in order to do all of the above. “Before I was a mother, I thought that nothing was really finite,” says Sarah K., a mother of four. “Something horrible would happen to me like my car would break down, and I would lose my job, but the stakes never really seemed that high. Now, with children, I feel the weight of every single choice and move I make, because I understand how damaging it can be for them if I don’t have my life together.”
Here, 12 mothers share one major lesson having a child has taught them. Their answers are beautiful, moving, and hilarious all at once.
1. “Nothing in my life would ever not factor my daughter in.”
“Having a daughter taught me that life is no longer about me. Not even in the sense that I couldn’t go out with my girls on a Friday, but that nothing in my life would ever not factor her into it. For example, one of my boyfriends at the time had left me really abruptly, and I realized I wasn’t able to go out with my friends and cry away my pain into a glass of wine, I needed to stand and be strong for myself—and have wine only after she’s gone to bed.” – Caroline, 34
2. “I need to take better care of myself.”
“I used to drink sodas and eat fast food every day, and even though I didn’t notice it at the time I was poisoning my body. Once I became pregnant and had my daughter, I realized I couldn’t be feeding her McDonald’s every day. I also realized that if something so perfect came out of my body, I needed to take better care of it. I stopped drinking soda and now I do yoga and exercise at least five days a week.” – Cheri, 29
3. “You don’t know shit about anxiety until you have a child.”
“If you thought you knew what it was like to be nervous, the truth is you don’t know shit about anxiety until you have a child. I have a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old, and I’m always afraid of the toddler getting into cleaning supplies or falling down something. It honestly keeps me awake at night! ” – Corrina, 31
4. “I can’t let men treat me like crap.”
“I think I learned a valuable lesson about how I expect men to treat me. I would always let men treat me like crap. After I had a daughter five years ago, I realized I would never let someone treat her that way, so I started to respect myself more.” – Kelsey, 26.
5. “I have to show my son how to treat women.”
“I was in the grocery store, and a guy commented on my lipstick, basically saying, ‘What I wouldn’t give to kiss those lips!’ Later on, whenever my 6-year-old would see a girl wearing lip gloss, he would make a comment about whether or not she looked pretty. It was jarring to see that I had to be the example for him to stop objectifying women.” – Paula, 25
6. “I need to be strong for myself—and for my kids.”
“I am the only person who can empower myself. Before becoming a mother, I would rely on everyone but me to accomplish the things I wanted in my life. I decided I was going to go back to college and start taking online classes, because it was always a dream of mine to get my degree in English. I realized that I needed to be strong for me if I wanted my kids to do the same.” – Joanne, 40
7. “Yelling gets me nowhere.”
“In business meetings, when one of my employees would not meet expectations, I would fly off the handle and scream at them. Then, after having two boys, I realized just how bad screaming is to get my message across. In the grocery store, people will look at me like I’m insane if I scream at my kids! Speaking in a more leveled voice gets me farther both in the office and at home.” – Kristil, 29
8. “Always keep tissues on hand.”
“Motherhood has taught me to always keep tissues and hand sanitizer in my pockets—at all times.” – Morgan, 26
9. “I’ve learned a lot about diffusing fights. I should be a diplomat!”
“Being a mother to four taught me a lot about diffusing fights and any awkward situations. Like if someone gets a reward for getting an A on a report card and gets a toy and another child doesn’t. Or if one child has a more elaborate birthday party than the others, I have to field 30 questions about why. I have become an expert at conflict resolution—sometimes, I feel like I should be a diplomat.” – Rachel, 35
10. “I have to love myself first.”
“I used to have the worst self-esteem. Like if a guy would call me up and ask me if I wanted to have sex purely in a casual way, but I wanted more, I would say yes, because I didn’t think I was worthy of anything beyond what someone was willing to offer me. But I think so highly of my children, I had to start thinking highly of myself. They came from me.” – Barbara, 32