What to Expect When You Didn’t Expect It

By Mir
April 12, 2005

I was catching up on blogs tonight, and realized that I read an awful lot of women who are pregnant/adopting/expecting in some way. There’s something about the anticipatory joy of motherhood (fine; parenthood, but I’m reading women, here). I find it very compelling; partially because that stage of life is behind me, and partially because there is nothing quite like the empty canvas that is the dream of raising a child.

When you’re expecting, you picture the wonderful ways in which your life will change and your child will cause your heart to swell every moment of every day. Then, too, people insist on telling you about the downside–the dirty diapers, the colic, the toys strewn across the floor. No matter, you tell yourself! It’s all part of the package; everyone knows that. And it is.

But there are some things for which nothing can prepare you.

I wish someone had explained to me how having children would touch parts of my life in ways I’d not even been able to comprehend. That whole heart-swelling thing? It’s true. My heart swells almost constantly. About 73% of the time it’s from an impending coronary, though.

I was ready for dirty diapers. I was ready for toys all over the place. I was ready for play-doh stuck in the carpet. I was ready for lots of things. But there was so much more that I wasn’t ready for and none of the books ever covered. This leads me to believe that either there is a mass conspiracy going on, or my kids are just mutants. Either way. Look, I just don’t want women in the dark anymore. There are things prospective mothers NEED to know!

These are but a few of the oft-overlooked ramifications of parenthood.

Say good-bye to your pens and pencils. I know. Pens and pencils are mighty useful things. I’m quite attached to mine, myself. But now that I have kids? Writing implements are but a bittersweet memory. Rollerball finepoint, I barely knew ye! Don’t ask me where they go. Don’t ask them where they go. They just go. And yes, there can be twelve tons of arts supplies sitting RIGHT THERE and it doesn’t matter one whit. The little girl with 287 colored pencils wants YOUR PEN and she will HAVE your pen and then it will vanish with an audible *POP* into thin air. Repeat until you find yourself writing notes to school in blue crayon.

It becomes very difficult to read “in your mind.” You see, you spend so much time reading aloud, that when you try to read to yourself, one of the kids will ask if you’re reading “in your mind,” and that will strike you as being pretty amusing, and then you will never again be able to just read a book without thinking “I’m reading IN MY MIND!” and snorting just a little bit. It’s rather distracting. At least, it is if “in your mind” is kind of short-attention-span place to begin with. Not that I would… hey! Something shiny!

You will develop bionic hearing. We can rebuild him… make him stronger… faster… better than before! What? Oops, sorry. Yeah. Um, there’s no cool slow-mo sound effect to go with it, but parenthood sharpens your ears. Of course you knew you would treasure the moment your child presents a handmade craft, beaming with pride. You probably don’t know that you will also treasure the moment when you ask the child who just emerged from the bathroom if she washed her hands, and she says yes, and you say, “No you didn’t. Go wash them,” and her face falls. Try to use your newfound powers for good.

The accumulated dirt in your house develops a magnetic pull. Sure, kids running in and out creates a mess. You knew that. And a little dirt is no big deal. But once the dirt gets in, it’s a free-for-all. The next thing you know, your washing machine is full of acorn caps. Then the pinecones start showing up everywhere. Before you can clear all of that out, you’re tripping over rocks in your own kitchen. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out, just for the love of God get a handle on things before you find an entire oak in the bathroom!

Every scrap is sacred. Don’t throw ANYTHING away! Hahahahaha. Gotcha. Of course you have to throw stuff away. But don’t go letting anyone under the age of ten actually witness this. Your trash is their treasure. Your need for order is their stunted creativity. To put it simply: Your time to clean up is after they’re in bed. It’s just easier that way. Should a casualty of your mission become a hotly lamented item, remember the three Ds: Distract, Deny, Drink.

UPDATE: The mystery of the toilet paper. I can’t believe I forgot this one, this morning, and it’s been haunting me since I remembered. You knew there would never be toilet paper, right? But you what you don’t expect is the irony in the complete absence of toilet paper while surrounded by toilet paper TUBES (which are, of course, telescopes, and casts for injured stuffed animals, and a million other things). No one knows how to change the roll, but damn if they aren’t mighty handy with fishing those tubes out of the trash no matter how deeply you bury them.

What else do prospective moms need to know that no one else will tell them?


  1. Chickie

    This post is so funny and so true. I thought I was the only person to have sent a note to school or signed something in crayon (i always sharpen it first so it looks more grown up). And the part about throwing stuff away after the kids are in bed – I learned that the hard way after tearing through the house one day while everyone was doing their homework and just basically emptying their backpacks into the garbage bag.

    I love your view on things.

  2. vics

    More *grin* please. You are an inspiration Mir. If I ever have kids then between you and Dooce I think I know everything I need to know about the pitfalls of child rearing.
    Well… kinda…

  3. Jenn

    Always buy doubles of all your tools, because your kids will inevitably take them outside and leave them in the yard. Or was that only my sister and me? Hrm. My poor dad was always finding his pliers out in the yard.

  4. Kristie

    I can’t keep scotch tape in my house. My kids tape EVERYTHING…after they’ve stolen my pen to create whatever it is that requires an entire roll of tape to assemble.

  5. amber

    You’ve hit the mark on every single one of these in the list… and I only have one child.

  6. bellabelly

    I’m one of those newly pregnant girls, and I was so glad to read this. I was laughing so much I had to go pee 3 times before I could finish it!

    I don’t comment often, but I read you everyday, and really look up to you as a mother. I think you are doing a WONDERFUL job.

    Thanks again!

  7. janie

    How about the one where you never have any kind of drink or food all to yourself without a babybird wanting some???

  8. Nance

    When your kids get to be teenagers or even just preteen, you will never have clothes to yourself anymore. Your socks will be the first to disappear.

  9. Zuska

    Ah, the three D’s!! I love them!

    This might be specific to my home since none of our bathroom doors currently lock (long story), but prospective moms need to understand that “alone time” in the bathroom is a thing of the past! My kids always need me most when they spot me on the way to the loo! And last week, while showering, I felt someting bump my toe; it turned out to be a Green Lantern action figure who “needed cleaning – thanks mom!” Calgon can’t take me away anymore!

  10. Karry

    You also have new members of your household. “Ida Know” and “Wes N. Mee”.

    “Who broke that glass?” “Ida know”

    “Who hit your sister?” “Wes N. Mee”

    They move in, you never see them, but they wreak havoc with your life and sanity.

  11. Irene

    Thanks for the warning. I’m finding that at less than a year old my child has caused me to experience a lot on your list. However, I knew that I was ready to be a parent since my husband has already caused me to experience most if not all of the things on your list.

  12. Amanda B.

    I love it. It sounds very similiar to having dogs. Except for the TP thing. If ONLY I could teach my dogs to use the toliet. :)

  13. chris

    you absolutely nailed it! THIS is a hall of fame blog for moms if ever there was one. and where in the name of lamaze were YOU twenty years ago when i was up to my armpits in all this hilarity with four of them at once?!

  14. "Anne Glamore"

    I don’t know what is in the water, but you and I are thinking the same thing today, except that I had forgotton about the pencils, even tho i am making notes with a dull one about 1/2 inch long right now. And the scotch tape comment is right on. Here is what occurred to me today:

    I don’t know if that made a link so it’s “The Dirty Secret” at http://www.tinykingdom.typepad.com

    Do you (or i) have esp??


  15. Amy

    How about the fact that you never get to eat a hot meal…EVER! Because while you’re busy preparing,cutting, serving, and coaxing your child to eat your own meal goes unnoticed. Sigh.

  16. carolyn

    Hairbrushes!!! I know I own 6 of them but I can never find one!(scissors too!)

  17. Jenny

    Love you, Mir. Really, we should be paying you for gems like this entry.

  18. Rbelle

    what a funny insight into my future!!

  19. savtadotty

    It’s true, and it doesn’t end when they’re grown up. Nested interruptions destroyed my concentration permanently. Now I have to ask my dog where I put the keys? There is a payoff, though: watching your own kids go through everything all over again with theirs! Hang in for the grand finale.

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