10 Truths I Learned In 3 Years Of Imperfect Parenting

posted in: List of 10, Motherhood, Parenting 99 comments

As far as parenting journeys go, mine is still in its toddler stages, literally and metaphorically – three years and counting. I know I have many more years ahead of me, where I will undoubtedly learn more than I ever bargained for.

However, even in three short years of imperfect parenting, these 10 truths keep coming back to me.

10 truths about parenting

You will feel guilty

No matter what you choose to do – breastfeed or bottle feed, sleep train or not, go back to work or stay at home – you will feel guilty a lot of the time. You will question your choices, because other people will, whether out loud or in their minds, which will in turn, make you feel guilty. I’ve learned to accept my choices, whether they’re ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, they are the choices made for the good of my children, for our family. Guilt comes with the territory, I get that now.

You will get angry

Anger – a dangerous, terrible emotion, especially when it’s directed at your children, your spouse, and yourself. You will also find that you may get mad at complete strangers, such as that impatient driver who cut you off. Or the lady in front of you at the checkout counter at the grocery store, for moving too slowly. Personally, when I find myself on a short fuse, it’s because I’m tired. Fatigue does not do you favors. I can’t give you advice on how to squeeze in more down time or sleep, I can only tell you that you should.

You will feel incompetent

When I had Monkey, I felt like a bumbling idiot all the time, and half-expected someone to come knocking on my door to tell me to give my son back, because I was doing such a terrible job as his mother. Three years in, I know I’m not terrible. But I have moments of perceived incompetence. No matter how many pats on the back I give myself, I still feel this way.

You will get competitive

When you have friends and relatives who have children of the same age, forget trying to avoid competitiveness. Yes, you may say, but I don’t brag! However, you’re silently pleased when you find out your daughter walked way before your best friend’s son, or that your boy scored higher on his English test than your best friend’s child. It’s inevitable.

You will be resentful (sometimes)

If I said I don’t think about my time pre-children, and how carefree and fun it was then, I’d be lying. I’d also be lying if I said I am absolutely 100% not resentful. Sometimes, I am. I resent that I have little time to myself. I resent that I have barely slept since 2009. Sometimes. Just sometimes. I do not however, regret having children.

You will be joyful

I do not regret having children – how could I? Everyday, they make me joyful. Even through the challenges, there is much to be happy for. The smiles, the hugs, the hand holding, just being with each other, being family – pure joy.

You will be more appreciative

When you become a parent, you appreciate your parents more (hands up, if you’ve thought about calling your mom to apologize, and thank her)Β . You appreciate your spouse more. You appreciate yourself more. You appreciate the extra 10 minutes you get, any time of the day. You appreciate coffee a lot more. If you’re a parent, you’ll know what I mean.

You will be wiser

You will learn to pick your battles. You will learn when to give up, and when not to. You will learn that love is deep. You will learn that fears abound in every corner and there is nary you can do about it. You will learn that your heart is so much bigger than you thought possible. You will learn that you have it in you to fight for your children.

You will be humbled

Parenting is a truly humbling experience. I thought I knew it all, could do it all. I know now, that I don’t and I can’t, and it’s okay.

You will be loved

My children’s love is pure. When I look into their eyes, when they put their chubby hands around mine, all there is, is love. And that is all.

What parenting truths have you learned?

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • January 28, 2013 Amy

    You nailed it! Everything. Great post!
    Amy recently wrote…New Digs- January 25, 2013My Profile

  • January 28, 2013 tracy

    You forgot – you will be tired! Love you. xo
    tracy recently wrote…The One With The 3 Year OldMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Tired is so a part of me, I totally didn’t even think of that. Well, under ‘Angry’, I did say, being tired makes getting angrier more likely. Sort of. See, tired. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Maureen

    Alison, I’m nodding my head reading all these because it’s so damn true! πŸ˜€
    Maureen recently wrote…Not A New Year’s ResolutionMy Profile

  • January 28, 2013 Christie

    Yes – to every single one.
    Christie recently wrote…The Confident LionMy Profile

  • January 28, 2013 Christine

    Perfectly said. And I agree with Tracy – You will be tired.
    Christine recently wrote…Friday Round-Up: TGIFMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      What? *zzzzz* πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Shawn

    You will be challenged. In every sense of the word. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Personally.

    You will survive. It doesn’t always feel like it but you will. : )

    Great post! Sharing tomorrow on my Facebook page.
    Shawn recently wrote…{Project 52} Rise earlyMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Great points, Shawn!
      Yes, challenged. OMG, so much.
      Thank you for sharing!

  • January 28, 2013 Kim

    So very, very true, Alison. The wisdom and the love and the joy make the experience so worth it, though – despite the humbling, the guilt and occasional feelings of incompetence. And being tired. (I am one of those parents that appreciate coffee!) πŸ™‚
    Kim recently wrote…I Dreamed a DreamMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thank the powers that be for coffee!

  • January 28, 2013 Alyssa

    What is it about those little chubby hands that always bring tears to my eyes? Weather I look at them, seen them or read about them I tear up. The whole way reading this I just nodded my head, but the end, the chubby hands, I swelled up. I think this goes hand in hand with my parenting truth: to be as mindful as possible and enjoy each moment with as much awareness as you can. It’s so easy to be caught up in these parenting truths, it’s so easy to feel selfish emotions (we’re only human, we’re only moms, which makes us superhuman?). But what I hold on to the most is those sweet little chubby hands, the ones that hold mine, and the ones that will one day not be chubby little hands but of those of an aged adult. Time goes ever so fast.

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      To be mindful is one of the things I’m working on this year. The 3 year old is becoming more and more aware, and I don’t want him to think back on this time with sadness (where Mom was tired, frustrated etc). I want him to remember that he was hugged, kissed, loved and all the laughter and smiles.

  • I think I have felt all of these (except resentful, or not strong enough to really notice it) and it is only day 23! Great article, these things definitely should be talked about with new or soon to be mommies.
    Victoria from the Busy House Big Heart recently wrote…Writing My Hubby a StoryMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Victoria, not to scare you or anything, but resentment creeps up slowly and over time. It’s totally normal, just have to be aware of it happening, and dealing with it when it does.

      • I’ve definitely faced resentment before, just not in this area of like (yet). That is the nature of the beast, slow and silent it creeps on you until it’s a problem. I know it will though, I’m the type that doesn’t say what bothering me, or if I need something. Do you have a post on dealing with resentment? I’ll need it!
        Victoria from the Busy House Big Heart recently wrote…Are you a Tough Mudder?My Profile

  • January 28, 2013 Audrey

    Oh this brought tears to my eyes. It’s all so true and I have felt every single one of those things, plus so much more. And yes I did call my mom and apologize, many times!
    Audrey recently wrote…Stationery CardMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thank you Audrey, for your words.
      Your mom must be thinking, at last. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Stasha

    Perfect. You will eat unimaginable amounts of chocolate. Then again that is a girl thing…

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      It IS girl thing πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Vanita

    Funny how our little ones start teaching us from day one. and they all have different lessons. funny and exhausting.
    Vanita recently wrote…Before You Hire That Blog Designer…My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      They definitely teach us more than we do them – well, in the early days anyway. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Kimberly

    So very true. All of this. You will also learn how very scary the world is. Pregnancy is the easy part. The hard part is everything that comes after.
    Kimberly recently wrote…Rules Were Meant To Be BrokenMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      That’s what I tell all the moms-to-be! Not always appreciated advice though. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Galit Breen

    Absolutely love this. It’s beautiful and fraught with truths.
    Galit Breen recently wrote…Homework: Yay or Nay?My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, my friend! *blush*

  • January 28, 2013 sarah

    yep. this is it. I’ve definitely felt every single one of these in the six years I’ve been a mama. Something tells me I should expect this list to just keep looping through… πŸ™‚ always learning πŸ™‚
    sarah recently wrote…the sunday spill–it starts with a misplaced shoeMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      It is definitely a looping list!! And a growing one!

  • January 28, 2013 Janet Dubac

    I agree to every word. This is very true and sometimes, it is difficult to admit especially the negative ones. πŸ™‚ Thank you for recognizing all of these things and making me realize that there are things that I really need some improvement. πŸ™‚

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      It is difficult to admit being angry, resentful, guilty – but it’s all part of the parenting journey!

  • January 28, 2013 Mirjam

    I can say yes to everything you just named.
    My experience is that as you leave the toddler stages of parenting, you will start to learn more about yourself. Your Kids will bring out anything and everything in you. So here I am, still learning..
    Great post, Alison.
    Mirjam recently wrote…little visitorsMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thanks Mirjam! Yes, definitely always learning. This is a growing list of truths!

  • January 28, 2013 Kir

    I just love this and you…I cannot tell you how much I just sat here with wet eyes and said THANK YOU to the universe for letting me become a mom. Even with all the “or worse” stuff that comes along with it, being Giovanni and Jacob’s mom is one of the VERY BEST parts of my life.

    and having your friendship in my life is another BEST part.
    Kir recently wrote…Sweet Thing {Trifextra}My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      You said it, girlfriend! All the good stuff makes up for the not-so-good.
      You are my sunshine!

  • January 28, 2013 Tracie

    This is so perfect. I’ve experienced all these things. I could use some more of those “you will be wiser” moments, though.
    Tracie recently wrote…Letting Go Of NegativityMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, me too. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 AnnMarie

    Every new mom should read these. All 100% true! You will see the world differently, some good…some not so good but it will be different. You will know more about the bodily functions of another person more than you ever want to and it will matter to you. You will look to other moms to maintain your sanity because no one else gets it the way another mom does.

    LOVE this post. One of my favorites or yours so I am sharing.
    AnnMarie recently wrote…My Baby is 3!My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thank you for sharing!
      And gosh yes, bodily functions. I need to do a funny and gross version of this list, to include stuff like cleaning poo off our hands. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Mama Melch

    Every word is so true Allison! I also don’t remember the last time I felt completely rested and undaunted by the tasks that lay before me for the day. Combining parenthood with getting a PhD is a sure recipe for exhaustion.

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      I don’t know how you do it! Kowtowing here. πŸ™‚

  • January 28, 2013 Robin

    So true – all of it.
    Robin recently wrote…On the Move: at Things I Can’t SayMy Profile

  • January 28, 2013 Leighann

    Perfect. You nailed the emotions and how it feels to be a mom.
    I love the last one: you will feel loved.
    Leighann recently wrote…Losing EmpathyMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      That’s the best one!

  • January 28, 2013 Alexandra

    How I love your honesty.
    Alexandra recently wrote…What’s Hot in 2013My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      I don’t know how not to be. xoxo

  • January 28, 2013 The Dose of Reality

    GREAT points!! I would also add that, just when I think I have it figured out, something changes. I’m always learning…always having to bob and weave to keep up with what they’re doing and who they are becoming.
    The Dose of Reality recently wrote…The Fastest Way To Get Laughed Out Of The Emergency RoomMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, change. Inevitable. Definitely a good parenting truth.

  • January 29, 2013 Natalie

    Yes to all of these! Mom guilt is a true problem…and no matter what you do you can’t shake it. And questioning yourself all the time…am I doing this right…and why did this person’s child do this so quickly? We really need to give ourselves a break!
    Natalie recently wrote…Random MondayMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Yes, the self-doubt, it’s so crippling sometimes!

  • January 29, 2013 Kristin

    I actually HAVE called my mom to thank her – and to apologize to her!

    I have nothing to add. I think you covered them all. And beautifully, at that. πŸ™‚
    Kristin recently wrote…This Could Get HairyMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      And thank you.

  • January 29, 2013 Elaine A.

    Man, I sure wish I had read this before I had my first. It would have been great to know all those are feelings are normal. Like, REALLY great!!! πŸ˜‰
    Elaine A. recently wrote…Passing on the GoodMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      I know, I wish I knew these things back then too.
      Thank goodness for second time round motherhood. πŸ™‚

  • January 29, 2013 Kiran

    There is no such thing as a perfect parent. There is no such thing as a perfect child. A perfect anything. As humans we are prone to err. You are right, parenting is humbling and we are all doing it imperfectly because that’s how you roll as a parent. It’s all quite messy and can bring our best and worst.

    Hopefully more best than worst πŸ˜‰

    Kiran recently wrote…Who Put the White in Snow White?My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      It is definitely messy, metaphorically, and literally!

  • That there will come a day when you will indeed be labelling small Winnie the Pooh socks and Cinderella underwear.
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…How to take of poopy pants without making a huge messMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Hah! Or writing blog posts about how to remove poopy underwear πŸ™‚

  • January 29, 2013 Missy

    Just this morning I felt incompetent and resentful, followed by love/loved. It’s so true that we feel all of these things, often in the course of one day – and sometimes in the course of a minute.

    It’s no joke, this parenting thing. I’ve learned to hang on tight – the ride does loop-dee-loops all day, every day. But if you trust the process, and hang in there, it’ll be okay.
    Missy recently wrote…A Brief Message From Our SponsorsMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Trust in the process, yes!! So true.

  • January 29, 2013 Jessica

    Also, you will be tired.
    Jessica recently wrote…How to Drink More WaterMy Profile

  • January 29, 2013 Marnie

    the power of looking my children in the eyes to connect with them especially during times of transition during day or generally in life.
    Marnie recently wrote…Easy Ways to RechargeMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      My 3 year old is having a hard time with transitions – I so appreciate the power of connection now!

  • January 29, 2013 The Orange Rhino

    Excellent post! The only two that I would add (besides the tired and challenged) would be: You will hurt and you will love more than you ever thought you could. My oldest is 6. Oh do I ache when he struggles. Oh do I hurt when my 4 year old gets bullied. Oh did it hurt when my 3 year old couldn’t speak and just screamed in frustration. Oh does it hurt when my 18 month old has a seizures. But with all that hurt? Love. I only hurt that much because I love them so very, very much.

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, the hurt. The pain. The wishing that we could take the pain away from them. All borne out of love.

  • January 29, 2013 Tina

    Love this because it’s spot on! Being a parent, means you’ll go through so many different emotions and phases. Great post!

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Thanks Tina!

  • January 29, 2013 Heather

    I can say 13 years into this parenting gig that I have almost forgotten what my pre child life was like. On top of the fact that there just is no time to think about my pre child life.

    I think another truth would be that there are good days and bad days and that even when you feel like there are more bad days I guarantee that there are more good!
    Heather recently wrote…My 3rd Child is $$$$My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, there is definitely more good in there than bad!

  • January 29, 2013 Leah

    These are great! All so true! One more is “you will be ok”:)

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, definitely a good parenting truth to hold onto.

  • January 29, 2013 Lady Jennie

    Perfect truths Alison. I’m not sure I would have been able to enunciate them as clearly. I guess I would add that it’s worth it? In spite of it all? (Son home with a fever and stomach flu).
    Lady Jennie recently wrote…Life in the Trenches – Chapter 4My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      It’s definitely worth it. Yes, even with all the germs/ bugs/ bodily fluids we have to deal with. πŸ™‚

  • January 29, 2013 Kim

    You’ve hit all my big ones, Alison. I remember prior to having kids that I thought I didn’t really have a temper. Whoops. I discovered I did after having our daughters. Being tired, fearful for them, letting pride get in the way (What will people think if my children are behaving this way???) added up to my temper flaring.

    The joy is the biggest, though. What a delightful, tear-inducing discovery to find how amazingly deep my love was for my children! There is nothing like it.
    Kim recently wrote…Your OneWord is calling-Time to answer!My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      There isn’t indeed!

  • January 29, 2013 KalleyC

    So very true, every last word. The guilt is there no matter what you do, but to know that our children’s love is pure is worth every feeling in world. I look at my children, and I am still amazed that they came from me.
    KalleyC recently wrote…I’ve Been Sabataged!My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      I look at my kids and think the same thing!

  • January 29, 2013 Asianmommy

    No matter what you do, your child will be the person who she is. Help her, encourage her, and accept her as she is.
    Asianmommy recently wrote…Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian FavoritesMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Great advice!

  • January 30, 2013 greta

    Yes, all of these….Especially “humbled”‘ πŸ™‚
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  • January 30, 2013 Amanda Jillian

    Oh the grief we give ourselves
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  • January 30, 2013 adrienne

    Who knew I had all of this ahead of me when I became a mom? It’s a roller coaster ride! Sometimes I want to get off, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
    adrienne recently wrote…When I am at peace…My Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Me neither!

  • January 30, 2013 Leslie

    Such a perfect list. I can’t tell you how much more grateful I am for my parents now. But I’ve said for years that the most difficult parts of our lives are also the most rewarding. There is no better example than with children.
    Leslie recently wrote…{Photo A Month} Motion, EmotionMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes, definitely true. The hardest is the most rewarding.

  • January 30, 2013 Nina

    Yes yes yes and yes. (And more yes’s). I felt EVERY one of those things times 1000. I still do.
    Nina recently wrote…This is ThreeMy Profile

    • January 30, 2013 Alison

      And some, more than others on some days, right?
      This is such a crazy ride, parenting!

  • January 31, 2013 Natalie

    These are all so true. And the guilt is just awful.

  • January 31, 2013 Alma

    sing it loud sista! I am so proud to be a momma right now. Ditto on this post.. sharing it!
    Alma recently wrote…Grand Opening of my shop and a discount !My Profile

    • January 31, 2013 Alison

      Thanks for sharing, Alma!

  • February 1, 2013 Charlotte

    There is no perfect. But you are the best mom you can be at all times. I have always thoroughly enjoyed coming here to read your adventures in parenting. You have such a beautiful and inspiring take on it all πŸ™‚
    Charlotte recently wrote…balancing “no” with “yes”My Profile

    • February 1, 2013 Alison

      Thank you, sweet Charlotte!

  • February 1, 2013 Aprille

    all of these are so true! great post!
    Aprille recently wrote…Afraid {Five Minute Friday}My Profile

  • February 2, 2013 lisacng

    I resonate with all of these. Luckily the guilt was “only” the first year or so when I had an emergency C-section and didn’t breastfeed or pump as long as I wanted to. I’m sure it’ll come back as my boy gets older and I have to miss his school-events. Angry, impatient, yep! Competitive – I hate having those types of convos but sometimes I start them just to see where we’re at. So bad! Joyful, love, definitely. The best of parenting!

  • February 4, 2013 Katie

    and don’t forget…you will cry. at all the things both happy and sad.

    Do I have to admit to the ugly truths? Yes. Yes I do. You hit the nail on the head, as usual, Alison πŸ™‚
    Katie recently wrote…Project 365 {week 5}My Profile

    • February 4, 2013 Alison

      Oh yes. Gosh, I have cried. The first time was 4 days postpartum with #1. I didn’t even know why I was crying. πŸ™‚

  • February 12, 2013 Jodi

    All of this is so true. I still have younger ones…5 years and counting. I have never experienced such an array of emotions – all of which you have captured above. Happy to be featured with you at Bento Box. I look forward to checking out your blog more.

    • February 12, 2013 Alison

      Thanks for visiting, Jodi!

  • February 12, 2013 abby

    Wonderful post! Very good reminders!

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