Motherhood does not come with sick days.

Back in my crazy career days (working nonstop) taking a sick day was next to impossible. There have only been a few times I’ve needed to call off – thank God for those legislated sick days! But on those much needed days, I slept off whatever illness hit me and was able to take a break from reality to recoup.

But there’s one thing your doctor forgets to tell you about having a baby – motherhood does not come with sick days.

Maybe that’s why the first trimester of pregnancy is full of exhaustion? Nature knows you are going to need every second of sleep to accommodate for a life of no more sick days?

Wouldn’t it be nice for once just to say “I can’t make it to motherhood today. I’m just really sick. Please figure it out.”

For the past couple weeks I genuinely wanted to call in sick to motherhood.  And why is it when our significant other is under the weather they seemingly get to take a sick day? My only guess – the mommy gene: the inability to ever get sleep or fully relax again due to having children.

No matter how high your fever is or how many times you’ve visited your porcelain friend, the kids are still going to expect dinner and their favorite bedtime story. “Mommy, I want bites I’m hungry!” “Mommy, I want books!”. Sweet children don’t understand that standing up to get them a snack will literally take every ounce of energy out of your body and just might kill you.

But we do it.

Even when we feel like getting our kids out of bed is going to do us in, we still do it. Even when we can’t feed ourselves, we make sure the kids get more than enough. Because that’s what us moms do – CEO’s of the family never get sick days! It’s a full time job and then some to keep the house running smoothly.

It’s hard enough to take a sick day when working a full time career, but when you’re a mom, kids allow ZERO sick days (especially if they’re really little).  At least the office gives us a set number of sick days (even though we aren’t always allowed to take them). Whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom we all have one thing in common – motherhood does not come with sick days.

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Perfect Parenting

Remember those months before becoming a mom … well besides the sickness and endless trips to the bathroom … those months you thought about what kind of parent you would be.

My husband always said I would be the easy parent – always giving in to my children’s demands, a “softie”. He thought he would be the “tough dad”. I envisioned myself making homemade meals every night, doing activities with my kids, our house being organized, and working out just like I used to – I would be the “perfect parent”.

As soon as my first baby was born, my daydream of “perfect parenting” flew right out the window.

Like all new moms, I was hormonal, exhausted, and overwhelmed – not a good recipe for “perfect parenting”. Then I started second guessing every decision I made and every action I took for our new baby. As our kids get older the decisions get harder and I wonder; am I disciplining them correct? Am I saying the right things? Do I play with them enough? Am I teaching them what they need to know?

As moms we constantly feel at war with ourselves. In our own minds we can never do enough for our children. But what is “perfect parenting”?

Some people think “perfect parenting” is – staying home with your babies; pulling yourself together with full faced makeup before the kids get up; having all laundry done at all times; keeping a clean house; planning and executing specific activities with your children; having homemade meals and premade snacks; reading stories and learning all day long; getting the kids into bed without a fight; going to bed to get 8 hours of sleep.

Other people think “perfect parenting” is – working full time to provide; having a nanny or babysitter; Chapstick is the only makeup a mom needs; doing laundry once or twice a week works; making sure the kids eat something; a mom sacrificing all her needs.

Here’s the reality – there is no such thing as “perfect parenting”. “Perfect parenting” is a myth and does not exist. Even if you have the perfect day planned, there’s a really good chance your child will throw an epic tantrum or attempt to eat something they’re not supposed to. Most days motherhood is about surviving, let alone perfection. Every family has a unique situation – It’s okay for moms to work and it’s okay for moms to stay home. Only you know what is best for you and your family.

We are our biggest critics and anyone who says being a parent is a breeze and their kids are perfect is lying. Society’s unobtainable expectations are overwhelming enough, then we have veteran moms judging our every move – keep in mind anyone who expects you to be their version of “perfect parenting” needs to wake up and smell a diaper. There will be days pizza is the best you can do and moments you literally want to pull your hair out – good days and bad.

We sometimes think – I should be doing more. But the majority of the time we physically, emotionally, and mentally have already given motherhood our all – we’re already doing a stellar job. And for anyone who is bold enough to think our best isn’t good enough, is the furthest thing from “perfect parenting”.

“Unideal” Congratulations

When we find out we’re expecting baby, how do we expect people to react? My husband and I had been married a year and half (previously dated 4 years before with a year long engagement) so total we knew each other five and a half years before we got pregnant with our first baby.  We were very lucky that everyone in our family (to our knowledge) was thrilled.  Even though it was confirmation that my husband and I had indeed had sex, our parents were ecstatic about becoming grandparents. “Congratulations you guys!” We were lucky.

But what about those couples, or mothers, who don’t experience the “Congratulations”?

Every circumstance is different; the teenage mother, the unmarried mother, the “not sure who the baby’s dad is” mother, etc..  How is society supposed to react to these “unideal” parenting situations?

My family has been in an “unideal” situation.  I come from a very conservative, and extremely traditional family – you graduate high school, get a college degree, get married, and then maybe have kids. How was I supposed to react? “Congratulations” sure didn’t seem like an appropriate term of endearment in the circumstance.

In reality, I somehow felt I was encouraging the situation by giving a literal “Congratulations”  and in some way making them feel their “unideal” pregnancy was acceptable.  What a horrible thought right? Of course there were other extenuating circumstances that prevented me from being able to verbalize “Congratulations” and the ever present family dynamics.  But what is the appropriate way to react?

During a recent trip to Wal-Mart I was scoping out the baby section and noticed a very young couple browsing baby clothes – I swear the girl couldn’t have been older than 15.  I wondered to myself, “why on earth are high schoolers looking in the baby section?” Then my answer.  Another couple from their school greeted them and asked them why they were looking at baby clothes. The young giddy girl answered … “Oh we just found out we are pregnant and we couldn’t help but look at stuff.  We are so excited!” The other couple seemed shocked and asked when she was due. “We just found out so we’re only about 8 weeks along.” The couple answered “Geez Congratulations.”
I wanted to run over and say … “Don’t buy anything! Save your money! Kids are expensive! You need to go to college! AHHHH!” I kept thinking, this girl has her whole life ahead of her and this is the decision she is making.  

Again, what a horrible thought right?  

I suddenly felt this rush of guilt. Who am I to judge what someone else?

I don’t think anyone is ever truly ready for kids; so sometimes the perfect arrangement can be unideal.  Every situation, every person, every pregnancy is different – so maybe our reactions should reflect this. Does a woman who decides to have a baby out of wedlock warrant the same “Congratulations” as an expecting married couple?  All I know is that my mom has always said, “treat others as you want to be treated”.  So no matter how hard it is to conjure up an unideal “Congratulations”, the right thing to do is show your feelings through a card, a gift, or a smile.  Sometimes your reactions and actions are the ones that are most remembered. And let’s face it, no one has ever lost sleep over being too nice.