Here are some things that nobody talks about.
There used to be a chain of wisdom.
Women had a community, sisters, mothers, and elders. The village raised our children with us, helping us along, sharing wisdom and experience.
We don't have the village helping us anymore. Nobody tells us the hard truths we need to hear, and nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to the realities of having a baby.
I don't mean how you poop on the delivery table or bleed so much you need adult diapers after giving birth.
That stuff is common knowledge.
I'm talking about some things people go into deep denial about or just plain don't discuss, so get ready for a hard dose of reality.
Here are some things that nobody talks about.
Children and especially toddlers, need at least a couple of hours a day to play, run, and explore.
Yes, hours a day, you didn't misread that.
Small children need that much time for proper development. They need it, rain or shine, and if they don't get it, it shows.
Especially with boys, boys are like dogs. They need to run at least twice a day.
If you can't put the time in for this, your children will suffer.
Their development depends on being able to move their bodies for extended periods daily.
I'm not talking about a baby group, or baby yoga, or toddler time.
I'm not talking about soccer twice a week or swimming lessons.
I'm talking about good old-fashioned getting them out to the park or backyard, sitting your butt down, and letting them fly. They need to move their big muscles, touch things, jump and explore.
They need this stimulation every day.
Every. Single. Day. (Let that sink in.)
Baby Einstein's got nothing on outside time.
Moving is how their brain gets the stimulation it needs to develop.
People who provide for lots of outside time probably take it for granted and don't give it much thought.
People who don't probably complain about how hyper and out of control their kids are.
Either way, neither probably really understands how important it is. They just do or do not and don't really think about it.
Small children do best with one to three hours of exercise daily; this is something I know for sure.
All children and toddlers, in particular, need tons of free play, preferably outside, NOT in the form of an organized sport every day.
I've spent five of every seven days of the last nine years with toddlers, this is a fact.
Women do the vast majority of child care and housework, even in relatively equal relationships — even these days.
Crazy as it sounds, many women still do everything in the home.
A couple might seem to have their act together, but scratch the surface and you might just find inequity is their dirty little secret.
It is insidious brainwashing we have yet to overcome and it often spills over into marriages, especially when a baby comes.
Many men pull the "but I do the guy jobs" card, but you're still getting shafted if you do everything else. Jobs like taking out the garbage, cutting the grass, fixing stuff, putting up pictures, home maintenance are all valid contributions.
But those are the once-in-a-while jobs with beginnings, middles, and ends, tasks with results that can be satisfying. You can't compare them to the duties traditionally assigned to women.
What is inexplicably still considered a woman's work is the day in and day out, mind-numbing grind. The things that must go on regardless of whether or not you want them to because the whole ship goes down if they don't.
People must be fed. Laundry must get done. Daily cleaning is both ongoing and never-ending. Constant wiping, sweeping, clearing, and tidying are essential if you don't want to live in a chaotic, dirty home.
This is the number one source of conflict with my daycare moms and friends over the years.
I've even tackled this in my own marriage.
My husband wasn't aware of how much extra work I did on top of my full-time job, and I never thought to bring it up until I was about to break.
I honestly thought he knew.
But even though we're modern people, old stereotypes were subconsciously assumed.
I thought housework was supposed to be my job.
I also just assumed he knew how much of a burden I was carrying doing it all.
So while he had a lovely self-cleaning home that he didn't have to think about, home-cooked meals every night and fresh bedlinens, I'd become a slave to our house.
Once he realized it was an issue, he took on more than I asked him to. He's the reason I have time to write now, but I had to initiate the change.
So brace yourself for some conflict.
No matter how much you love your partner, your world will change forever once that baby comes.
But his life can tick along pretty much as it always has if he decides that's how he wants it to play out.
He can choose not to help, and you'll be forced to pick up all the slack by yourself.
You might even feel pressured to pretend to be happy doing everything because you're scared he'll call you a nag if you complain or try to make him pitch in.
It's also amazing how many men have mothers who still spoil and enable them. Those types of mothers-in-law might try to shame you for even thinking of making their precious boy do housework.
If you have a mother-in-law like that, your partner might never come around, and you'll be stuck doing it all. Especially if that's what you agreed upon in the fantasy phase before you actually had children.
Believe me, many modern men become very old-fashioned after the baby comes.
Friends might not be as supportive as you think.
Your friends may disappear when you need them most.
This will be especially noticeable if your friends are takers and you're the giver. If this is the case, don't expect them to help out.
I have a friend who'd nurtured, honored, and committed herself to her circle of friends for years. She'd known these women since long before I'd met her.
She had loads of friends and spent countless hours and dollars on keeping in touch.
She dropped everything when one or another had a crisis and got to their side with whatever transportation was required.
Then she had three babies in a row with a husband whose job required an absurd amount of his time.
I watched as these friends, one by one, hung her out to dry.
They spent a good six years ignoring her, rarely visiting. The ones in town always seemed to have something else to do when she needed help.
This person who did everything for other people couldn't seem to get even one of them to do anything for her.
I befriended her during this tumultuous time and was astounded at the absence of support someone with so many friends could have.
Nobody cares about your kid as much as you do.
Your kid is perfect/lovely/special — to you.
You and your husband, your parents, his parents, your extended family, and maybe the odd person or two — and that's it.
No matter how lovable you think your kid is, remember, that's your opinion.
If your kid is an out-of-control, spoiled jerk, don't think it will go unnoticed. Your kid won't be the one kid in all of the world who inspires people to like them by being a brat.
If you don't teach your child things like patience, manners, and respect, it doesn't matter how pretty/smart/talented you think they are; people won't like them.
Some kids are so nasty and spoiled that you can't help but despise them- don't let that be your kid.
I once had a conversation with a woman whose four-year-old punched her in the stomach because she wanted to leave. This woman had just given the child a present, but the kid decided she'd had enough of waiting around for us to stop talking.
She punched her mother in the stomach so hard that the woman doubled over in pain and do you know what happened?
The mother looked at me, laughed sheepishly, and said, "Oh well, I guess they'll just have to work on this in kindergarten."
I was so shocked I could hardly speak, and I wanted to tell her that the teacher was going to hate her kid.
No teacher wants to teach a kid like that, and teachers talk to each other so you know who won't want that kid in their classroom?
It's true; an adult can hate a child. You'll even hate your own kid once and a while.
So if you want to give them a leg up in life, teach them to be respectful and kind, and remember, your kid is only special to you.
Babies change lives, not people.
You may grow and blossom in ways you never thought possible as a parent.
But if you think your partner will love you more, your mother will finally respect you, or your mother-in-law will approve of you just because you have a baby, you're dead wrong.
Babies are paradoxical creatures, you love them more than anyone you've ever loved before, but they make life exponentially harder.
People will judge you more, not less, post-baby.
Unsupportive people become less supportive.
Babies drive wedges into tiny cracks and highlight every difference and difficulty you've ever had with your partner.
They give everyone who has ever had anything to say to you a license to say it to your face.
Having a baby brings out the worst in people just as much as it brings out the best.
If you are not 100% invested, they will suck the life out of you until you don't even have the strength to post a passive-aggressive meme on Facebook.
And remember, if you're having a baby to satisfy someone else, you're not the only one living with the consequences.
You can leave your husband and get rid of him and his mother at the same time. You can even cut your own family off if you have to, but you can never divorce your child.
Children are a permanent fixture, and they bind you to the people you have them with, permanently.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave...
I love my daughter more than anything in this world. She's the center of my life and one of the two most meaningful relationships I have.
But everything I've mentioned is something that I've either experienced firsthand or watched someone else go through.
These common but rarely addressed truths can blindside you if they take you by surprise.
It's as though we all enter into a contract of silence once we have children because if we talk about these things, we seem somehow ungrateful or unloving.
But these are some of the universal experiences of motherhood that no one gives a public voice to.
I'm the village, I will speak out. I care for your children, and I am caring for you.
I'm not afraid to tell you what you don't want to know.
I'm mentally preparing you for some of the challenges you might face, so you're not blindsided.
I am breaking the silence.