recently i was having a conversation with someone who currently does not have any children. “when i have kids, i’ll stay home with them,” this person said. “and i’ll bake fresh cookies every day.”

inside of myself, i guffawed. what do you know? i thought to myself. i struggle to get the carpet vacuumed during a day at home with m, never mind baking. i spend my time playing with him, reading stories, playing make-believe, & many days the peanut butter is still standing on the kitchen table when it’s time to make dinner.

it really got me thinking, though, about all the unrealistic expectations i had of myself, of motherhood, when i was pregnant and a new mum. there were so many things i snootily vowed to myself that i would never do… how reality changes things. here are my top 5, in no particular order.

1. i will never use anything other than cloth diapers after we get through the disposables we received as gifts. ha. right. for a while we did cloth-diaper most of the time, but now, we have to go to the laundromat to wash them, which just isn’t that practical, not to mention the fact that m goes to daycare now, & they sure as heck don’t want to deal with rinsing poop out of a messy diaper. so there goes that one.

2. i will never co-sleep. “there goes your marriage,” a friend of mine recently said when the issue of co-sleeping came up. well, the truth is that if m didn’t sleep in bed with us, none of us would ever get any sleep at all. i need sleep. it’s just a rearrangement of how things work in our family, but rearranging our lives was something we knew was coming when we planned to have a baby. so yes, we co-sleep, & i’m okay with that.

3. i will not nurse my son longer than a year. well, m is now 21 months old, & i still nurse him. i remember when a woman from our church commented that she nursed both her sons until they were 2, i was totally horrified. i didn’t think i would be able to handle being so tied to one person. but actually, for the most part, i love nursing, and so does m. i love the way his whole body completely relaxes after the first few sucks, & how he is able to gently drift off to sleep while nursing. it’s the right thing for us right now, so, we do it.

4. i will not allow my child to watch television. thank the Lord for streaming video, is all i have to say about that. m loves watching sesame street videos, as well as a cute little french cartoon called manon. & he is completely mesmerized by it. as in, i can chop some vegetables, clean the toilet, or, just sit down for a minute while he watches. he still prefers to read, most of the time, & he doesn’t watch for hours and hours, but i am so so thankful that he likes watching television!!

5. i will love being a stay at home mother. probably the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with in motherhood was the fact that i don’t like being a stay at home mum. for some reason, i had this idea that as soon as i became a mother, i would only want to spend time with my son, & i would be fulfilled in being a housewife and mother. don’t get me wrong, i have so much respect for women (or men!) who do this- stay at home full time with their children. it is wonderful that there are people who love that calling so much that they are fulfilled and joyful (at least most of the time ;) in doing what i believe is the most difficult job on earth, but i know it’s not for me.

& that’s not to say that i don’t enjoy spending time with my son. in fact, i love it. i love seeing the world through his eyes; i love going for walks & watching him relish the wind in his face; i love building block towers & knocking them down; i love watching cookies bake; i love reading books & making silly faces; i love singing loudly & dancing round & round. but i know, for me, that i am a better mother when i am not at home with him all the time. i know i can take more joy in block towers and waffles and sandra boynton books when i do something during the day that is just mine, something that exercises my brain and stretches my mind. i need contact with adult people who talk about jesus and foucault and the bilingual turn and chomsky’s native speaker. when i get that during my days, i can be a fully present mother, which makes me more patient, more flexible and (maybe) more fun.

the most important lesson i have learned is that this is okay. i don’t have to feel like i am failing as a mother because i can’t be one of the stay at home variety. there were many tears about this for me, because i watched other mums, in my surroundings or on blogs who are so happy and fulfilled, managing to do crafts, bake, cook delicious food, keep their homes sparkling… in my home, there are cheerios in the floor of the kitchen, there are toys on the floor of the living room, my bed is unmade, but my brain is stretching, and so is my husband’s, and so is m’s. d speaks to m in french, i speak to m in german… his little brain is growing growing growing. i’m starting a phd next semester, so it’s not likely that our house is going to get cleaned more regularly.

but that’s okay.