As a first-time mom, I was certain I wouldn’t be breastfeeding in public. Don’t hate me; I know just how controversial the topic can be, but at the time I thought breastfeeding in public was kind of weird. I didn’t understand why moms wanted to breastfeed around others. And after a few weeks of nursing my own baby, I promised myself I’d stick to breastfeeding at home or at least in a private place.
It didn’t take long for that perspective to change. When reality set in after my second was born, I realized why so many moms breastfeed in public. The truth is, you either learn to get comfortable with nursing just about anywhere or you learn to be okay with being stuck in your house with a newborn and a toddler seven days a week.
Even more important, my daughter’s needs—specifically the fact that she needed to nurse frequently to gain weight appropriately—far superseded my desire to have my preferred environment for breastfeeding.
This is just one of the many ways motherhood has changed me. Most of the changes I’ve experienced, such as learning to be okay with breastfeeding in public, have been positive. Having three kids has taught me more patience and made me grow in more ways than I can count.
Of course, there have also been ways that motherhood has forced me to let some standards slide. It’s inevitable, really, since I’ve been chronically sleep deprived and carrying a never-ending to-do list around for the last five years of my life. I swore I wouldn’t gain weight, but my body has become softer, the lines around my eyes more defined. I swore I’d keep my house clean, but I can’t, and won’t, say no to the chance for a long cuddle with my kids.
More striking, perhaps, is just how much having children has changed my expectations. All those things I swore I’d never do? They’re now a regular part of my life. From the ridiculous to the gross, I don’t think twice about doing whatever I need to do to survive this journey of young motherhood, and I’m certainly not alone.
Keep your judgments to yourself. Here are a whole host of things that seem gross and weird until you actually become a parent.
These days, I don’t think twice about retrieving a pacifier off the floor and popping it in my mouth for a quick “clean,” but I can totally see why so many non-parents find this habit downright disgusting.
In fact, I remember judgmentally watching a mom do this while I was pregnant with my first.
Now it’s just one more thing on the long list of things I used to think were beyond gross. I’m not the only mom who swore she’d never pick up this dirty little habit before becoming a mom only to pick it up quickly after the baby was born.
“I totally popped the kid’s pacifier in my mouth to lick it off because…desperation,” admits Jeanne Eschenberg Sager, mom of one.
We’re not lazy…we’re protecting them from allergies.
“Science has come to our rescue! We’re not lazy…we’re protecting them from allergies,” she adds, referencing a study published in Pediatrics that found convincing evidence that this parenting habit might be beneficial to developing immune systems.
While we’re at it, now seems like a good time to confess that most of us moms have gotten incredibly comfortable with cleaning out our kids’ noses. We know it’s gross, but somebody has to do it.
“I pull boogers out of her nose with my fingers. I still think it’s gross, but it’s better than finding snot smeared on my breast after nursing,” shares Jessica Sillers.
When you’re a first-time mom, it’s easy to hold yourself to high standards when it comes to what and how you will feed your kid. My goodness, does time change things. One day you’re all organic everything and homemade baby food, and the next you’re digging around in the bottom of your purse for that half-eaten sucker your toddler made you promise to save for later.
For instance, mother Katherine Clover confesses to regularly looking the other way when her toddler eats cereal off the floor, even when she’s certain the floor is dirty.
There’s more. Some moms tell HealthyWay that pre-chewing their kids’ food when they’re too young to chew it themselves is a regular occurrence these days.
“[I] pre-chew something I’m eating to feed to her when in public. It’s generally only if I’m caught without baby food or something she can manage on her own,” mom Heather Knox admits.
Although Robin Berls’ children are past the baby food stage of their life, she recalls biting their grapes in half or using her teeth to peel them.
“It pretty much looked like I was pre-chewing their food,” she says. Feel free to be grossed out, but this little habit is easy to pick up on as a mom when you consider the alternative. Grapes and other round foods are serious choking hazards. Personally, I’d rather share a little saliva than risk my kid getting something caught in their throat!
Diaper changes and potty training have to be some of the most disgusting aspects of parenting young kids, but they quickly start to feel commonplace.
Diapers that may have left me gagging with my first kid barely faze me now, and Katie Ann, a mom of two, admits her relationship with bodily fluids has completely transformed since becoming a mom.
“Cloth diapering has made me pretty comfortable with poop situations in general,” she says.
Beyond diapering, things don’t really get a whole lot more sanitary. When I was a new mom, I kind of assumed that things got better after potty training, but that hasn’t been the case. Endless accidents—at home and in public—quickly make you comfortable with dealing with situations most people would find utterly repulsive.
…my kid snuck in my bed at night and then peed in his sleep.
“I’ve put a towel on the bed and rolled over to go back to sleep when my kid snuck in my bed at night and then peed in his sleep,” admits Katie McKelvie Backfield.
Most women enter into motherhood with some pretty firm boundaries about things like privacy, modesty, and personal space. Children, and everything that comes with keeping them fed and cared for, have this amazing ability to smash all of those boundaries.
“I don’t like to go to the bathroom with anyone in the room, even if it’s just pee, and that includes my wife. Actually for a long time I felt that way about my kid too, but after they just follow you enough times while excitedly saying, ‘Pooping? Pooping? Mama pooping?’ you get over it I guess,” says Clover, who says she swore she’d never let her kids follow her into the bathroom when she first became a mom.
And it isn’t just how we feel about privacy around our kids that changes. Many moms confess that motherhood has completely changed how they feel about what it means to be modest in public or around friends and family.
I totally breastfed in front of my dad.
“I totally breastfed in front of my dad. I swore that he was the one person I would never go boobs-out in front of, but that lasted about a week. He was zero percent fazed by it,” shares mom Kimberly Miller Schwartz.
Let’s be honest, kids are capable of creating impressive messes in a matter of minutes. Once they’re walking, climbing, and running, it is nearly impossible to keep up with them or the disaster they leave behind. Because of this, many moms admit to letting their housekeeping standards slip after having kids, even those who swore they would prioritize a tidy and clean house after becoming a parent.
I remember going to visit friends with kids and being totally grossed out.
“I remember going to visit friends with kids and being totally grossed out by the state of their bathrooms in particular. I would wipe my hands on my pants rather than use their suspect hand towels. Now I wipe my hands on my pants rather than use OUR suspect hand towels. With one kid it wasn’t so bad, but with two? It’s disgusting,” admits Grace Per Lee, who’s a mom of two.
Moms of toddlers aren’t the only ones facing a trashed house on a daily basis. If you’re a mom of a teen, you’re probably all too familiar with fighting your kid to get them to keep their dirty clothes off the floor or bring their dirty dishes back to the kitchen before they start to grow.
For Flor Ence, mom of a teen boy, the fight wasn’t worth it, and she finally gave herself permission to just let it go.
“I gave up on the teenager room recently. I don’t harp on the dirty rotting dishes or the mold or the one-foot-deep geological crust of clothes, books, papers, and junk. At age 15 I am just like, ‘Is he eating, going to school, healthy? Good enough!’ I still ask him to take care of it every few days and if he does, great, and if he doesn’t, I just let it go. It’s kind of like when you let the toddler eat off the floor,” she says.
This parenting thing is so hard and you so often end up doing things you never thought you would.
When it comes down to it, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Keeping our kids fed and raising them to be decent people are our top priorities. For some of us, this means we’ve got to let a few things slide so we can focus on the things that matter most to our children.
“This parenting thing is so hard and you so often end up doing things you never thought you would, like bathing with baby, co-sleeping, and eating saliva-sodden food over her plate because, ‘Wow! I’m hungry.’ These days, I don’t open her closet door because the smell of the mess in there is pretty gross,” laughs Vanessa Mártir, who is a mother to a 13-year-old girl.