Motherly advice to share

What moms wish they'd known before delivery

May 11, 2008 6:00 AM

I was an expert on motherhood before I had kids. Yup, I had it all figured out. Anytime I was around people with children, I'd think, "I will never do that," or "My kids will never be like that." Because I knew it all. I was going to have a lovely (epidural-free, of course) labor, after which I would welcome my perfect little cherub. She would never use a pacifier, play only with wooden toys, eat organic foods, speak many languages and listen to classical music. Every day. And I would be radiant. I would never schlump around with burpy cloths on my shoulder; never wear sweat pants; and never, ever yell.

Then, I actually had a baby and realized I have little control over this whole thing. First of all, he was a he. So I quickly adapted Ella to Eli and felt good that I was rolling with it. He weighed in at 10 pounds, 15 ounces, and after a drug-filled labor and emergency C-section, I clued in that maybe things weren't going as planned. After his first wailing hour, I let him have the pacifier, and eight years later I am now proud to say that he snacks on the occasional Ring Ding, is fluent in English and listens to hip-hop. I don't always look great, or even good, and my voice goes above acceptable at least once a day. Sometimes more.

And you know what? I'm glad I didn't know all this, or I might not have had the nerve to go through with it. I didn't know how much fun it is to learn about imperfection and how cool it is to see things through a little guy's eyes. If I had accomplished my dream, I'd be taking my little cherub off to French class and have missed revving out in the mud puddles with my son's big yellow Tonka truck. Or having a second child and watching brotherhood blossom. Or learning how to eat the outside of a jelly bean first.

Treasures, all of it.

I do wish, however, that someone had told me to relax sooner. It seems so many other mothers now look back, too, and wish certain wisdoms had been shared with them when they were starting out. So we talked to a few, and, for mothers on Mother's Day, we're giving voice to some of the "I wish I had known"'s of raising children.


Deb Boucher, visiting family in Eastham, who has two daughters, 11 and 15

"I wish I had known how difficult it is, that it takes up all your time. I didn't really realize it before. It didn't seem like that much when you remember your mother doing it. Of course it probably was, it just didn't seem that way. When you were growing up, you didn't realize the amount of stuff she did, until all of a sudden, you have to multi-task. I wish I'd known the amount of things you would have to do every day."


Diana Hogan, of Dennis, who has one son, 31

"My son is a state cop, and I have two grandchildren. I probably think I wish I had known how to be a little more lenient, because he'd always say to me, 'Mom, you've got to trust me, you've got to give me more room,' and I'd say, 'Well, I'm a mother, that's what I'm supposed to do, I'm supposed to worry about you.' I think I was too much of a mom, I was very protective. Maybe I should've learned to let him go. But when I look at him today, I think it was all good; I say I did the right thing.

"I look at him now and feel so proud of him for what he's accomplished. He's a fantastic husband, a father, a provider, he's given so much to his community, I just can't tell you how proud of him I am."


Janet Mitchell, of Brewster, who has a son and daughter, ages 20 and 23

"I had my own life together a little bit more before I had my kids. I almost feel like I grew up with my daughter. I wish I'd had more confidence and knew myself a little better. Then maybe I could have given them a little bit more security, more boundaries. I ended up getting a divorce and getting remarried, so there was a lot that my kids went through. Everything is good now, but I hadn't experienced a lot of life when I had them. I never went to bars or did any of that kind of stuff, so I kind of did that when they were growing up. Motherhood is just so deep and involved, and the connection I have with my kids is so deep, which is a wonderful thing, but it is somewhat hard to let go because of that. I don't think I ever experienced anything like that before. I mean, you see the cute little babies — and everybody wants a little baby — but the deep changes in your life are way beyond that cute little baby."


Deborah Hunter, of Hyannis, who has a daughter, 29

"One thing I didn't know was how much sleep you were going to lose, and the constant worry. It's hard raising children in these times. I have grandchildren now, and I'm so disappointed about the schools and the lack of things to do for kids."


Lauren Biagiotti, Bourne, who has a son and two daughters, ages 17, 19 and 22

"I wish I had known how hard it really and truly is. There's no off-button, but I'm still looking for it! I was a single mother for many years, and it was extremely difficult, and they are all adults now, and I'm a grandmother. I'm glad I had them young, because here I am almost 43 years old, and I am enjoying life and appreciating life. I love having my freedom!"


Theresa Malone, Chatham, who has one son, 8

"There seems to be a direct correlation between all the things you said you'd never do as a mother and all the things you wind up doing. It doesn't matter how hard you try, you end up doing it anyway. I wish I knew it was all right to think it was really hard. I think a lot of people try to cover it up. I definitely did, trying to be the perfect mother all the time.

I wish I knew that you are not supposed to be teaching them, you're supposed to be learning from them. I think if I had switched the focus earlier, I would have had a lot more laughs, probably. I think it's very difficult to describe what the joy concept is, why it is so amazing. It's not physical, it's not mental, it's like an everything experience — it's the closest to magic I think you get in an adult life.

I wish I had known the difference a lot, too, of being a mother and being a parent. The mother part is a much more personal, self-fulfilling thing. The parenting is the work that is attached to that. Being a mother, I think, is the coolest thing I've ever done.

I also wish I had known how forgiving it is. You can make all sorts of mistakes, and they still love you, really love you, like foolishly love you."


Paula Roderiques, Yarmouth, whose two sons are 25 and 30

"I don't really have anything that I wish I had known. I have two sons, and they both graduated from college, and have good jobs and are good people, so it all turned out OK. We had a lot of hard times, financially; it was very difficult, more so when I was married than after the divorce. But we became a unit, we pulled together and supported each other. Luckily, I had an excellent job and a network of friends who helped out, because I had to travel a lot for my job. I've never had a regret. I was a strict mother, but they never had any trouble. I used to even get Father's Day cards from my kids. They're great boys. I wanted my kids, and I was lucky to have them."

Moms and daughters

Julie Halpert and Deborah Carr, authors of the new "Making Up With Mom: Why Mothers and Daughters Disagree about Kids, Careers and Casseroles and What to Do About It" (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95), interviewed nearly 100 women about that sometimes thorny relationship. Here is advice they gathered about moms and daughters getting along and communicating better: