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10 Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know Before I Had Kids

Written by Elizabeth Spencer

I was not a big follower of the “what to expect when…” genre of books on motherhood.

(Now: if you are or were a follower, that is 100% fine and please don’t bail on me quite yet.)

It’s just that those books lost me when they talked about how once or twice during nine months of pregnancy, an expectant mom could “splurge” and have a scoop of frozen yogurt with a drizzle of fat-free chocolate syrup. Splurge. Because, hello, I was the kind of mom-under-construction who was having two scoops of premium triple-chocolate with full-on hot fudge sauce at least once a week, thank you very much.

No, I was really looking for a different kind of parenting book. What to Expect When You’re Expecting Something That Will Change Your Life Forever and Turn You Into an Utterly Different Human Being, maybe?


Which would actually be a very short book, because no one can tell a new mom-to-be what motherhood will be like. And even if they tried, that mom-in-waiting wouldn’t believe it. 

Maybe it’s because my oldest is getting ready for her senior year and I’m feeling all nostalgic and sappy and introspective, but I realized the other day that there was a lot I didn’t know in my Days B.C. (Before Children). For instance…

1. I didn’t know how much the personality and character of a child can change the atmosphere of your home so that when they’re gone, the place just doesn’t feel right. This hit me about an hour after my older daughter went to camp.

2. I didn’t know that when something bad happens to your child, it hurts so much more than anything bad that ever happened to you.

3. I didn’t know that when something wonderful happens to your child, it makes you happier than any wonderful thing that ever happened to you.

4. I didn’t know that two of the most-feared phrases I could ever hear would be: 1)”Yup, that’s lice” and 2)”Mom, I need help with this science project.”

5. I didn’t know that not every parenting decision boils down to one “right” choice and one choice that will RUIN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE. I didn’t know that most choices are not about perfect forever but about best at the time.

6. I didn’t know nothing would amp up my prayer life like becoming a parent. Had I ever actually prayed before I had children? And now that I do have them (and, in particular, now that they are t(w)eens), do I ever actually stop praying? “Please God, please God, please God…”

7. I didn’t know that becoming a mom would take me places in my heart and soul I’d never been to before. Places I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. Places I needed to go.

8. I didn’t know that moms are only as content as their least-contented child.

9. I didn’t know how much power I would have. That by the look on my face or the tone of my voice, I could make or break a morning or a moment or a day or a family vacation or a potential crisis or a holiday or anything else that could be turned into a memory. I didn’t know I wouldn’t always want this much power but that, if used wisely even when I didn’t feel like using it wisely, it could be one of my highest callings and honors.

10. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. And no book or other mom could have told me. Again, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. And I probably wouldn’t have wanted to know about some of it.

But here’s the thing: neither can anyone tell you–neither can you believe–how much you don’t know about how incredible it can be. How it can change your life forever, and how you’ll be so grateful it did.

Oh, and one more thing: if anyone knows of some sort of “What To Expect When Your Child Is About to Become a High School Senior and You Have No Idea What You’re Doing” reference guide, let me know about it.

But only if the first paragraph is something along the lines of, “Welcome to your child’s senior year. Go make yourself a hot fudge sundae and don’t skimp on the whipped cream, mama, because you deserve it.”

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you became a mom? Please share. Don’t leave me alone in my confessions of ignorance here. Thanks, mama.

About the author

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Yet another one of your posts that perfectly verbalizes all I am feeling these days!! Hard to narrow it down, but I’d say numbers 2, 5, 6, and 8 really hit home for me. Even as I read this, I was praying for one of my girls and a bit of a difficult situation I know she’s facing today. Thankful that I can take her needs, as well as my own, to One Who can handle them all.

    I guess if I were to add one to the list, it would be that I didn’t know that I didn’t know how much I’d be comforted and encouraged by other moms (including my own) who have walked this parenting path before me as well as those who are currently walking it beside me. They let me know that neither I nor my kids are really that crazy 🙂

    • Oh my word, Tracey, I love everything you wrote! Honestly, if I’d had to cut this list in half, the “didn’t knows” you listed would have made my revised list! 😉 Oh, how I feel what you said about thinking of and praying for your daughter, knowing what she’s facing. Many days, I go through the day with “please help, God…please help, God” on my lips. It is so hard–and yet what you said is exactly the point: we aren’t supposed to handle it because God is. I also love your addition! In fact, isn’t that one of the huge blessings of mom blogging: encouragement from other moms? There is nothing like reading or hearing something another mom writes or says and thinking, “Really? I thought it was just me.” I get that blessing from you, by the way (and from my girl Lisa, in the previous comment!). Thank you so much.

  • Isn’t it always time for a hot fudge sundae? 😉 Another fabulous post from you, my dear. And I’d say that I never would have expected being able to sit for hours just watching the little gal enjoying herself and find that to be more entertaining that anything else in the world!

    • Thank you SO much, my sweet friend! Yes, it IS always time for a sundae. 😉 And I love your addition…you are so right. Who knew? I love that you pointed out this unexpected joy of motherhood. Blessings on you and that adorable, entertaining little gal of yours.

  • Hey Elizabeth!

    I love what you’ve shared here (but I love most of what you write). I didn’t know that life would little kids would be so exhausting – seriously! The non-stop cooking, cleaning, wiping, diaper changing was enough to make me run and hide on the side of my bed (that wasn’t exactly the high point of my life). :o) Thankfully, things got better. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.


    • Aw, Tiffiney, that is so sweet of you! And I’m especially glad you clicked over here because I was JUST thinking about you today. I hopped over to your blog FB page a minute ago and realized I had liked it but that my notifications for it were off. Well, I fixed that right quick. I LOVE your comment, and wow are you right about that exhaustion, mama. To say nothing of the fact that you totally cracked me up with this line: “that wasn’t exactly the high point of my life.” Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this refreshing honesty WHICH I can 100% relate to. It was a joy to hear from you here! 🙂

  • Ha ha! Love it! I use to always look at parents (before I had kids) with misbehaving kids, “If they just did this and this there kids would behave.” Boy have I learned a lot. It’s really true, there are some things you just can’t be told “how to” You have to experience it for yourself. Yes, on how a child missing can change the whole atmosphere of the home. It’s crazy! And yes on the lice..eww…I never want to hear those words!;)

    • Wow, is that ever the truth! I know my sister said she always looked at kids with runny noses and thought, “Why doesn’t that mom wipe that nose?” Now, she says she understands: it’s because a child reacts to having their nose wiped as if they are being tortured! Once you ARE a mom, you quickly learn to fight the battles that really have to be fought, right? Thanks so much for clicking over here, Rebekah…and may the lice NEVER be with you! 😉

  • Hardest job ever! Even if you have read all those what to expect books, like I did, it still doesn’t prepare you for the magnitude of what you’re going to experience. It is a rollercoaster ride. I have two adults and two teens so senior year should be fun and then there is the mad rush to prepare for college. We definitely need those sundaes!!

    • Wow, Mary…two adults and two teens. YOU should write a “what to expect” book! While I wait for it, I think I’ll have some ice cream. 😉 Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and to leave your thoughts. Blessings on you!

  • Once again–laughter and tears over here. 🙂 I love this list. I taught a class to moms a couple of years ago called “Baby Blues: What No One Ever Told You About Being a Mom”. I knew NOTHING! And it turns out that most moms didn’t either. I agree that I have been changed so much. God has used my children (and marriage) to highlight my need to soften and be less stubborn and less selfish (except when brownies are in my possession) then…well, you know! Honestly though, God has given me a gift to see how much molding He wanted to do in me through my children!

    • Hey! I WANT to take your class! (Insert pout.) And whoa mama, are you right about that more softening, less “stubborning” and “selfishing” business! No wonder this motherhood gig feels hard. ‘Cause it is. Like most things in life that are eternally valuable. Thanks for taking time to hop over here, Christine. You know you’re the best, right? xoxo

  • This is great Elizabeth! I think your list mirrors mine in many ways! Thank you for sharing this at the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! 🙂 And yes, frozen yogurt was eaten every day of my pregnant life! It was purely protein for the baby of course!

    • But of course! 😉 We moms-to-be want only the very best for our babies, right? Hahaha…I’d LOVE to see your list! Maybe you’ll put it up for a future Art of Homemaking Monday? Thanks for taking the trip over here!

    • Right, Brooke?! I was similarly clueless (this list is by NO means complete) and now, with t(w)eens, the learning curve continues to be pretty steep! Thank you for joining me in my confessions of ignorance!

  • #8: Truer words have never been spoken.

    And #9 follows closely, “That by the look on my face or the tone of my voice, I could make or break a morning or a moment or a day or a family vacation or a potential crisis or a holiday or anything else that could be turned into a memory.” I have felt this so strongly–fore better and for worse!

    I’m loving your writing style. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Oh, yes, Mary, that tricky #8 and #9. Sometimes, I wish they didn’t ring quite so true in our house. But there they are, to be either fought or embraced–as you put it so well…”for better or for worse”! Thanks so much for taking time to stop by and to leave your kind and encouraging words. I love YOUR writing style–which I know puts me in a lot of good company! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Michelle. And yup: #9 gets me every time, too. 😉 Thank you for stopping by and for your continued sweet encouragement and support. You are a gift to me and to so many others!