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.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) 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.