I remember having a particularly epic blowout fight with my mom when I was 17. Her baffling words rang crystal clear in my teenage ears, “Just wait until you are a mom, then you’ll understand.”

In true teenage fashion, I rolled my eyes and stomped away in my Doc Martens, scrunchie in my hair and the mall on my mind.

What 17-year-old can even comprehend the gravity of that statement? All I cared about was cruising around in my 2001 Chevy Camaro (oh man, I miss those T-tops), chasing boys and wanting to be as far away from any parental reach as possible. The only thing I understood was that she was overprotective, uncool, and totally out of touch with reality.

The enormity of becoming someone’s mother is something you cannot prepare the woman with the swollen belly at the baby shower for. No amount of cute baby booties can prime you for those tiny feet that will be walking away with your heart soon thereafter. You can warn someone, even a teenager, but until that day when you met YOUR child, it is like deciphering a foreign language.

Thirteen years after that fight with my mom, I was in a fight of my own trying to deliver a baby after a failed induction. It took 72 hours in labor and delivery and one second of seeing my son to take me back to those words. Suddenly, as that baby cried and inhaled his first breath, I mumbled, “I get it now, Mom, I get it.” 

Years had passed, including 10 months of pregnancy, unwanted advice dispensed aplenty, many books on parenting digested, yet in that instant, I was connected to my mom and finally understood. It wasn’t enough to have read about it or listened to it; I had to feel it for myself.

I get why she was overprotective. My only mission in life now is to protect this boy (and now a girl, too). If I could throw these kids in a bubble forever, I probably would. They are what gives me life. And sometimes feels like death without any sleep, but I digress.

I get why she was uncool. Building a life around your children sometimes doesn’t leave time for much else, including yourself. Not giving her a pass on her poodle perm or the mom jeans (sorry mom still uncool all these years later and I have the pictures to prove it ha).

I get why she was out of touch with reality. Sleep deprivation, constant worrying about your child’s wellbeing and stress to provide for a family will do that to you. Your reality is now your family and your children and that is painstakingly more difficult than any virtual world out there.

What my 17-year-old self could never grasp my thirty something mom of two brain now cherishes. To that I say thank you mom. Thank you for everything you did when I was young and everything you continue to do for me as an adult. You never realize those sacrifices until you are sacrificing them yourself. 

There is nothing like being able to call your mom at 2 a.m. because the baby won’t stop crying and just having her on the other end doing nothing but listening and loving you.

Just yesterday I said something I never thought I would. I told my 3-year-old: “Just wait until you’re a dad.” Then I laughed and laughed because hopefully one day he will find out for himself, too.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Kelly Houseman

Kelly Houseman is a mental health counselor who maintains a private practice in Michigan. She is the mom of a toddler son and a brand-new baby girl. You can follow her career and family adventures on her blog Kelly's Reality or on Instagram.com @KellysReality.