I've been feeling a bit distracted lately. It could be the weather, a nagging insomnia I've been meaning to call the doctor about for the past year or my kids' very active schedules and interests that leave little time for anything else besides them and the magazine.
But as I thought about this month's issue and the great (or not so great) advice readers' moms passed on to them, I couldn't help but wonder if I somehow missed some valuable advice about some of the things I didn't expect to encounter when I became a mom.
I didn't expect the constant whining or how much I would absolutely hate it. Give me fingernails on a chalkboard any day.
I didn't expect the constant bad-parenting moments, like screaming at the kids to stop the bickering or resorting to threats of punishment and not following through. (Yes, I know that's really bad.)
I didn't expect to feel so jealous of the stay-at-home moms laughing and playing with their little ones at the park I pass every day at lunch. I didn't expect to feel guilty when my kids beg to go to the park and I respond "maybe later" because I am so mentally exhausted when I get home from work.
For that matter, I didn't expect to feel guilt every day over something involving the kids.
I didn't expect a mommy could go from hero to zero in a blink of the eye, but it happens, unfortunately, with regularity, especially as the kids get older.
I didn't expect to be so distracted that I listen to them talk without really paying full attention or to feel so overwhelmed that when I do sleep I have nightmares about juggling their schedules.
Yet, all that said, there are those incredibly crystal clear moments where I actually feel like I am doing a good job as mom. Most of these moments these days come in the car. The kids and I literally spend hours every week in the car driving to Irish dance classes, tennis lessons, soccer, sports performance training and harp lessons.
I like hearing what's on their minds and seeing their opinions form. If I'm lucky, I'll even hear the inside scoop on what's going on in the schools (though the thought of some of the middle school kids drinking and having sex is totally freaking me out and the mean girl antics in elementary school make my blood boil).
As we drive and talk, they really seem to listen as I share my own thoughts and values in the hope that they will one day remember them as they pick their own way through life's minefields.
In the 14 incredible and humbling years I've been a mom, my life has changed completely. In the middle of the night, as I lay awake listening to the soft breaths of my sleeping babies in the quiet house, I can't help but smile because my heart is filled with love.
It is the life I expected.
Happy Mother's Day.
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.