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Descriptions of motherhood are a lot like curated Instagram feeds. The picture-perfect moments are hyped up while the more frustrating episodes, and even the mundane parts, typically go unexamined. But there’s a lot more to being a mom than the occasions that make your feeds, and that’s what makes it so much more rewarding and frustrating, sometimes at the same time.

We asked moms to share something about raising kids they couldn’t have imagined would be true until they were there, in the moment.

I didn’t realize strangers would so freely criticize my parenting.
Rachel Hahn, Cherry Hill

I never realized how advocating for your children would make you a better advocate for yourself. You learn to stand up for your kids in a way you may have never stood up for yourself before, and so you learn to be stronger not just for them, but for you as well. You grow some real balls when you birth a baby.
Lindsey Wells, Cherry Hill

I was prepared for how guilty I felt when I went back to an office job after 8 years at home. What surprised me was the elation I felt being in the grown-up world with people who wanted to talk about things other than the teacher who gave a lot of homework or the mom who dodged the PTA volunteer jobs. I’m actually less exhausted after putting in a solid work day than I was being around kids 24/7.
Marci B., Medford

I know now that the gift of an ordinary day is as important, if not more important, than all the big moments.
Lisa Falzone, Marlton

No one tells you how difficult breastfeeding can be. All you hear about is how wonderful it is. I nursed my son for 10 months, because I believed it was healthy. But I never felt that complete joy people talk about. I wasn’t expecting that. Moms don’t really talk about how hard it can be.
Jennifer T., Medford

For me it was the utter surprise of the post-college calamity, when not one but both of my daughters joined the boomerang generation and returned home for a season to find careers. Now, with both daughters married and living far away, I appreciate that time we had together.
Pam Brant, Mt. Laurel

A hair appointment is a sacred thing!
Loretta Lewis, Haddonfield

The act of going to the grocery store alone post-kids is like a spa vacation. Never knew that before.
Elizabeth Munley, Moorestown

No one ever told me that being a mom means trying so hard to hold on to those precious moments, while trying to be present, but also preparing your heart for the day they leave.
Trang Bell, Voorhees

I definitely couldn’t have imagined that once you have kids you’ll forever pee your pants when you sneeze.
Ellen Patch, Maple Shade

I still can’t get over the intensity of how much you love/care for your child. When people say “I would give my right arm to…” – that is the truth. On another note, I was also surprised how eating something from hands that are completely covered in drool doesn’t gross you out when you’re their momma.
Veronica Kraft, Mt. Laurel

This answer might be a little harsh, but it’s the truth. Before I had kids, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved kids! After I had kids, no one ever told me how much I would dislike other people’s kids. Needless to say, I don’t think I want to be a teacher anymore.
Kim Molesan, Cherry Hill

One thing that surprised me (to this day…and my “kids” are 27, 25 and 16) is how much sleep you will lose the rest of your life. Sure, people talk about the sleeplessness associated with newborns or teething children, but no one prepares you for all other times you WON’T sleep…from school issues, friend problems, teens staying out late, worrying about the first time they drive alone, going away to college, supporting them through their own “adult” issues and more. A mom is a mom for life.
Wendy Marano, Maple Shade

Having lost my mother in my early 20s, I navigated motherhood on my own – just going by pure love and devotion for my sons. However, the most difficult part of motherhood is being able to let go. You raise them to be good men, responsible individuals and when they are ready to go out on their own you must let go. Mary
Jane Cashin, Marlton

No one told me that motherhood would be such a roller coaster of emotions – you can have the highest of highs to the lowest of lows all in one day. To all the new moms out there – hang on for the ride of your life!
Becky Potter, Marlton

I knew the health benefits of breastfeeding, but I didn’t expect to love it so much that I wouldn’t want to wean them off once they were active toddlers. I didn’t care that other moms judged. Stopping was actually hard, especially with my youngest child, knowing that was the end of the line.
Marielle Levy, Westampton

In my visions of being a mom, I always expected to raise kids with a partner, so that we’d be doing it as a team. Getting divorced and having to raise kids as a single mom wasn’t supposed to be the plan. But my sons and I are so close, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Jade M., Cherry Hill

May 2021
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