The moment you become a mother, everything changes.
A few hours after giving birth to my first son, I placed him in the little bassinet (I felt terrible making him lay in something so sterile and hard but was desperate for some sleep) and laid my head back on the hospital bed.
Five minutes later, I heard choking sounds. I sat up as quickly as I could and tried to lift my son up and over the plastic bumpers with shaky arms. He was perfectly fine, just a little spit up stuck in his throat.
But I was not.
I held my tiny little baby and cried. I cried because I was exhausted. I cried because I realized that my life would never, ever be the same.
I cried because I was scared.
Motherhood is full of scary moments. Moments where you wonder, “Am I doing everything I should be? Are my kids going to be OK? Am I raising them the right way?”
ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap” recently featured reality TV moms: Kate Gosselin and Kendra Wilkinson. These women are polar opposites. In fact, the only thing these two seem to have in common is the fact that they are both mothers. OK, and blondes.
I was super skeptical watching this episode. After all, Kate isn’t technically a wife anymore.
But I was really surprised with how much these women actually learned from each other.
In Kate’s household, everyone and everything is on a strict schedule. Like, down to the minute. But with eight kids, I think running a tight ship is necessary. Kate doesn’t have a full-time babysitter, housekeeper or cook. It’s all her.
Kendra, on the other hand, has a nanny who cooks and cleans. Her amazing saint of a husband, NFL wide receiver Hank Baskett III, picks up most of the slack, letting Kendra “relax” and get massages, go to hot yoga classes and have crazy nights out on the town.
When these two women swapped places for one week, it was like moving to a different planet.
“They’re mothering me!” Kendra exclaimed of Kate’s eight kids. “This has honestly been the hardest day of my life,” she said after a long day of making breakfast, lunches, doing laundry, cleaning the house and taking care of eight kids. “I don’t know how she does it every day.”
“Crazy,” Kate kept saying when she was repeatedly told by Hank to take it easy. Her first few days consisted of lying by the pool, golfing and having girls nights on the town. “This kind of life is luxurious,” she said, “but honestly if I had all this free time, I’d be spending it with little Hank.”
Halfway through the week, these women were allowed to change up the household rules and implement some of their own mothering styles. Kate had Kendra’s 2-year-old doing “chores” (putting away his toys, eating at the dinner table) and Kendra threw the schedule out the door and took all eight kids to a family fun center.
After the week, the two women got together to talk about what they learned.
Kate said she would take more time for herself, without feeling guilty. Kendra decided to start having family dinners and cutting back on the time little Hank spends in school so she could be with him more.
Neither woman was portrayed in a negative light. Neither lifestyle was favored. I started to think about how I mother my own children. I frequently compare myself to others, especially when I’m on Facebook or Pintrest too much. I don’t do crafts as much as I want to. I don’t make homemade bread on a daily basis. I am always wondering how much time is “enough” to spend one-on-one with each child, and do the others feel neglected? Do I write too much? Are they bored when I’m nursing (which is all the time)? Am I fixing the right foods for their growing bodies?
Kate is an excellent homemaker. But does that automatically make her an excellent mother?
Kendra is so laid back and care-free. But does that mean she’s happier?
I think, like most things in life, motherhood is balancing act. Right now, I feel like I’m mostly falling off the wire, but the point is I keep trying no matter how many times I fall.
Something Kendra said made me think hard about who I am as a person:
“I will never shut off any door to who I am.”
I think becoming a mother automatically means shutting off some doors. It should change you. It should make you a different person. But it should all be for the better and for the benefit of the child you decided to bring into the world.
Because behind every late night, early morning, messy kitchen, cluttered family room, and sticky, eight-passenger van there are three pairs of big blue eyes, thirty tiny toes, and six chubby cheeks who changed it all for me.
My three boys have opened a world a possibilities for me as a mother, and person.
And worth every scary, exhausting, joyful moment.