The Dark Side of Parenting: 7 Truths I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids - Real Mom Recs

The Dark Side of Parenting: 7 Truths I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids


dark side of parenting what I wish I knew before having kids

Everyone tells you having kids will change your life. The part they don’t always tell you is, it’s not always for the better.

Yes, the half-pints are adorable (just look at mine!) and yes, you will love them like you’ve never loved anything before. But all the rosy stories about kids that end with “and I wouldn’t change a thing!” are a flat-out fraud. Who wouldn’t change the baby that wakes up every two hours into a baby that sleeps all night? Who wouldn’t change their tantrumming toddler into a child who says “that’s ok if my blue cup is in the dishwasher Mom. Just give me whichever one is available”?

Let’s be honest- there’s a lot we would change. The Moms with the flawless family pictures on Facebook paint a picture of life with kids that is glorious, a life that somehow transcends any possible joy or fulfillment childless people could ever experience. Oh, how young childless me longed to experience such enlightenment!

Now here I am on the other side. In the trenches. With four tiny, loud humans depending on me for everything. Demanding. Needing. Wanting. Competing. Yes, there are wonderful, beautiful moments like I’d never experienced before. But there is also a dark side to parenthood that I never hear people talking about. Since they don’t talk about it, it’s easy to feel alone. You might wonder what’s wrong with you that this new life isn’t providing you with a constant state of bliss. The self-doubt starts to creep in.

Some days I have to remind myself, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Parenting hard RealMomRecs

If people had been more open and honest with me, I would have been better prepared before having kids. Looking back now there are some parenting truths I wish I understood before permanently changing my life by becoming a Mom.

7 Truths I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids

1. Don’t even try to plan it.  You are not in control.

You might have had success planning every detail of your life up to this point and you may be entirely sure that you can plan parenthood just as well. Let me just tell you now, it won’t go according to plan.

Maybe you’ll get pregnant when you weren’t supposed to be trying yet. Or maybe it will take 3 years and two rounds of  IVF.

Maybe you will time it perfectly so that your due date will be right at the most convenient time for you to take off of work. But then you get sentenced to bed rest during your most busy time of year.

Maybe your dream of a natural, medication-free water birth is shattered when you end up having an emergency C-section.

Maybe your water breaks at 24 weeks and you end up spending months going back and forth to the NICU and your entire universe is turned upside down.

No amount of skill or OCD-esque personality traits will allow you to be in control of your entry to parenthood.

2. It might not be love at first sight.

You spend months, maybe even years dreaming about the first time you lay eyes on your child. So many people tell you it will be love at first sight.

Maybe it will be.

But if it’s not, that’s normal too. Of my four children, I can honestly say I felt love at first sight once. The other three took time. You give birth and the doctor hands you a stranger. It’s OK if it takes some time to develop that bond. Love grows at its own pace.

3. Your marriage will change.

Before having kids, my husband was my world. I wanted to know his every thought and feeling every single day. It was the two of us in our own private universe where nothing else mattered.

Until the kids came.

Four kids later, there are times when it feels like my husband and I are more like coworkers than intimate life partners. Conversations revolve around schedules and task delegation. We still love and care for one another, but the entire focus of the relationship has shifted.

4. Friendships will change.

That friend you’ve had since elementary school that you always envisioned your child calling “Auntie”? She might fall by the wayside after you realize how little time you have to devote to anything other than your little one.

Parenthood is so all-consuming, especially in the beginning, that you will feel you have nothing left of yourself to give. And even if you manage to put effort into the maintaining the friendship, she might decide that she’d rather go out with other childless companions rather than sit on your couch and listen to you gripe about colic.

5. It can be lonely.

Dark Side of parenting: It can be lonely.
Even though you’re never alone, being a Mom can still be lonely.

Once you’re out of the newborn haze, you will find yourself ready to make some Mommy friends. This sounds so simple, yet it ends up being an even more complex process than finding your spouse.

First you need to like her, and she needs to like you. Then the schedules need to sync up (a stay at home mom looking for a morning playgroup will have a tough time befriending the mom that works 9-5). Your kids and her kids need to be similar ages and get along reasonably well. Parenting styles need to mesh well or you will end up feeling judged the entire playdate for bringing your kid a juice box into the house where sugar is considered a sin.


Of course before having kids I was aware that they would be permanent. Or at least I thought I knew that.

Eight years later, the reality of how ever-present kids are continues to smack me in the face on a regular basis. When considering having kids, have a good honest sit down with yourself and ponder this: Do you like sleeping in on the weekends? Do you sometimes spend lazy days binge watching Netflix? Ever wake up hungover and need to lounge for hours until it wears off? Do you enjoy spontaneously deciding to go somewhere and just grabbing your purse and heading out the door? These are things you will not be able to do for YEARS.

You can’t call in sick to Mommyhood.

7. You might miss your old life.

I love my family infinitely and would be heartbroken if I didn’t have each one of my children. I’m sure all parents feel the same. But when parenthood gets exceptionally challenging and tiresome, you may find yourself longing for the days when the only person you had to worry about was yourself. It’s not that you want your kids gone, you just wish you could freeze them and save them for later. Then you’d go back to your child-free life and take a couple more vacations. Sleep in a few more weekends. Go check out the new sushi joint without being at the mercy of your 15 year old neighbor to come babysit. You might find yourself fantasizing about the most basic of things like being able to eat a brownie without sharing it or being able to use the bathroom without an audience.

I have never heard another mom say out loud that she misses her old life, but I know they sometimes have those feelings. And if you are a Mom who sometimes feels this way, you are not alone.


3 Little Buttons


Adoptive mom, biological mom, slacker mom, Disney mom, and above all things a REAL mom. Fan of blogging, sleeping, and pretending not to hear my kids fight.


  1. Such a true revelation.. Indeed friendships, husband wife relations change a lot.. Things turn more practical & sometimes we even get lost!

  2. These are all so very true. I wish I was able to just pick up and go do something fun without having to do a ton of planning and arranging a sitter. I do love my little so much though, but if I could just get one full night of sleep, I’d be such a happier person!

  3. Your honesty is refreshing. 4 kids here and I love them with all my heart, but I wish there was more balance in how motherhood is presented. Some days are beautiful and great, some days are very lonely and hard. ❤

  4. So true. Your marriage definitely changes. And some days I feel oh so lonely. It’s a bloody good job they’re worth it isn’t it haha.


  5. So brutally but beautifully true. The politics of finding mum friends is one that really took me by surprise. Finding someone with the same outlook on parenting and the same free schedule takes some doing, but when you do they become your BFF! What then really surprised me is how quickly those fantastic friendships fade once one of your little ones starts school and the play-dates are off the cards all of a sudden? My social life now revolves entirely around my daughter’s and her choice of friends and their mums. It’s bizarre. Thanks so much for linking this with #DreamTeam. I love and applaud your honesty x

    1. So funny how the mom friend
      dynamics change as the kids get older! I have a baby, preschooler, first grader and third grader so I’m all over the map right now. I could probably write a whole other post just about that!

  6. You hit the nail on the head. So nourishing to read other’s experiences and share their thoughts.
    Thank you for your notes.

  7. Caitlin – thanks for being authentic. I’m further along in my mothering journey (well, I still have a 5 year old but also a bunch of tweens and teens. I wish I had read all these points before putting on my Mom Badge. Love the revoloution brewing of Moms trying to be real in a Pinterest Perfect society. Thanks for being part of that.

    1. Thanks for saying that Karen, totally made my day! 🙂 I do think social media puts a certain amount of pressure on moms now, like you need to get the perfect photo of the perfect moments to show the world you’re a good mom. I try to stay out of all that. Glad I’m not alone! And I love hearing from Moms who are farther down the line than me, especially those with bigger families like mine. Going to check out your blog for some wisdom!

  8. Hi Caitlin, as a Marriage and Family Therapist, working with expectant parents… and as a Mom myself…I can tell you how those unattainable expectations could affect Moms tremendously, BRAVO for your courage, you are making a huge contribution sharing your real challenges as a Mom..we need more real sharing and less “pretending perfection” sharing…

    1. Wow, thanks Maria for saying this 🙂 I try to be “real” on my site and counter the whole “perfect mom” image. It means a lot to me that people notice and appreciate this!

  9. I do miss my old life frequently and I wish more people would admit that. These can be lonely thoughts because everyone feels guilty saying it out loud! I definitely have moments where I just don’t want to engage in “parenting” because it’s so hard!

  10. Really love this article! No sugar, no apologies, just the honest truth. I’m sharing it in a roundup post to publish on Saturday.

  11. I relate to every truth in the article! I get jealous because my husband goes to go to work and talks to adults! I worked hard in college to land my dream job and now I spend my days arguing with toddlers. Being a Mom is harder than I ever imagined!

  12. YES! I feel so bad thinking “ugh, if only I could go back in time…” because I LOVE my baby boy, love him more than anything. But I miss going on fun, spontaneous dates with my husband. I miss sleeping for as long as I want. I miss going out with friends! It’s so refreshing to read that I’m not alone. Thinking those things makes me feel awful, but I’m happy to see that I’m not alone. We probably all miss things about being childless, it just isn’t something most people say out loud. Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Thanks for your comment Brooks, I’m glad it spoke to you. It’s hard to accept these feelings as normal when everyone seems to only talk about the parenting “highs”- especially on social media. I bet there are way more people out there feeling like us than we realize.

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