My hair frizzed in all directions. When I finally mustered the gumption to shave my legs, I left a tell-tale gash more conspicuous than stubble. My boobs kept growing; I couldn’t find a bra and couldn’t decide if I should bother to wear one. My peers spent their time snarking about boys, snarking about each other, and endlessly dissecting the sex they weren’t having. Everyone hated me. Everyone was judging me. I regularly hid in the bathroom.
This is seventh grade. This is also new motherhood. The baby books don’t tell that having a child is basically like starting middle school, only with a squalling human appendage and better musical tastes (Sorry, Tiffany. Band of Horses rocks).
Your body changes in new and disturbing ways. The internet tells me that during puberty, your hips and thighs grow rounder; your breasts grow – sometimes one more quickly than the other; and you begin to sweat more profusely. This also describes a post-baby body. The only difference: I didn’t leak milk all over my Catholic school uniform.
Everyone’s talking about sex, and no one’s having any. In 7th grade, we were too scared to make out. Postpartum, my husband and I hesitate to wash our underwear in the same load. But that didn’t stop my girlfriends and I from talking. How will it work? Will it fit? Will he be grossed out when he sees me naked? Do my girl parts look weird now? Is everyone else having sex but me?
You have to have a clique. You can’t lone-wolf it through junior high. Neither can you manage mommyhood alone: You have to pick a clan. You’ve got the jocks (the moms who miss McKynzy’s first steps for Pilates), the cheerleaders (lots of monograms and seersucker, bottle-not-breast), the hippies (replace an adolescent obsession over “animal rights” with a sanctimommy case of “lactivism”), the Jesus freaks (people who swear by scheduled feedings and To Train Up a Child), the geeks (baby TARDIS tees), and the party girls (look for Facebook statuses like “Mommy needs a drink!” and “It’s wine o’clock!”). Yep, they’re all horrible, broad stereotypes. And they’re your new best friends.
Hormones make you crazy. The only person with the crazy highs and abyssmal lows of a middle school girl? A postpartum mommy. One minute, everything’s perfect. The next, you’re sobbing in the bathroom because you remembered that Sarah McLachlan SPCA commerical (not saw. Remembered.). A guy’s innocent question can throw you into a sulk for days, only “Why aren’t you going to the dance?” has become “When are you due?” Eternal emnity, dude. Eternal.
There’s crazy girl drama. Explaining mommy drama makes an otherwise reasonable adult sound like a teenybopper, except now kids, not boys, are the center of competition. Brittany said Alyssa’s kid’s the spawn of Satan, because he bit Stephanie’s son on the playground, but Stephanie didn’t care and she hates Alyssa anyway, except that time Alyssa’s daughter fed her son red dye 40 and he didn’t sleep for three days. Brittany was pissed about that. That chick you made a “sisters” necklace with (probably from Origami Owl)? You’ll hate her in a year.
You get hit up for bullshit fundraisers. In middle school, everyone hounded you to buy overpriced wrapping paper, or doughnuts, or poinsettas, because they just had to win that pizza party prize. Now every other mama’s hawking Mary Kay or 31 Gifts or DoTerra or those creepy in-home vibrator party things. You will be bombarded with the tiered marketing schemes stay-at-home-mamas embrace to make some cash on the side. Do not succumb. Even if you really, really want that Pampered Chef pizza stone.
You become an inveterate mall rat. 12 year olds stalk Claire’s Boutique and Hot Topic for whatever neon crap corporate America’s peddling this week (fedoras? Hello Kitty thongs? Feather earrings?). Postpartum mamas move a few stores down – to eye the new Gymboree line. Both groups cruise the mall to meet friends, ogle the unaffordable, snarf soft pretzels, and generally beat the boredom inherent in both middle school and new mommyhood (you can only watch the baby roll over so many times before insanity sets in). The groups pass each other when middle schoolers tramp into the Gap to try on size 0000 jeans, and the mommies hazily drift back to cruise the Baby Gap clearance rack.
A fervent conviction of your own rightness is matched only by your crippling sense of insecurity. No one’s more right than a tween who knows Justin Bieber is so much hotter than whoever is the anti-Justin Bieber, and no one’s more wrong than a fellow mommy who chooses disposables instead of cloth (or co-sleeping instead of cry-it-out, or bottle instead of breast). At the same time, both middle schoolers and mommies spend their days wracked with self doubt. Yes, a 12 year old’s thinking no boy will ever like her, and a new mama’s worrying only years of therapy will undo her crappy parenting. But it’s still crippling, existential, and miserable self-doubt she’ll laugh at in five years. Mostly.
Parents just don’t understand. In seventh grade, your mom was wrong about everything: your music, your friends, your hair, your curfew, and especially that black miniskirt you desperately wanted. She will never be as utterly and completely wrong again – until you pop out a baby of your own. Then, suddenly, your loving mother morphs into that same overbearing, idiotic monster you fought in junior high. Every single thing she suggests is wrong, from baby names to baby food to sleeping arrangements to do not even attempt to talk about circumcision.
And the worst part? Boys totally don’t get it (mostly). 12 year old boys are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest girl drama. 32 year old daddies are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest mommy drama (Okay, not true: Dads worry about much more important things, like paying for college and parenting and mommies and whether they’ll ever, ever have sex again. Men are equal partners in parenting. Seriously. But they still worry about boobs a lot). Expect that your man won’t keep your mommy friends straight. Your Gymboree purchases will confuse him. Your weeping fits will confound him. He’ll find you inexplicable and wonderful and terrifying.
And he’ll still want to bang you. Just like middle school.
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