Motherhood is an exclusive tribe reserved for those women who dedicate their lives to caring for and raising another human being. Your entire world drastically changes the minute that baby is brought into your life, whether through childbirth, adoption, surrogacy, or other circumstances. You’re just trying to make it from one day to the next, sometimes even from one hour to the next. But then one day, you look around and realize that another, much more subtle change has occurred. Your mom status has changed. Your baby has become a toddler, and you are now a toddler mom. You’re not quite sure when it happened or how it happened, but it’s a far cry from the baby mom days. And just in case you’re not sure if you’re a toddler mom yet, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 signs. (I am in no way admitting that these are from personal experience. Think what you want….)

You get angry that no one is around to see your toddler when he is actually behaving in public. Why is there never a single person in sight when my toddler sits quietly and patiently on a park bench for 15 minutes with me? Yet the entire town has chosen the exact same time to go to the grocery store when my toddler loses his mind and lays in the middle of the produce aisle crying (refer to #3). Just once, I want someone to be around to see us and think, “Wow, that mom really has her act together.” Instead, I’m pretty sure most of the general public sees us and thinks, “Wow, she’s a hot mess, isn’t she? She can’t even control her own child.” Sigh.

Speaking of the grocery store, a trip to the grocery store with your toddler ultimately results in opening several items before you even pay for them. This is true no matter how well you prepare and how many snacks you pack from home. The grapes from home? No thanks. Those fresh grapes from the produce section are way better. Yes, mom, the ones that we pay for by weight, so that you can’t pay for them if I eat them. But I will have a meltdown if you refuse to let me have them….

Your toddler has laid in the middle of the floor in public while you’ve started to walk away. Yes, people stare in horror, poised to dial 9-1-1 on their cell phones and report child endangerment. But does the tantrum stop? Does your toddler get up from the floor and follow you? Can you still see him the whole time?  Yes. By all means, if you want to stand there and try to reason with a toddler while people stare, more power to you. Both tactics will result in people staring. Only one has a favorable outcome.

You have done 90% of those things you SWORE you would never do once you had kids of your own. Ok, let’s be honest; it’s probably closer to 100%, except for that one last thing that you’re really hanging on to.  Remember how naïve you were before that baby arrived? How you silently (or not so silently) judged those other toddler parents? Those were the days…..

A quiet child has suddenly started to induce panic instead of relief. What once was the goal of every task you performed for that tiny baby of yours can produce a fear like none other in the mind of a toddler mom. You break out in a cold sweat as you realize your toddler has been quiet for too long.  You frantically search the house, as you dread turning each corner and seeing what new level of chaos your toddler could have possibly managed to reach this time.  No, a quiet child is certainly no longer a good thing. A quiet toddler is a sign of impending doom.

Eating in your bathroom no longer seems disgusting. In fact, it feels more like a luxury. That cookie you’ve been wanting all day? Grab it and run towards the bathroom like the wind. Shut the door behind you, park your butt on the edge of the bathtub, close your eyes, and savor every bite of that cookie. Because you don’t have to share this one.

It has become socially acceptable for you to regularly refer to yourself in the third person. Mommy loves you. Can you give mommy a hug?  Come bring mommy your shoes. Please? Stop throwing yourself against the tile floor.  Mommy doesn’t want to see you get hurt.  Can you just give mommy a break? She’s trying her best…..

Your coworkers have started to comment on how you keep showing up at work with gooey graham crackers smeared on your clothes.  Oh that?  That’s not graham crackers this time.  *Scratches it and sniffs.*  Oh – that’s vanilla wafers.  *Licks finger.*  Yum!

Your “dinner” regularly consists of a half eaten apple slice, noodles with the sauce licked off, and soggy Cheerios. Because you can’t bear the thought of letting that food continue to go to waste every day. And on good days, you actually manage to scarf down your OWN “big girl” dinner before your toddler finishes his meal and tries to throw it across your kitchen. But then you still have his leftovers for dessert. Hmmm…I’m starting to understand why my pants don’t button any longer….

Despite all of this (and more), you wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. You embrace your toddler mom status and proudly wear that badge (even if it is crinkled up and covered in spaghetti sauce), because that little toddler’s smiles, laughs, and antics, are the best parts of your day and have given your life new purpose. Hang in there, toddler moms. We’ve got this!  And I can’t wait to see what the next transition brings!