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When our baby bump first pops out, or we’re in the early
stages of parenting, most of us become recipients of a constant stream of
advice and parenting paradigms. In addition, we have access to countless parenting
articles online, and we also internalize ideas about parenthood from our family roots.
Other ideas seem to rest deep within our subconscious, and
we don’t even realize they're there until we reel them in, do the bloody work
of unhooking them, and see what remains: the pale whispering gills of the idea
that we should be able to do it all perfectly, or without help, or that
parenthood just shouldn’t feel quite this hard, so we must be doing it wrong.
Opinions and mythologies about parenting abound. Here are
four parenting mythologies I’d like to cast out for good.
If they’re not colicky and have no health or
feeding problems, babies actually are fairly
easy. They cry when they’re tired or hungry, and you feed them or help them get
to sleep, and they stop crying.
But if you can’t string together more than two hours of
consecutive sleep, or if you had a hard delivery and/or a c-section? If you’re
struck with postpartum depression or you have an older child who now leaps
from furniture each time you sit down to feed your newborn? Or your partner has
to go right back to work? Not easy.
Even easy babies aren’t easy—being completely responsible for a helpless
infant’s life is a huge, complicated and relentless responsibility.
2. You’ll have plenty of
Even with a full crew of family and friends stationed to help ... there will be moments when you’ll feel utterly alone.
While this may be true for a fortunate few, the majority of us don’t
have as much help as we need or would like. Many of us don’t have family who
are nearby or able to help. Or we have friends who want to help, but their
hands are full with their own busy families, careers and lives.
Even with a full crew of family and friends stationed to
help feed you and hold your baby so you can sleep, shower or give your older
child a pinch of attention so they stop leaping from the couch, there will be
moments when you’ll feel utterly alone. They will come in the middle of the night when you can’t figure out why
your baby won’t stop crying, or in the hour before your spouse gets home—the
hour that stretches out in front of you like a desert. To get extra help, like
a postpartum doula or a babysitter to regularly help lighten your load, you
have to pay, and so many people can’t afford this kind of help.
3. Mothering comes
Some parts of mothering do come naturally. The way your lips
gravitate to the top of your baby’s head. The way you morph into a mama bear
when your child is sick. But plenty of other parts don’t—like nursing in the
early weeks after birth or knowing what to
do the first time you hear the frightening midnight barks of a baby with croup.
I’ve found parenting to be more learned than inherent, and
the learning curve is steep.
4. You will be a
stay-at-home mom or a working mom.
More likely you will notice there’s a continuum, and so many moms—and dads—fall somewhere in between.
While much has been made of the
so-called wars between moms who work full-time and moms who mother full-time, you
may not encounter these chasms in your own life.
More likely you will notice there’s a continuum, and so many
moms—and dads—fall somewhere in between the mom who doesn’t work for pay at
all and the full-time working mom. And for many more parents, the balance will
shift as our families expand, our babies turn into school-aged children, and
other life events derail us, like divorce or illness.
And either way? We are all striving for the same thing. Most of us have heads and hearts that are so
full, there’s no space for warring. We are doing our best, throwing together
meals and trying to keep up with our kids’ friends’ birthdays. Nearly all of us
are there in the long nights, rising up to change the sheets, to shush
away nightmares, to rub their backs until they fall into a deep, cottony sleep.