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4 Myths on Motherhood I’d Like to Kill

Photograph by Getty Images

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.

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1. Babies are easy.

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 help.

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 naturally.

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.

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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.

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