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32 Parenting Truths They Don’t Prepare Us For

You can read all the baby books, take all the prenatal classes and still find yourself muttering "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE PREPARE ME FOR THIS?" in a sleep-deprived funk.

That's because there are certain aspects of parenting that no one tells us about. Things that are only learned on the field, in the trenches—whatever metaphor you prefer. But between me and you, here are a few things the parenting books conveniently leave out:

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1. Nothing will go exactly as planned

And it's hard to explain just how painful it feels to have our high expectations come crashing down, especially for the biggies like labor, delivery, that moment we first meet our child, how we feed our baby, etc. We spend so long thinking and planning ("Have a birth plan!" they all say), but we simply can't plan for the unexpected. Some things won't live up to the image in our heads, some things won't go the way we want, and it can take a while to let that go. Sometimes, especially for a traumatic birth experience, it can take counseling, too. Be gentle with yourself.

2. Breastfeeding is hard, and then it's not

"If it hurts that means you're doing it wrong." That's what they tell us about breastfeeding. And while it's not wrong (breastfeeding isn't supposed to hurt), so many new moms are flabbergasted at how unprepared they were for the rough start. The beginning will most likely be hard and, yes, even painful. But stick it out. You'll be glad you did.

3. If you get through the first three years without any sleep issues, your child is probably an alien

There is no magical fix for this.

4. You will be well-versed in the subject of bowel movements

You'll be able to make an accurate Google-back diagnosis by knowing the color, consistency and frequency of your baby's poop. (How else are you supposed to know what's wrong with your baby? Ask him?) You'll say things like, "Do you think his poop is seedy enough?" and be very interested in the answer. Poop will be the subject of many pediatrician calls. You'll even be tempted to write poop-related Facebook updates without batting an eye. Your new normal. Accept it.

5. There will be more bodily fluids than you anticipate

Spit-up, mucous, poop, urine, breast milk, projectile vomit—you will be covered in many of these things, sometimes together. It's not as gross as it seems. You'll deal with it and move on.

6. The cuter the outfit, the more likely it'll be pooped on

This is practically science.

7. Nothing will wake a baby faster than sitting down for dinner

8. Your mind will get the best of you

You might doubt your abilities, doubt your love. ... But that doesn't mean you're a terrible mother.

One night, after an endless bout of inconsolable cries, when it's just you and your baby in the dark and you can't remember the last time you slept for more than two hours in a row, the shadows might trick your mind into thinking your beautiful baby is actually a demonic snake. Or you might mentally imagine tossing your baby out the window, listening to his cries fade into the distance. You might think some dark thoughts that you'd never ever act on. You might doubt your abilities, doubt your love. It happens more than we admit. But that doesn't mean you're a terrible mother; it means you need sleep.

9. The best thing we can do for our kids is to be healthy ourselves

Period. If we're healthy—clear minded, open hearted—everything else is easier.

10. You will use your baby as an excuse to get out of doing something

... and it'll feel glorious.

11. As soon as you get into the doctor's office, your child will be totally fine

12. There will always be idiot parents in the school drop-off lane

...no matter where you live or what year it is. It's a timeless annoyance. Plan for it.

13. You're going to be judged for SOMETHING

It's inescapable. Carry on anyway.

14. The feeling of a sleeping baby on your chest is an indescribable thank you gift from the universe

15. The 70/30 rule

A friend of mine once told me the 70/30 rule of raising kids: Having a baby is 70 percent physical and 30 percent mental, and as that baby gets older, the ratio begins to shift in the opposite direction.

16. You will doubt yourself

You will feel like you're not measuring up to the "real moms." Like you're totally messing up your kids, and oh the crushing guilt. We all feel this way at times. All of us.

17. Although you'll have a lot to teach your kids, don't be surprised when they serve as teachers, too

If we pay attention, we can't help but be changed by their messages and perspectives. And we can't prepare for how their lessons will change us.

18. The very concept of "time" will shift

Time will mess with your head—speeding up, slowing down, blurring past us like a speeding train.

19. Playing with your kids will sometimes feel like torture

Being alone with them can be boring. You'll feel bad about it, but it'll still be true.

20. Play with them anyway, from time to time

They learn through play, so it's one of the best opportunities to teach and mold them. Find things and games to play that won't make your mind totally numb.

21. As your kid gets older, he'll develop an "I'm About To Throw Up" cue

Learn it. Be prepared. You'll probably be catching vomit during the learning process, but it won't take long to have a big kitchen pot on standby. It will never be pleasant to clean up.

22. Babies are different; humans are different

Baby books provide general advice to the masses, but here's the truth: We have unique preferences, conditionings and abilities. What is right for one family is not right for all—without exception. But something is right for everyone. Find what works for you. The end.

23. Nothing will teach us to throw up our hands and "go with the flow" quite like parenting.

We're forced to find our footing over and over again.

There are no rules, no steady stream of "normal" that lasts forever. It's turbulent and paradoxical. We're forced to find our footing over and over again, one phase ends and the next begins. There's no way to prepare for that.

24. Milestones are guides, not fact

Please see #22.

25. Parenting can be lonely, even though you're rarely alone

26. Everything is temporary

The marketing campaigns for baby gear and parenting magazines might make us think it will last forever, or at least longer than it actually does. But nope—blip, it's gone. (See #18) Sleep deprivation ends. Cluster feedings end. Even teething ends, believe it or not. And if you spring for the $1,000 stroller, don't be surprised when three years flies by and that pricey investment is being hauled to a thrift store.

27. When you're in the trenches, though, it feels like forever

The thought of getting through one more round of sleepless nights, one more round of the bedtime fiasco, will put a pit in your stomach. Stress and exhaustion make us miserable creatures. Find a way, some way, to ask for help.

28. Other parents' Instagram feeds are not real life


29. You don't have to cherish every minute

Some minutes will simply suck.

30. You will carry a lot

Your arms will always be full, your shoulders will ache from schlepping stuff. You will carry a lot inside, too. Heavy emotions, big experiences, the weight of responsibility. You'll realize that you're stronger than you thought.

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31. Parenting will bring dark shadows to the surface

... and you'll see them reflected in a sassy attitude from a miniature you. It'll be weird, healing and fascinating.

32. Always pack extra underwear

No matter how old they are.

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