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:
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.
"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
4. You will be well-versed in the subject of bowel
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
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
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
9. The best thing we can do for our kids is to be
Period. If we're healthy—clear minded, open hearted—everything else is easier.
will use your baby as an excuse to get out of doing something
... and it'll feel
soon as you get into the doctor's office, your child will be totally fine
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.
feeling of a sleeping baby on your chest is an indescribable thank you gift
from the universe
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.
Time will mess with your head—speeding up,
slowing down, blurring past us like a speeding train.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
parents' Instagram feeds are not real life
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.