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5 Parenting Myths That Hurt Your Relationship

Photograph by Twenty20

It's no secret that babies change relationships. After all, you are adding another person to your family.

When you first started dating your partner, there was a process where you each unpacked an invisible knapsack of baggage and worked through the issues you each brought to the relationship.

A child shows up with another knapsack that is still unpacked. This baggage contains a lot of assumptions about how children are raised, who raises them and how the duties are divided up. The programming of these expectations has been happening your whole life, starting with your parents and what their example taught you. These expectations are also filled with ideas that you acquired through your life—seeing what your friends did and even things you saw in the media.

The thing is, these myths and preconceived notions about what parenting is like will come back to haunt you. Even worse, they could hurt your relationship when what you need most is to be a team. Confronting these ideas as myths, not truths, is the first step in the ultimate healthy relationship goal: compromise.

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Here are the most common parenting myths:

1. I'll know what I'm doing because I'm the mom

You might be an expert. Then again, you might not be. Becoming a parent isn't the kind of event you can truly prepare for by reading books or listening to advice. There's so much you can't prepare for and will just have to wing. Do not berate yourself for being frustrated or confused. For example, I could not wrap a swaddle for the life of me (videos make it look so easy!). My partner, however, was a total pro from the first day.

2. Dads/males don't know how to do baby things

In heterosexual relationships, everyone can easily revert to traditional gender norms. Women care for babies and men hunt ... err ... go to work. Those days are long gone for many of us. It turns out that cisgender men can do almost everything a mother can do, except of course give birth and nurse. In fact, our LGBTQ friends have a total advantage here. A study conducted last year found that homosexual couples assign tasks based on preference rather than gender, income or power dynamics.

Why is one person's sleep more valuable than the others?

Which means many things we consider "feminine" are mostly a product of socialization. Those memes portraying dads a silly, goofy guys who cannot be trusted with childrearing are funny for sure. But they also reinforce the idea that men cannot handle caretaking, and this is simply not true. Does this mean I can assign my partner all the diaper changing? Of course it does.

3. We will divide all baby duties 50/50

The flip side of No. 2 is that you think everything will always be divided equally, and no one will ever feel shortchanged. Here's a secret: Unless you are keeping precise count of everything that needs to be done, there is no way to be be 50/50 on everything. Plus, if you are even the slightest bit controlling, you will find that certain things MUST be done your way. The goal should be 50/50 overall, at some point, in the grand scheme. But not every second of every day, starting from Day 1. For example, when I went away to a writing retreat, Dad's were the only hands on deck 100 percent of the weekend. Does that mean next weekend is all his? No, we can't keep that kind of score. I'll make it up at some point (or never). The point is to keep it generally balanced and make sure everyone's needs are being met.

4. If I'm breastfeeding, there's no point in both of us getting up

This might be controversial, but I'm going to take a stand and say you should both get up. Why is one person's sleep more valuable than the others? Sure, your partner cannot nurse. But he/she can burp, change and, depending sleeping arrangements, rock the baby back to sleep. This is also a great opportunity for your partner to bond with the baby and gain confidence in his/her caretaking abilities. Yes, your partner might be working the next day. But, Momma, so are you! Taking care of a baby is hard work. If you are on maternity leave and will eventually go back to work, you want to make sure you are getting rest either way.

5. I/we will not make the same mistakes our parents made

Having children makes us ponder the things we wished our parents would have done more, or less, of. We assume that we would be happier, or better, if they had or hadn't done things that way. Of course, we also internalized a lot of their behaviors and attitudes. It is inevitable that some of those old patterns will sneak up on you. I think I am becoming my mother every time I raise my voice. There's nothing scarier than your little person watching you make the same mistakes you saw your parents make.

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My advice is to give yourself grace, voice those fears and concerns to your partner and work through them together. You two are better as a team! Also, here's the real shocker: You will make some of your very own parenting mistakes.

It's hard to unlearn old ways of doing things and abandon assumptions about how things should be done. But for the sake of your baby—and your relationship—it's important to try.

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