My friend Kelly and I both have four-year-old kids, and twice a month we work out with a personal trainer named Erin. Erin became pregnant about six months ago, so I’d say about 85 percent of our workout time is Kelly and me giving Erin pregnancy and childrearing advice. I'm pretty certain that in real life, we wouldn’t be such busybodies with her, but under duress (i.e. exercising), mothers can talk about themselves and their experiences and parenting beliefs FOR HOURS.
I’m amazed Erin even pretends to like seeing us because the gloom and doom we pile on her head is daunting—here’s how little sleep you will get, here’s how you and your partner will fight, here’s how much your nipples will hurt, and here’s how bad my labor and delivery was! She's a very good personal trainer and an extremely patient listener.
Maybe the reason why Kelly and I have no problem just rattling off our collective eight years’ worth of experience (we’re such professionals) is that we know it ultimately means nothing. All the advice we can give Erin—get three sets of crib sheets! Make sure you have jobs you can give people who visit the baby—will go unused the way all the advice other women gave us went unused (except for the crib sheets thing, that is legit.)
The truth is that you truly cannot prepare someone for parenthood. Parenthood is basically like a movie that everybody has seen, but merely watching it and actually being in the movie are two really different things.
But she’s got to get through her own journey to get there, and we can only wave to her from one side of the tunnel and then welcome her out on the other side.
I’d said it myself, after some story I’d read online about a "bad mother" (what she did that was bad, I don’t remember anymore, but it probably involved being selfish.) “Was she not aware of what being a parent means?” I thought.
But then I became the bad mother.
No, I really was not aware of what being a parent meant. You know getting no sleep is hard—who could not know this? But then it happens to you and you realize that knowing you will not get sleep is a whole lot easier than actually not getting sleep.
Erin is going to be a fantastic mom. I’m sure everybody who knows her knows this. But she’s got to get through her own journey to get there, and we can only wave to her from one side of the tunnel and then welcome her out on the other side. Many women I know have felt a strange sympathy for the woman they were before they had kids. I remember, so vividly, the first Independence Day I experienced after my first was born. I mourned, in a strange way, the hot and heavy pregnant woman from a year earlier who had no idea what was to befall her in a month and a half.
You transform after you have kids, and that transformation is a hard process, I imagine it's kind of like running a marathon. Kelly and I are lining up with Erin’s many fans, shouting things like “If we can do it, you can do it!” and “Drink some water!” and “Here are the types of strollers you need!”
We hope we can help, but in the end, Erin—like any new parent—has to get herself across the finish line herself.