Every expectant mother has her own vision of what successful parenting looks like, and plans her own “rules” accordingly. Although my baby was a surprise to me, I was no different. I wanted to be a good mom, and do things a certain way, so of course what I would do and not do as a parent was a regular focus of my thoughts during pregnancy.
Three years later, I decided to talk back to some of those thoughts slightly-younger me had…
“I’m going to breastfeed until the baby is one year old! I’ll save SO much money because breastmilk is free, and it’s convenient to whip out my boobs anywhere, anytime the baby is hungry!”
Lol, no. You’re going to breastfeed (from your actual breasts) for the first 48 hours. When your baby is rushed away for emergency care–for a number of reasons, including the fact that he wasn’t getting anything when we all thought he was latched–and you and your newborn are in separate rooms for nearly a week, you’ll be forced to switch to bottle feeding. So, you’ll rent a $200 breast pump from the hospital and try to at least make sure those bottles your baby is getting nourishment from contain breast milk… and you’ll continue to do so for about six weeks, as your supply gradually dries up, until you get to the point where half an hour of pumping barely yields three ounces, and then you fall onto the floor sobbing when you spill that tiny, tiny bottle of liquid gold.
Remember “Don’t cry over spilled milk”? Yeah, you’re going to be doing that. And then switching to formula to save your sanity. And then feeling needlessly embarrassed every time you have to use that formula in public, because you’ll feel like a failure. But you’re not a failure. You fed your baby. He survived. He’s still alive today, and eating mac-and-cheese three times a week.
“What kind of advice is that “sleep when the baby sleeps” nonsense? I don’t have time for that! I have things to do!”
You won’t get to sleep at night anymore for awhile, so SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS.
Okay, so I wasn’t actually asleep every moment the baby was sleeping, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to be some days.
Combine that new-baby exhaustion with severe post-partum-depression/psychosis, and some days, you won’t be able to get out of bed for anything other than feeding and changing that screaming tiny human, and then you’ll immediately go back to bed until the next time he needs you.
(But, since I’m not trying to just fill you with a bunch of fear, I’ll let you in on something else: It ends eventually. You may feel terrible at first, but some day, the baby will sleep through the night, then slowly, your mental health will improve, and you will reclaim your rightful sleep-wake schedule.)
“I will never force my child to finish eating something he doesn’t like, but I also will never offer an alternative to what’s being served. He’ll eat what I give him, or not eat.”
Yeah… You know how everyone says, “You don’t have to do more than offer healthy food; kids will eat what they need when they’re hungry”? (I’ve heard this one from other parents, the internet, and from a pediatrician.) It’s a lie.
Maybe not an outright deception, but if it works on other kids, it certainly does not work on this one. You’ll try this, a few times, and lose the game of chicken every time… afraid of your child starving, you eventually give in and feed him junk…
The one time you decide to hold out longer, he will still not cave to those healthy foods you try to feed him; instead, he will go three days without eating, and wake up one morning screaming in pain from hunger, at which point you’ll feed him whatever he wants, just to get something in his stomach.
Try instead finding a balance: Healthy most of the time, but at least two meals per day containing something you know he’ll eat. Like a toaster waffle, or mac and cheese.
“I’m going to cook a homemade meal every night!”
Present day me:
You’re certainly not going to have the time or energy to accomplish this goal. But don’t worry–not only is it not realistic to make an entire fresh supper every night, it also is not cost-effective…
Since I was never able to figure out the science of making the right amount of food, I’ve resigned myself to knowing that each meal I make will be at least three day’s worth of food. Sometimes a week. To make that much food every night would mean that the leftovers go unused. And fresh, healthy food is expensive!
Additionally, there are some nights you just won’t feel like cooking.
Oh, and did I mention the mac and cheese?
“I will never call my husband “dad”. That’s just weird! He has a name, and I have a dad.”
Don’t worry, you still won’t do it as regularly as some other people (I’ve known couples to solely refer to each other as “mom” and “dad”, even when the kids aren’t around, resulting in it becoming such a habit, that they continue calling each other “mom” and “dad” even after their kids are grown and moved out.), but after hearing your two-year-old shout “Honey? Honey!!” to get his dad’s attention, you’ll realize that it might be a good idea to model the use of the name “dad”, at least while the kid is listening.
“My child will not watch TV until at least the recommended age of 2 years old.”
Whoever came up with that recommendation probably did not have kids.* If you want to ever get anything done around the house separately from your child, or even pee, without worrying about him hurting himself or tearing apart the apartment, letting him watch a little TV is a good way to do that, especially when he gets to the point where he’s no longer taking multiple naps per day, and is too big to be contained by a playpen.
*(Don’t quote me on that; I didn’t actually look for a source on that assumption.)
As a began writing this, the list of pre-baby thoughts in need of being addressed got longer and longer, so to avoid turning one post into a novella, I decided this list needed to be broken into multiple parts. I will put in links here to parts 2, 3, etc, when they become available.
If there are any seasoned parents reading this:
What about your parenting journey do you wish you had known about before you went through it?
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself before you had kids, is there any wisdom you wish you could share?
What things about being a parent didn’t turn out the way you planned?
If there are any parents reading this who followed their plans perfectly:
Please leave a comment to tell the rest of us how you did it!
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