I have an old friend that I see every couple weeks. We both have 2 children, her oldest is the same age as my youngest. She and I have been friends since the early days and over the years have discussed all kinds of things. We lost touch for a few years while we were going to college and starting our lives, and were not at eachother’s weddings. Through the wonder of facebook, we reconnected and visit regularly, and again, talk about anything and everything.
The last time we visited we were talking about what it’s like being parents, about our own parents and how that influences the way we parent our kids, and how everything changes once you become a parent. Being a parent is HARD. There’s no warm up, no trial run. There’s no leaving the club once you’re in it, and there’s a lot they don’t tell you before hand.
So, my friend, this one is for you.
First of all, they don’t prepare you for labour. Sure, you can take prenatal classes, sure you can read the books, and listen to the stories from everyone that has become a mother before you, but nothing can really prepare you for what labour , and pushing a baby out of your body, feels like.
They don't tell you what this does to your body. Or that, if you do decide to nurse that baby, it does not come naturally. It can hurt so much, it makes your toes curl. That your skin could crack and bleed and hurt in places you never thought possible.
Being a parent is exhausting. Physically and emotionally. They don’t tell you about the sleep. They don’t tell you that you will never, ever sleep as well, or as much, as you did before becoming a parent. They don’t tell you your child may still not be sleeping through the night when they are five years old. And that even once your child is sleeping through the night, you still do not sleep the same way you used to. You are always, on some level, listening for your child. They don’t tell you that you can never shut it off. You never stop thinking about your child, worrying about your child, or wondering if you are being a good enough parent.
They don’t tell you about the mommy guilt that also arrives in the delivery room, the moment your baby is born. Whether its because you can’t nurse your baby, or choose not to, because you let him cry when trying to get him to go to sleep, because you work and leave him at daycare, because there are days you wish you were somewhere else entirely, there is always mommy guilt. You think you’re too hard on him, or not hard enough. You feel you don’t spend enough “quality time” with them. You feel like you yell too much. You feel like you should be able to afford more for them. You feel like you should be able to “fix” everything. You see another parent with their kids, and wish you could be more like them. Whatever it is, the mommy guilt is always there. They don’t tell you about that.
They don’t tell you about the effect becoming a mother will have on your marriage. That your role as wife will take a backseat for awhile, maybe even for years. That being a mom will take up so much of your time and energy, that being a “wife” too, will take real hard work. They don’t tell you how your husband will react to this change, and they don’t tell you how to handle it, or how to get him to understand. But they also don’t tell you how watching your husband become a father will change they way you look at him, change the way you think about him, change the way you love him.
And they certainly don’t tell you that your husband will have a magic touch with your child, that despite all of your hard work you will never have, and will never understand why that is.
They don’t tell you how being a parent changes the way your mind works, they way your memory works. You know exactly when your baby last pooped, how often he pooped, and what colour it was. You know how he prefers to be held, what kind of bottle he likes, and how many ounces he drinks at a time. You know what your child’s favourite book is, what size of shoes she wears, and that she refuses to wear anything with buttons. You know that he has to have the blue cup, not the orange one, and you know that tomorrow is “show and share day” at school.
But you can’t remember if you brushed your teeth this morning, you honestly forgot that the phone bill was due yesterday, and you don’t even attempt Christmas cards anymore. You mind is filled with so many ridiculous details about your children, there is no room left for anything else some days.
They don’t tell you about your friendships. That some won’t survive once you are a parent. That some won’t “get” your life now, that some won’t like your kids, or like who you are now that you are a parent. They don’t tell you that a lot of your life “pre-child” will seem silly, and that you just won’t care about a lot of that stuff anymore. They don’t tell you that many times, you would rather sit at home and watch a movie with your child, then go see one at a theatre with your friend. That you would rather go see Princesses on Ice than the latest blockbuster release at the theatre. They don’t tell you that when you do finally go out with your friends and a child calls your cell phone crying because they miss you, that you will wish you were back at home (mommy guilt again) and that your friends might roll their eyes, not “getting” it. They don’t tell you how to handle that.
They don‘t tell you how isolating it can be, staying at home all day with your child.
That you will be nervous, feel judged, and feel self confident about every decision you make. They don’t tell you that most of the time, you will have no idea what you’re doing, even though you’re supposed to.
They don’t tell you that your social life will change. A trip to the grocery store qualifies as a social outing, and if you can do it alone, you will be envied by the other moms.
They don’t tell you that you will no longer be able to watch the evening news. Not only because you don’t have time, but also because you can’t watch it without getting a lump in your throat.
They don’t tell you that you have to live your life, day in and day out, with the possibility that it could be turned upside down at any moment. Accidental poisoning, falling the wrong way, bruises that don’t go away, reactions to food, medications or vaccinations…at any time, the simplest thing could go terribly wrong, and you are expected to live your life, and control the fear.
They don’t tell you that your child could have a difficult temperament, could have a disability, could have a terminal disease, at any time. And they sure don’t tell you how to deal with it if it does happen.
They don’t tell you how to deal with the child who has a 45 minute tantrum on the floor because they don’t want to put on their boots, how to deal with the child who refuses to eat even one piece of spaghetti, how to handle it when your child is bitten, or bullied by another child. They don’t tell you how to handle it if you child is the one doing the biting, or the bullying.
They forget to mention that you don’t get sick days. If you are sick, life will continue. Your husband will go to work anyways, your mother will be living her own life, and you will be expected to suck it up and soldier through. Your kids won’t care, they will be just as demanding, and you will still have to be the parent, even when it hurts to lift your head.
They don’t tell you that you will feel the pain of every other parent, whether you have met them or not. As you witness a grocery store tantrum, inconsolable crying, or hear of a missing or terminally ill child…your heart will ache for that parent.
They don’t prepare you for the first time that baby is laid on your chest, the first day of school, the first time they drive the car alone. For when your child’s heart will be broken, and you won’t be able to do anything to make it better.
All they tell you is that parenting is Hard. It’s the toughest, scariest, most thankless job there is. There’s no money in it…infact you spend a staggering amount of money to do it.
And yet, we do it. And for the most part, we love it. Because, while we lose money doing it, the long term benefit package that comes with it, is second to none.
4 hours ago