When your childless self envisions what being a parent will look like, you usually think of the blissful life you are sure to have. The kind of life you imagine families in commercials have. You think you will be prepared and embrace being a parent with all the patience, wisdom and understanding your parents didn’t have.
You read and read and read up on how to parent properly, so to speak. What to do and what not to do. You declare you won’t set bad habits for your baby. You will sleep when the baby sleeps. Dinner will be ready on the table every night when you’re off on maternity leave. Your child will never talk back to you because you will shut that shit down before it even starts.
However, life as you thought you’d know it is not so. Unless by some freak act of God you and your child are perfect, then being a parent did not turn out how your childless self imagined.
If you’re like most parents, this is probably a much more accurate depiction of what life as a parent is actually like.
What you thought: I will never let the baby sleep my bed.
Reality: When you come to the realization that babies don’t sleep in a way that is conducive to your sleep schedule, you will do whatever it takes to get some rest. Whatever. It. Takes.
What you thought: I will sleep when the baby sleeps.
Reality: In the very early days, a baby doesn’t require a lot. They often sleep a lot, so you’re able to rest sometimes. However, after a few weeks, baby stays awake for longer and needs more from you. When (s)he finally goes down, all you want to do is catch up on the things you couldn’t.
What you thought: Breastfeeding will be beautiful and magical.
Reality: Breastfeeding is hard work. It’s a commitment. For the first two weeks, it feels like your nipples are being torn off. A lot of women quit before they get to the rainbow after the storm, and understandably so. If you do get past the painful period, there is a window of time where, yes, nursing is great. However, depending on how long you nurse, it starts going downhill again.
Babies start popping on and off, twisting, standing and moving all over the place. They pull at your shirt in public leaving no doubt as to whether or not your baby is breastfed or not. In unfortunate scenarios, women who want to nurse are unable to. Furthermore, women are judged for using formula or judged for nursing in public. This is a whole other issue of itself.
What you thought: I won’t let my baby watch any T.V. OR my baby will only watch educational T.V.
Reality: Now that your baby is on the move, getting meals prepped, laundry folded and using the washroom aren’t the same. Your baby can literally chase you down, and will they ever. If they’re not chasing you, they’re getting into something they shouldn’t be. It’s exhausting. Getting a few minutes of uninterrupted peace while you accomplish something requires occupying the baby. They don’t nap enough hours in a day to do it all. Television is your sidekick during these times. And you can forget about the educational stuff. It’s Finger Family and those videos where you watch a grown ass person open blind bag toys. I didn’t even used to know what a blind bag was.
What you thought: I will have a daily routine nailed down.
Reality: Nope. Babies do not afford you the liberty of having perfectly laid plans each day.
Toddler – Kindergarten
What you thought: Once they can talk, everything is so much easier.
Reality: Bah ha ha ha!! Seriously though, now your child doesn’t just cry. They talk, sing, demand, yell, scream and cry. And cry, and cry, and cry.
What you thought: Terrible twos
Reality: Terrible twos, and threes and fours. Give or take.
What you thought: Toddlers can occupy themselves. Especially if they have lots of toys.
Reality: While toddlers may occupy themselves sometimes, this is definitely not the case for the majority of kids the majority of the time. They want you to play everything with them. There are no amount of toys you can buy to get them to play by themselves more. In fact, they prefer to play with random items a lot of times (this week in my house it was a bungee cord. It was fascinating how long it occupied my 1 year old and 4 year old).
What you thought: School will tire them out and they’ll sleep better.
Reality: School does tire kids out. Instead of coming through the door and resting though, they’re whiny and moody. They have demands they want met. You’ve had a long day; you work full time, part time, or maybe stay at home with another child. Your kid doesn’t care. Some days you’ll be lucky and your kid will come home happy and everything will play out smoothly. Don’t hold your breath for those days.
What you thought: Bigger kids understand actions have consequences and will behave better with threats and punishments.
Reality: This probably isn’t working out in your favor. Instead, they’re probably acting out more. If you pay real close attention, you can probably hear you coming out in them. Your temperament, your short patience, your coping methods, your exact words. That’s right, they can’t remember what you asked of them two minutes ago, but they’ll remember that F-bomb you dropped and drop it in perfect context weeks later.
What you thought: Having two (or more) kids will be easier. They’ll have each other to play with.
Reality: Sure it will. Not! Take everything from above and times it by two. In fact, maybe three, because now instead of having adults with some level of sanity and common sense and one child in the house, now you have two to bicker with each other. They fight about toys, T.V. time, food, why the other one is annoying them. Sure they love each other and have sweet moments. They’re ticking time bombs though. Don’t be fooled.
What you thought: My kid will know right from wrong. They won’t get in to trouble.
Reality: Some kids take longer to get this concept. A lot longer. Even so, all kids, including yours, break the rules or make poor decisions sometimes.
What you thought: Those parents who send their sick kids to school are pricks.
Reality: When you work, it might not be easy to take time off. Obviously don’t send your kid to school if they’ve been puking, have a fever or, you know, head lice. But if a kid has a cough or cold, parents can’t always take off the 3+ days. Germs happen. Sickness spreads whether or not I send my sick kid to school. People are spreading it before they even know they’re sick anyway.
What you thought: When I have kids, I won’t let my house get messy.
Reality: Being a parent means you have little, dirty people who have no concept of the fact that they’re spreading their messes. Thought you’d have your kids cleaning up their toys every day not working out? Tried the Clean Up Song? That probably worked for two days.
While I loathe those signs that say something about having a messy house means your kids are happy, my house is by no means in perfect, spotless shape most of the time. I do try my hardest (most days – until I quit life and can’t do anymore that day) to keep my house as clean as I can. Don’t be a judgy turd. When all the kids have gone to bed and have finally stopped messing the house, you just want to read a book, catch up on a show, do the laundry or wash the dishes that have piled up that day. Or the past two days, but who’s counting.
What you thought: Those people you see losing their patience with their kids are too harsh.
Reality: Just. Stop. All parents struggle at times with raising their children. You, me and the preacher. And his wife for that matter. Raising a human being who you are absolutely responsible for 24-7 is hard. Some parents have a harder time than others, but don’t judge their struggle. Obviously some people take it too far, but don’t judge the ones who don’t so harshly.
What you thought: Being a parent is the best, most rewarding journey.
Reality: Not always. You love your kid and wouldn’t trade them for anything. But don’t lie, being a parent is tough. And you probably have at least one friend or acquaintance who talks about how perfect their life is and how great their kids are all the time that you just want to tell to stfu already. You’re not alone.
What things did you misjudge before you had kids?