You know what I’m talking about: the swing, the exersaucer, the bouncy seats, the two strollers, and all the gears and gadgets you swore you wouldn’t allow to clutter your minimalist home. “Our baby will just make do,” I told myself. “He won’t need a baby carrier,” (got one) “or a Moby wrap,” (bought two).
And while we don’t buy our kids too many toys and play things, they still have a few strewn around the house, something I said I wouldn’t allow. “He’ll have his designated area for his toys, and the rest of the house will remain the same.” Or so I thought, as I pick my way through the little knick knacks across the living room floor, kitchen, and even our bedroom.
#2: That your kid will be a perfect genius.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I actually did think that if I do X, Y and Z, my kid would turn out above average. You know—smarter, healthier, the next Einstein with off the charts IQ. There’s research that says DHA contributes to brain development, and much has been said about the benefits of breast milk for overall health and mental acuity. But you realize down the line that you don’t make your kid; you raise them to the best of your ability and let nature take the other half.
I absolutely adore my kids and think they exhibit certain traits that are above average, but I learned that in no way can I guarantee that they’ll excel 100% in life.
#3: That you will never expose your kid to the mall, the grocery or any other commercialism and marketing tactics.
I work in marketing so I know all the tricks. I’m also frugal and try not to submit to the follies of consumerism. Take my kid to the mall? Never! And no, I won’t bring him with me to the grocery where corporations will lure him with cute goldfish and green leprechauns.
Again, or so I thought.
I learned early on that moms do well to take their kids out during those initial weeks where we go mad if we don’t see other people and are confined with a babbling two-month-old. So the mall was a frequent haunt. And the grocery? He goes every week.
Granted, we also bring him to the farmers market so we still have our crunch on. And thankfully, my kid could care less about the mall and doesn’t fall for the latest toy (I actually needed to get out of the house).
#4: That you’ll be productive during maternity leave.
“I think I’ll do some freelance work after the baby is born,” I had said. Not one project done. Nor did I finish the baby book I had started. (Four years later, it’s still not finished, which is why I didn’t bother to buy baby books for the twins.) I could barely finish the novel I was reading, when pre-baby I finished at least one book every week.
My co-worker and I were laughing about this “maternity leave is free time” mentality. “I thought I was going to finish knitting the baby’s blanket,” she mused. “It’s still not finished and he’s already two!”
Lesson learned: maternity leave is for resting, healing, baby bonding, and lots of watching Netflix on your iPhone while you feed the baby in the middle of the night (because you will watch probably, oh… twenty movies in a week).
#5: That you’ll take your newborn baby everywhere you go.
When I was pregnant, I would see these moms walking through the park with their little one-year-olds toddling clumsily alongside them, and thought, “I can’t wait to have that with my little baby!”
Why did I not realize that that mom’s kid was walking and therefore much older than the blob of a baby I had just given birth to? All those leisure moments at the park with a toddler come much later, not when they’re five weeks old and crying in the stroller.
I could, in fact, date the exact moment when I realized I was on a “real outing” with my eldest kid. I was ordering a crepe with my five-month-old, and we were waiting at the restaurant for my food. As he was sitting on my lap, it dawned on me, “We’re hanging out! And just for fun!” With the twins, outings were much easier, but try telling that to my first-time-mom self.
#6: That you won’t feel down and depressed.
“I remember just crying and feeling really down during those post-partum months,” another co-worker admitted to me while I was still pregnant. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “That won’t happen to me. I’m a positive person—she must have some form of depression already.”
Wrong again. While I didn’t have post-partum depression that required a doctor’s attention, I still felt miserable. A lot of the time. To the point where I wondered what the heck I got myself into, and wishing I could have some form of my old life back.
New moms don’t realize how drastically different parenthood can be, and it’s perfectly normal not to love every minute (or even most of it). Thankfully, it actually does get better, but it’s pretty hard to believe during those early months.
#7: That breastfeeding is easy.
For some, it could be, like when I began breastfeeding the twins this second time around (zero pain whatsoever). But wow, with my first son, it took a lot out of me to stick with breastfeeding. It’s painful and draining (especially when you are the only source of food for your baby and everyone keeps telling you to feed him any time he even so much as whimpers). I remember hopping on the computer every day to read the benefits of breastfeeding to keep me motivated. Thankfully after about a month, breastfeeding became much easier.
#8: That labor is the hardest part about parenting.
It’s not. Okay, I had anesthesia, but other moms who didn’t have agreed with me that labor is nothing compared to the physical exhaustion those first few weeks, and eventually the mental drainage of being mom on duty 24/7.
Barring anything serious, labor and birthing were—for me—the easier parts of my introduction to parenthood (the actual parenting being the hardest part).
My advice to first-time parents: Prepare, research, plan… then go with the flow. Because you just might realize that your kid does pretty well with a pacifier even if you swore you wouldn’t use one, and you’ll likely find yourself at the baby store buying the latest gadget to help her fall asleep.
Put simply: parenting is probably the most “learn on the job” job there could be, misconceptions and all.
What were some lessons you learned only after having been a parent? What are some of the biggest misconceptions you had about parenthood?