“All this peeing in the middle of the night is to prepare for sleep deprivation,” I had believed. Little did I know that my pregnancy discomfort would bear little resemblance to waking up with a baby.
8 misconceptions about parenting:
Such is but one example of the many misconceptions about parenting I made as a first time mom. Consider these other common myths first time moms believe about parenthood.
1. That you won’t have kid clutter
You know what I’m talking about. The swing, the exersaucer, the bouncy seats. The two strollers and baby gear 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 too many toys, they still have a few strewn around the house. “He’ll have his designated area for toys, and the rest of the house will remain the same.” Or so I thought, as I pick my way through a clutter of toys across the living room floor, kitchen, and even our bedroom.
2. That your baby will be a genius
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I actually did think that if I did X, Y and Z, my kid would turn out above average. You know—smarter, healthier, the next Einstein with off the charts IQ. Research says DHA contributes to brain development, and much has been said about the benefits of breast milk for health and mental acuity. But then you learn that you don’t make your baby. You raise them to the best of your ability and let nature take the other half.
I adore my kids and think they above average traits, but no way can I guarantee they’ll excel 100% in life.
3. That you will never expose your baby to the mall, the grocery or any other commercialism
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 to the grocery where cute goldfish and green leprechauns will lure him in.
Again, or so I thought.
I learned that moms do well to take their kids out during those first weeks. Otherwise we go mad if we don’t see other people and stay 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 kids could care less about the mall and doesn’t fall for the latest toy.
4. That you’ll be productive during maternity leave
Among the misconceptions about parenting is we’ll have soooo much time during maternity leave.
“I’ll do some freelance work after the baby is born,” I had said. Except I never got one project done. Nor did I finish the baby book I had started. (Four years later, it’s still not finished, hence why I didn’t bother to buy baby books for the twins.) I couldn’t 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 and 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, oh… twenty movies in a week.
5. That you’ll take your newborn baby everywhere you go
When I was pregnant, I’d see moms with their one-year-olds toddling alongside. And I thought, “I can’t wait to do that when my baby is born!”
Why did I not realize that that mom’s kid was walking and 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 even date the exact moment when I realized I was on a “real outing” with my eldest kid. I was ordering a crepe with him, then five-months-old, and we were waiting for my food to cook. 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
One of the misconceptions about parenting is that feeling down and depressed won’t affect us.
“I remember crying and feeling down during those post-partum months,” a co-worker admitted. 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 depression that required a doctor’s attention, I still felt miserable. To the point where I wondered what the heck I got myself into, and wishing I could have my old life back.
New moms don’t realize how different parenthood can be. And it’s normal not to love every minute (or even most of it) just yet. It does get better, but it’s pretty hard to believe that during those early months.
7. That breastfeeding is easy
For some, it could be, like when I breastfed the twins this second time around (zero pain whatsoever). But wow, with my first son, it took some effort to stick with breastfeeding. It’s painful and draining (especially when everyone tells you to feed him any time he cries).
I’d hop on the computer every day to read the benefits of breastfeeding to keep me motivated. Thankfully after about a month, breastfeeding became much easier.
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8. That labor is the hardest part about parenting
It’s not. Labor is nothing compared to the physical exhaustion those first few weeks. And the mental drain of 24/7 mom duty.
Labor and birthing were—for me—the easier parts of my introduction to parenthood.
My advice to first time moms and dads: Prepare, research, plan… then go with the flow. With first time parenting, your child might do 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 the most “learn on the job” job there could be, misconceptions and all.
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