Ah, that blissful time before you actually become a parent is so awesome. Before you're even pregnant, you see other parents with their kids, decide they suck, then make little checklists in your head of all the stuff you'll never ever do when you have kids. Once you are actually pregnant, this drive to be the exact sort of parent you want comes on full force. You read books, ask for advice from your "better" parent friends and imagine how the next 18 years are going to rock with you leading the way. Looking back it's all pretty hilarious. 13 years into this parenting gig, I can tell you that the best laid plans are just that, "plans." You don't know what's going to happen once this kid arrives and worse, you'll do stuff that you swore you'd never in a million years do. But it's okay. Everyone (kid + you) will survive in spite of this. It's smart to have a reality check though. Following are some mom lies I've told myself through the years... and what actually ended up happening.
Preconception – My Kid Will Be A Mini-Me!
The Lie: When my kid comes along, not only will she be just like me, but we’ll always agree and have so much fun. This should be awesome!
The Reality: So one, I had a boy, something girly, glittery, shiny lip-gloss wearing, pink-loving me never thought possible. I honestly believed I had so many girl genes in me, that there was no way a boy would slip into my world. Wrong. Also, because the gods are funny, my boy is ALL boy. No pink, no ballet, no girl anything, and trust me, boy did I try. I bought this kid all sorts of multi-gender toys and books. I pushed “boys can like dolls and girls can like trucks” talks on him. But no, all he wants to do is roar loudly and push a million little hot wheels around for hours on end. Secondly, we’re nothing alike. I was a strong extrovert as a kid. I’d talk to anyone, acted in a million plays and joined the debate team. My son is the extreme opposite. Slow to warm, shy and pigs will fly before this kid gets up in front of anyone. Unlike me he loves sports, Lego blocks and plenty of alone time. I really thought my kid would be more like me.
The Perks: Being the mom of someone shy has taught me a lot. I never understood how differently the world treats extroverts vs. introverts, and that alone has been an eye opener. Now I can build Lego structures, roar as well as anyone, and I can try and sometimes succeed at sporty activities. Plus, while I always thought I’d contribute feminism to the world via killer skills passed on to a daughter, now I know that one of the best way to push for gender equality is to raise boys who respect girls. Having a boy who is unlike me in every way possible has for sure been different than I imagined, but also a great learning experience.
Pre-birth – I’ll Have The Perfect Birth Experience
The Reality: I read way too much Spiritual Midwifery while pregnant. I did get the midwife – so this part came true. Everything else on my birth plan pretty much crumbled to pieces. I had some unusual complications that no one saw coming, which made me unfit for home birth and landed me on midwife / doctor watch. Because of said complications I had to be induced with pitocen, which makes labor extremely more painful, yet for some 20 odd hours I clung to my whole, “NO epidural” speech. But guess what? After what seemed like an eternity of complicated and painful drug-free labor, threats of a cesarean looming, and my midwife having to hand me over to a doctor, I took the damn epidural. I wasn’t thrilled, but it beat a c-section, which thanks to the epidural allowing me to rest, I was able to avoid. Other parts of my birth plan fell away as well. Nothing is peaceful when you have complications, and I didn’t even get to hold my son or breastfeed right after he was born because they rushed him away to make sure he was okay.
The Perks: You can’t plan anything perfectly and the sooner you learn this the better. So, my birth experience didn’t go as planned, but neither has much of parenting, so this birth was a good primer for me. Also, although a natural birth is achievable for some, it’s nice that in this day and age we have options if they’re needed.
Newborn Time – I’ll Breastfeed Forever And Love It
The Lie: I’m so going to breastfeed like a pro. Not only that, but I’ll love it. It’s going to be tranquil and a great bonding experience. I’ll probably even do extended breastfeeding.
The Reality: Oh my gosh; breastfeeding is hard! My son was a lazy eater, wouldn’t latch on, and I clearly remember sobbing through the first night of new parenthood due to my frustrations. In fact, at one point during that first night, I had my not-wanting-to-latch baby in my arms, both of us crying, while my son’s dad was passed out on the couch in our hospital room. I couldn’t figure out how to stand up while holding the baby, and I couldn’t reach the nurse buzzer, so I started grabbing stuff off the night table and throwing it at my son’s dad to wake him up. Real tranquil huh? After hitting my son’s dad in the head with a large plastic pitcher, my shoe and some assorted baby goods, he finally woke up, got the nurse and she helped, but it took weeks for me to become good at breastfeeding. On top of this rocky start, I thought breastfeeding was way boring, it took up a lot of my time and I sucked at pumping milk. It was not fun for me. Then, although I wanted to do extended breastfeeding, my son self-weaned at just over a year. I’d never heard of a baby self weening so early on and never thought it would happen to me – but it did.
The Perks: Breastfeeding was the first real challenge I faced and overcame as a mom. I never loved breastfeeding, but I got really good at it and feel very proud that I did something so healthy for my son in spite of all the trouble.
Baby Years – My Life Won’t Change
The Lie: Babies don’t change your life. If you liked to hit the beach, travel, go to concerts and stay up all night, you can for sure still do that with a baby in tow.
The Reality: In some ways this lie wasn’t totally a lie. For example, I loved road trips before my son was born. Once he arrived, yes, traveling got a bit more complicated, but not by much. I took Cedar on his first road trip at two months and he did fine. I still read “my” books vs. all baby books. I still went to concerts, still got exercise and still hit up coffee shops – I simply dragged the kid along and everything was A-ok. That said, my life did change. A lot. While you can take your baby anywhere, here’s the rub, you’re so freaking tired, you won’t want to leave the house. Did I do pre-baby activities with my son? Sure, but I did a lot less of them. When I had free time, with the baby or without, mostly I just wanted to sleep, not go mosh around at a concert or go hiking. Sleep took on top priority when my son was a baby, which did change me and thus my life. My friends complained that I wasn’t around as much and by all accounts I became extremely dull.
The Perks: First of all, this stage passes. One day you wake up, you’re not so tired and more of your pre-baby activities will commence. Secondly, while your life will change, it can still be fun. Baby hugs, mom-clubs and reading to your tot are nothing to sneer at. You’ll still be you, just different. But since we’re all changing all the time, this is less of a shock to your system than you think.
Toddler Years – Bribes Are Stupid
The Lie: Parents who bribe their kids are weak — and bribes teach kids all the wrong stuff. I’d never do that.
The Reality: I still don’t agree with bribing kids all the time, for every little situation. However, I REALLY wanted Cedar potty trained and he fought me at every turn. I felt like he was seriously never going to use a potty vs. diapers so after trying everything books and my friends suggested (which failed) I decided to bribe him. I offered him a new toy once a week if he’d use the flipping potty, and it worked. I hardly ever use bribes, but I have once in a while, and my son didn’t turn out spoiled or snotty because of it. We’re both okay.
The Perks: Sometimes you gotta learn that parenting practices you may not agree with actually might work for specific situations.
Kid Years – “My Kid Will Always…” Or “I’ll Never…”
The Lie: My kid will always be nice, never whine, always eat what I cook and be perfect in every way. Oh yeah, and I’ll never yell, get cranky, lie, use the TV as a babysitter or pack on 10 mom pounds.
The Reality: If you’re a new parent strike the words “Always” and “Never” from your vocabulary right now. Got that? Always and never are pre-parent words. Once you’re a mom, always and never happen all the time in all the wrong ways.
- “I’ll never yell” – You will if your kid runs into a street full of cars. You also may yell simply because you’ve had it. Apologize later, but don’t beat yourself up.
- “My kid will never whine” – Sure he will. More than you like — and then you’ll whine too until it’s a big fat whine fest at your house. Then instead of talking it through, like you always said you’d do, you’ll freak and split everyone up for alone time to chill out.
- “I’ll always feed my kid healthy foods” – I’m actually pretty good at this parenting myth. I do serve healthy food about 90% of the time. Yet, Mountain Dew (horrific) and Skittles (equally bad) have landed in my son’s belly at times.
- “I’ll never pass my issues onto my kid” – I meant to teach my son that no, spiders aren’t terrifying creatures that might eat you and it’s awesome to try new foods. But somehow, this kid is as picky a eater as I am and my spider phobias belong to him too.
- “I’ll always provide stimulating and healthy kid activities” – If you call three hours straight on a computer stimulating, then I’m golden. If not, well… I suck sometimes.
- “I’ll never judge other parents again” – Seriously? Now you’re just talking crazy.
The Perks: If everything went like you always thought it would and if you never made mistakes; how would you learn anything new? Also, your stories would be really dull. Perfection is overrated in the parenting world and curve balls make you stronger. Plus, knowing that things won’t always go as you planned can help you learn to chill out, relax and judge others less.
You tell us: What mom lies did you believe in before you became a parent?
All photos ©Jennifer Chait