Is it possible that you might not be the ideal parent that you thought you were going to be before the baby arrived? Is it possible that you might parent differently than you’d imagined because – Hellooooo, reality?
Just a couple of questions to think about as you begin your parenting journey. Because this is a crazy job, parenting. You’re basically signing up to bring a new human being into the world and hopefully have them become a self-sufficient, positive citizen of the world. This will happen, in large part, based on your skills as a parent. But you’ve never done this before, and it’s strictly on-the-job training. So, how do you figure this out?
I remember before I had children of my own, how amazing I was going to be at this whole parenting thing! I knew what all of the books said about “best practices” and I was going to be doing all of them. All. Of. Them.
And then, my baby was born and I realized that maybe I needed to calm down just a little bit. I needed to reassess my “new normal” and realize what was actually do-able for me, my husband and my baby – and what was not.
Here are just a few examples of what I thought I’d be doing as a new parent before the baby arrived – and what really happened after she got here.
Before: For some reason, I had decided while I was pregnant that my baby was never, ever going to have a pacifier. I’m not sure why I thought they were evil, but I felt very strongly about this. There was no way my kid was going to have one of those things hanging out of her mouth.
After: Until, that is, when I desperately needed a break from her constantly sucking on my nipples! I remember the exact moment when I went full reversal on this decision. I woke up one morning at the start of her third week (breastfeeding was well-established, so I wasn’t worried about nipple confusion), shook my husband awake and told him he was heading to the store right now. “You buy one of each and every type of pacifier that they sell and bring them all home. Because this kid is taking a pacifier – today!”
Before: I was only going to use cloth diapers on my baby. From an environmental standpoint, I wanted to do the “green” thing. (Although, back when I had my first baby all of the studies to date said there was not a significant difference between the two options, disposable or cloth. That’s changed now given new energy saving standards in washing machines. But, I digress…) So, we asked folks at our baby shower to help us pay for a cloth diaper service, because – let’s be real – I wanted to do cloth diapering, but I didn’t actually want to have to wash all of those diapers myself!
After: We actually stuck to cloth diapers – for a little while. I could never get the hang of how many diapers we’d need to order from the service to make this cost-efficient. I always either A) ran out too early or B)) had so many left over that I would try and use them as dust rags and invent reasons to clean up around the house to make me feel better about how much they were costing! In the end, we switched to disposables. It might not be the greenest choice, but it was the one that worked for our family and made the most sense.
Bed-Sharing (This was a long time ago – long before the current debate about “safe sleep.” I’m not trying to provoke debate or come down on one side or the other. This is just yet another example of what I thought I would do vs the reality of what I actually did.)
Before: Absolutely my baby was going to sleep in our bed. It seemed like a really beautiful way to spend some extra snuggle time with her and would make nighttime feedings so much easier.
After: There was no way in hell I could sleep while my baby was in bed with me! I found out that I’m an incredibly light sleeper and her slightest movement, or newborn snort would wake me from a dead sleep. After exactly three nights of no sleep plus not-sleeping-because-I’m-feeding-a-newborn, we bought a little co-sleeper and set it up directly next to the bed. Ahhhh! Sweet relief! I actually slept – in between feedings, that is!
These are just a few personal examples of how it is possible that your idealized version of parenting might change when it bumps up against your personal reality of parenting. Just like pregnancy and birth, we have expectations about our parenting before we’re ever actually parents. Everyone does it. Don’t beat yourself up about that, but you should also give yourself a break if you end up making different choices in your day-to-day reality. Everyone does that, too.
Remember: It’s still possible to be a really great parent – even if you do things very differently than you had ever imagined you would.
Did you/do you have thoughts about how you might parent your newborn? Were those thoughts ever challenged by your reality of parenting? What things did you have to change once that reality settled in?