Before we started our family, I had all these preconceived notions about parenting and children. I remember reading The Happiest Baby and The Happiest Toddler books while I was pregnant with our first daughter, and thinking that raising kids would be a breeze. These books gave me an arsenal of 87 different strategies to help calm my newborn and talk my toddler off the edge of an earth-shattering tantrum. My children would be even-tempered at all times. They’d poop rainbows and fart butterflies. After all, I READ BOOKS. I was therefore destined to become the best mom on the planet.
My first daughter proved me wrong about five minutes after birth. Breastfeeding didn’t start off well. It took me five minutes to change her newborn diapers and ten minutes to get her dressed. Everything was overwhelming. And because I had set the motherhood bar so high – as I tend to do with everything in my entire life – I spent her earliest weeks in tears, beating myself up about these little (but big to me) things. I was so certain that being a mother would come naturally, and so shocked when it didn’t.
My second daughter was born in March of this year. Although I was able to cut myself a little more slack this time around, I still struggle(d) with my perceptions of how things should be versus reality. For example, I was mired in the “second baby is easier” fantasy. (WHY DOES EVERYONE SAY THAT?) While there has certainly been less of a learning curve with things like changing diapers and giving baths, the second baby isn’t easier. She’s crankier than the first and she only likes three humans: myself, John, and her sister. Sleep deprivation was still just as hard. The initial ‘getting to know you’ period was still just as hard.
As parents, I think we develop these expectations of how things should be based on what we read and what we see on social media. At least I did. Case in point: I read the Happiest Baby series and felt like a failure whenever I employed those strategies and my babies didn’t stop crying. After all, a trained medical professional wrote those books. He clearly understands all babies, so I must just suck at being a mother.
Glancing through my Facebook feed didn’t help either. Every parent ever is quick to post all the quips and pics of their parental achievements and smiling, sleeping babies… I am guilty of this too. But the truth is that behind the scenes, we all have days where we struggle as parents and times where we want to run far, far away from our lives in order to recapture our sanity for just a few minutes. And it doesn’t mean we love our kids any less.
Before I had children, I wish someone had stopped to tell me how difficult it actually is to be a parent. Yes, babies are little miracles. Yes, they’re cute and cuddly. But oh my God, this is a tough job sometimes. It’s the best job ever, but it’s really freakin’ hard. Maybe if I had known, my expectations would have matched up to reality just a bit more? I’m not sure. I’ve always set the bar so high that it’s difficult for me to accept when life throws me a curve ball and a tiny human shits all over my plans.
One thing is for certain, though. Even if our lives aren’t perfect all the time, my kids are so well loved. They will never be pooping rainbows and farting butterflies, but I am learning to ease up on the mom guilt and cut myself a little more slack on the days where I want to rip my hair out. Slowly but surely.
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