Do you love being a parent? Do you hate being a parent? If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer is probably both or it depends. Gasp!
Parenting sparks an odd dichotomy of goals and intentions. While nearly all parents love their children unconditionally, many are continually frustrated by the life-changing challenges parenting brings, the least of which are sleepless nights, college tuition and relinquishment of substantially all personal time (and maybe sanity).
For those of us who chose to have children a bit later later in life, the “parenting trade-off” feels even more expensive than for younger parents (I suspect) who haven’t spent as many years relishing in the world of comfortable compensation and loads of free time burdened by limited responsibility beyond ourselves.
While I can promise no one is taking my babies anywhere, choosing to have children doesn’t make a whole lot of logical, practical or rationale sense. Ages ago when children farmed crops or worked to support the family, parents had a real economic motivation to reproduce. In today’s world, parenting feels like a whole lot of sacrifices.
Surely, we experience moments of rewarding bliss like their sweet slumber or the sound of their perfect little laugh. But at least in our house, a tally of laughing versus crying probably would lead me to see that moments of tears and whining and tantrums outweigh moments of laughter, happiness and joy. (Maybe we’re the only ones on that side of the scale.) I’m afraid to really count the episodes. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and in this case, I’m just going to assume that to be true.
Some of those tears don’t feel so bad. Although I never like to see my boys cry, there’s something special about the cry when it’s because the little guy wants me to hold him as I pass him off to someone else. I remind him that I have to shower at least once in a while, so he’s gonna have to find a new home temporarily. But it does feel nice in an odd sort of way when your arms are all they want because they’re just a little more comforting and special.
Among all the ups and downs of parenting, I’ve encountered many “surprises” that really shouldn’t be kept secret until naive couples become exhausted moms and dads. All the veteran parents can probably relate. For new or prospective parents, take note!
Here are a few things many new parents don’t realize about the job for which they’re applying until after they’ve accepted the position.
1. The babysitter is often more expensive than the date.
While rates vary depending on geography, neighborhood, credentials of the sitter, etc…, the cost of the babysitter often exceeds that of the date itself. At $15-$20 per hour plus parking or transportation to our apartment (because it doesn’t really make sense to pick them up in our situation), a babysitter costs us $100 for a basic relaxed-pace drink and dinner with friends. That dinner better be tasty and with good company. I know it’s less expensive outside of urban areas, but care for the kiddos makes every date night far more expensive.
2. Daycare costs more than your house.
If you’re planning for both parents to work and to outsource child care, a nanny or daycare will cost you dearly. I’ve been wanting a Tesla, even though it’s definitely not in our budget nor does it make sense for us. M said recently, “If we didn’t pay for daycare, you could have three Teslas.” What?! Really! Be prepared to pay up!
3. Feeding a newborn is a full-time job
While most babies eat about every three hours, that doesn’t mean a new mom has two hours of peace in between feedings. The whole process of feeding, changing diapers, cleaning up and starting over takes about three hours. Just when you’re settling in for a nap or to read a few pages of your favorite magazine, the aforementioned three hour cycle begins again. This lasts several months. Good luck finding 5 minutes to shower…
4. Everything you swore you’d never do, you’ll do. Embrace it.
Television as a babysitter, junk food, co-sleeping, and more sat firmly on your list of things you’d NEVER EVER do with your kids. All the books so clearly tell you they’re bad. You probably gave the stink eye to other parents you saw violating such obvious rules of high-quality parenting.
When you’re tired, hungry, and generally fed up with caring only for someone’s else’s needs, these things sound like great compromises. It’s ok. In moderation, they won’t ruin your child. Accept the sanity they can bring and you’ll stop judging other parents as well.
5. Sometimes it sucks! Some days, you REALLY won’t want to be a parent anymore, ever.
The moments will pass, eventually. Sometimes they last for a while. But know you’re not the only one who’s questioning your decision. As I mentioned above, you’ve made a LOT of optional sacrifices in exchange for a whole lot of hard work. Sometimes, it’s gonna suck. That’s ok. Anyone who says they’ve never felt that way is a BIG OL’ LIAR.
6. When someone offers to help, accept. Always… (almost always).
Unless it’s your crazy uncle who can’t even take care of himself, accept the help. Someone else might not care for your child exactly the same way you do, but the break is good for you and for the baby.
Having a different routine and learning to respond to new voices, practices, and methods for a few hours or a day or two can be great for the kids. We’ve found out new things about our boys (like when little T knew sign language as a baby) or someone else found a new way to soothe them to sleep that we never would have discovered had we not let someone else spend a little time caring for them.
That’s not to mention the massive physical and emotional benefits of taking a break and knowing the baby is safe and sound in someone else’s arms for a short while.
7. You don’t need the best or most expensive of everything, or nearly anything for that matter.
Walking through the gigantic and seemingly endless baby gear stores, one can only wonder if they are short-changing their child buy buying the second best brand or the lower quality product. How could you possibly by the less expensive car seat should something terrible happen?
Certain things, like car seats, must pass federal inspections in terms of design just to be put on the shelf. They’re all pretty good, so buy what you can afford. The same can be said for diapers, clothes, cribs and all sorts of other things.
Don’t put yourself out of house and home to buy the best gear for your little one. More than anything, the little ones just need loving, caring parents to meet their most basic needs. All those pricey accessories won’t deliver smarter children or happier homes.
8. You’re not always gonna get it right. Accept that you don’t have all the answers and that’s totally ok.
It’s an odd thing. We’ve been parenting since the beginning of time, yet we continue to stumble through it with trial and error. We may have learned a thing or two from those who’ve traveled the road before us. But in many ways, every baby is different and no amount of previous knowledge or advice will make a perfect parent. Everyone else is trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and succeeding every day.
9. Almost anyone can be a perfectly good parent if they “try” and “care.”
A little love goes a long way. There are a million right ways to raise a child and a select few that are clearly wrong. Give raising your kids a good ol’ college try and you’ll have succeeded nearly every time. Everything else will fall into place. It won’t likely be exactly the same way all your friends do it, but it’s a plausible, acceptable and effective option. Give yourself a break.
10. You might drift from friends with different child-rearing preferences or no children at all.
It’s tough to constantly be surrounded by someone who chooses a vastly different path, especially if they often share their method as “the right way” or criticize (even indirectly or unintentionally) your way of doing things. That doesn’t feel great and will get old quickly. Sometimes life takes long-time friendships in different directions. Follow your gut and do what feels right with your family, even if your best friend took a very different road. It happens to the best of us.
11. It’s rough on your marriage. Really rough.
Difference in opinions about child-rearing, spending money (especially on a budget much likely a bit tighter with children), lack of sleep, limited to no personal time to decompress, and not a whole lot of time to enjoy together all compound to complicate a marriage. Kids don’t make marriage any easier! They make it harder. Honestly. Hang in there and make a concerted effort to spend quality time together, but know it’s gonna be a challenge.
12. It’s ok to commiserate.
A lot of other parents experience the same difficulties and anxieties. Many people hide their frustrations for fear of appearing to be an unloving or inferior parent. Let your guard down and find some friends experiencing similar struggles. It feels good to know you’re not alone.
Heck, you might be able to exchange secrets of the trade. The whole parenting thing is a guessing game of trial and error anywhere. Maybe they tried something successful you haven’t yet drafted in your playbook?
In the end, it really just amounts to knowing that you’re not alone. The good moments are great, yet the responsibilities can drain even the strongest of us. Know that when you feel like it sucks, it probably does. So many others have been in yours or similar shoes and they felt that way too. It’s ok!
I share this not to be a debbie downer. I’m quite an optimistic person with a heavy dose of realistic rationality actually. On the contrary, I think it’s important for new parents to know that, when they feel these things, they aren’t alone.
In our culture, some hesitate to share their frustrations or feelings of sadness or anger toward their children for fear of appearing to be an unloving or insufficient parent. We all have tough days. We all have moments when we question our choices. That’s ok. Honestly, we’ve got a lot of company in that camp, and knowing who that company is and how they feel probably makes it easier.
All the while, we know in our heart of hearts we love our children dearly. We protect them and care for them at all costs no matter how many times they wake us up in the middle of the night, throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, or prevent us from participating in some of the greatest social events our friends are organizing.
It’s an interesting things this whole parenting gig, a dichotomy of emotions. We simultaneously love and hate them. We’re pretty sure we made the right choice yet regularly question why we buried our personal lives under a pile of parenting responsibilities…by choice.
Further, many of us have multiple children, meaning we’ve made this choice more than once!
Got a new parent friend who would benefit from these nuggets? Be sure to pass along. They also might enjoy these 15 Perfect Baby Gifts Not on the Registry. They may not have thought to add them, but new parents will surely love these.