Before my baby was born I had spent minimal time around other people’s kids. I tended to see their sweet, sleeping babies at picnics, and happily held their infants while they were smiling or snoozing, then handed them back if they started fussing.
It’s no surprise then that when I had my own baby I was in for a rude awakening of what life as a parent was really like. Here are a few of the unrealistic expectations I had about parenting—and the truth about life as it actually ended up.
1. Baby would sleep through the night after a few weeks
I actually thought that after a few initial weeks—maybe up to three months max—my baby would just go to sleep on her own and sleep through the night. Baby has now turned three and is still waking up during the night several times a week. Ouch.
2. Sleep training would magically work forever
I attempted to sleep train my infant at 10 months when my husband and I were at breaking point. While we were initially successful, a few months later she was back to her old evening habits. It turns out that infants, toddlers and preschoolers wake up for a variety of reasons, even if you sleep train them. Our nights are now awoken by bad dreams, wanting milk and just a few “no reasons” for good measure.
3. I’d fit back in my old jeans a few weeks later
I’m pretty sure I remember a friend saying they walked out of the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans. I’ve clearly not spoken to them since as my own experience was very different. Despite eating carefully and exercising continually during pregnancy, I was still carrying a lot of extra weight when I left the hospital, and continued to carry this extra weight for the entire following year.
4. Breastfeeding would melt away the pounds
While breastfeeding did indeed burn extra calories, I was also consuming extra calories to keep up the milk supply. While some moms looked super skinny after only a few weeks post birth, I continued to look chubby even while I was breastfeeding around the clock. Those daily bagels with cream cheese did not help, no matter how tasty they were, and it was only a change to a healthier diet removed the extra baby weight.
5. I’d get back into my old exercise routine
I had big dreams that after the first six months or so, I would get back into the sports I loved to play pre-baby with a vengeance. I had neglected to realize how exhausted I’d be from being up all night with the baby, and from entire days spent strolling, rocking, swaying and soothing. Even now, with my baby as a pre schooler, I’m still so tired at the end of a day of chasing her around, begging her to go potty and teaching her playground etiquette/road safety rules/table manners that I am desperate to just sit on my ass on the couch and eat ice cream by my self. I am starting to get back into yoga again and we are exercising as a family with bike riding on weekends, so I’m hopeful that I will be fit again with a new routine.
6. Parenting would get easier
Even though hateful people would smugly say to me in the street, when I was frantically rocking my screaming infant, “Oh, it only gets harder!” (um, thank you?), I was still hopeful that once I passed the crazy newborn stage things would get easier. I have to say, that having such a difficult baby who suffered from reflux made our baby stage a lot harder than it should have been, so while things did get a bit easier once the reflux was outgrown, a whole heap of new challenges popped up to keep us on our toes. Tantrums. Defiance. Fussy eating. Toilet training.
7. I’d be fine going straight back to work
I honestly thought I would take maternity leave and then happily leave my baby in daycare and return to my old career path, with not a care in the world. Instead, I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving her in full-time care, so I’ve been working freelance where possible, and feeling guilty (there it is, the mom guilt!) for any time I spend away from her and she’s in daycare.
8. I’d know what to do with a baby
All the parents I knew pre-baby looked so confident, toting around their babies, bringing them to weddings in their car seats where they slept through the reception, that I was sure it would be a breeze. And yet, when we were leaving the hospital, it dawned on me that I had no idea what to do with this baby. How could these medical professionals let me take home such a fragile creature, without making sure I was going to be a capable parent? How would I know what to do when she cried? How hot should her bath be? Should I use special wipes with no chemicals in them?
9. Potty training would take five days
There’s been so much hoopla about the five-day (and even three-day!) potty training method that I actually thought it would only take me five days. Try six months on-and-off and still going. With poo phobia, not wanting to stop playing to go to the bathroom and a stubborn temperament, it’s taking a whole lot longer than I could have possibly anticipated.
10. Our bond would be instant
When I was handed my baby in the hospital, I was so traumatized by the birth that I felt emotionally numb. I expected a flooding of love and happiness, but instead felt nothing but pain and exhaustion. What I didn’t know was that not all bonds between Mum and baby are formed instantly, and that it’s normal if they start slow and get stronger over time. While in the beginning I worried that I didn’t feel enough affection for my baby, over time I realised that my heart had been slowly and constantly filling with little bits of love, until one day I discovered that it was so completely full with love for my child that it felt like it was about to explode.
What unrealistic expectations did you have about what parenthood would be like?
This article first appeared on Mommynearest.com