Ah, the blissful ignorance of life before kids and the lies we believed before having them. A simpler time. It was only a few short years ago. Yet, it’s hard to remember what I did without the craziness of parenthood consuming my every move every single day. In the monumental shift of becoming a parent, you quickly pivot into mom and dad mode in a way that may or may not resemble falling off a cliff.
As you embark on your new routine, you quickly realize that you must start making big and small decisions constantly. You might even find yourself doing things you swore you’d never do as a parent. All in the name of keeping yourself and your newborn safe and sane. Lies we told ourselves and believed before having kids. We had it all figured out, right? However, once you orient yourself to the new reality, it becomes wildly apparent that parenthood is not a perfect science. Most of us are just out there winging it as best we can. We’ve had to forget those lies we told ourselves and remember that as long as safety comes first, there is no secret handbook to this whole parenting thing.
This might be the case for you. If so, congratulations, you’re a unicorn! Seriously though, breastfeeding is something that varies from woman to woman. Every parenting book tells us, “It’s the most natural thing you can do!” and “babies know exactly what to do!” But it might not be, and they may not know. That is why lactation consultants exist. Yes, babies naturally root for your breast and seek out your nipples as a food source. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or pain-free.
While breastfeeding may have been around for centuries, you haven’t been doing it for centuries. Give yourself grace and remember that, like anything else, breastfeeding successfully takes time. Cracked nipples and shallow latches are just two roadblocks on a long list of possible roadblocks. Even more notably, you can breastfeed perfectly, and it can still hurt. It can take time for your breasts to adjust to the new sensation of being a food source. This can also vary from baby to baby. My first son and I struggled with latching, and we were both in tears at every feeding session. I eventually switched to exclusively pumping, allowing sanity and my bleeding nipples time to recover. With my second son, he latched immediately, and we are still going strong 15 months later. Find what works for you, and don’t let anyone else be the barometer of what is “natural and easy” for you.
I always cringed at this piece of advice doled out by well-meaning people as they looked at the dark circles under my eyes. Sure, that nap sounds excellent. But by the time we get the baby down to sleep, change our milk-stained shirt, chug a glass of water, let the dog out, pick up the toys all over the house, switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, run a brush through our teeth and hair, and, if we have time, pee, the baby is stirring and ready to party once again.
Especially in the early days, babies aren’t napping for hours at a time, which means we get pockets of quiet free time that don’t last long and are consumed with everything else that goes into running a home that was put on hold as you were tending to your tiny human. Running a home plus taking care of a baby and, in many cases, working full or part-time during the day doesn’t equal putting your feet up and napping the afternoon away.
This lie before kids was echoed by multiple moms who were polled. Before kids, we were sure we would keep all the baby gear and toys in one designated spot in the house to maintain our sense of order. This proved to be a sad, sad lie for me and many moms I know. Everything baby somehow infiltrates the entire house before we can catch our breath. I swear it multiplies!
This was another common lie before kids among parents. Many assumed before having children that any child would join their family and automatically fit into their lives and schedules. It seems simple. Continue as before, only now with a baby and a diaper bag. Right? Wrong. While that is a lovely thought, in theory, the reality is quite different. Napping on the go can work sometimes, but babies thrive on routine and, especially in those early days, need as much consistency and structure as possible.
My husband and I tried to be good about still living our lives the same way as much as possible post-baby. But we did find it challenging. We quickly realized that the baby’s schedule takes precedence in many cases. So we needed to adapt to their schedule, not the other way around. Meet in the middle with your child and take turns adjusting to the other’s schedule as needed so that you can still have consistency but enjoy life as it comes.
Gone are the days of binging a great television show for hours while ordering a pizza delivered to the couch. Before kids, I was sure we would still watch our favorite shows and be up to date on the latest hit. While we still order pizza constantly, we now eat it while chasing our children around the living room and tuning into their favorite show for the millionth time.
This was a common lie before having kids for many parents. Parents often assume before having children that as long as they were exposed to a wide variety of foods, they would grow to love everything on their plates and eat whatever was served. While there are certainly children where that may be true, in most cases, all roads lead to chicken nuggets, puffs, and grilled cheese. While their palates may change over time, it is normal and expected for children to have bland tastebuds. Continue to expose your children to new foods and remember there’s no shame in the vitamin game.
Before having children, I considered myself a punctual person. I wasn’t an overly early person to events, but I was appropriately on time. Fast forward to two babies later; unfortunately, that has gone out the window. There is so much that goes into leaving the house when you have children, and even then, you realize you still forgot something once you left. I have gotten better about packing as much as I can the night before and having everything ready to go to ensure a smooth departure out of the house. Yet somehow, we are always running at least a few minutes late. I still become stressed and feel frustrated when we are running late, but we truly are doing the best we can. Luckily those we are going to see usually have children and get it.
This lie before having kids is another humbling one repeated by many parents I polled. The general recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for avoiding all screens until two years of age. But sometimes you need a break. I remember thinking during pregnancy that I would avoid screens with my child at all costs. However, once they were born and became old enough, I had no problem putting on a TV show to take a quick shower, get dinner started, or take a breather from being a walking entertainer.
We also have no problem using a screen to get us through dinners out with the kids so we can scarf down a meal. And it was a lifesaver on our cross-country trip to California last year. While we certainly try to be mindful of the amount of screen time, technology is a part of life that is here to stay. Exposing children to screens doesn’t have to be harmful, either. There are wonderful educational shows that serve the dual purpose of entertaining your little one when you are occupied. At the same time, they teach your child new information. Win-win!
I fell into this trap when I was pregnant. I registered for all the baby gear we thought we needed to bring our baby home from the hospital. Looking back on it now, the baby needed a car seat and a safe place to sleep once we were home, and not much else. We thought we needed the most expensive stroller set, the pack and play with all the bells and whistles. And we thought we had to have the paddle for rubbing diaper rash cream on their baby bums.
This was a trap I fell into due to comparing myself to all other expectant mothers. Especially those I didn’t even know on Instagram with much bigger bank accounts. I quickly wrote myself a reality check and tried to remember that the most expensive products serve the same purpose as their less expensive counterparts. There is plenty to spend your money on as your babies grow. So don’t waste your hard-earned money on things they don’t even notice or care about.
Discovering your little one’s personality is such a wonderful, surreal experience. You created this tiny human, and before your eyes, they develop into a little character with sweetness and sass all rolled into one. Before I had kids, I just assumed that they would take on any personality traits I possessed, just in a mini sort of way. If my husband and I are generally calm, our children must be calm, right? I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Your child will be born with their own temperament blend. It is part of the fun to uncover that personality and learn it along the way. By all means, keep modeling that chill vibe. But be prepared for your toddler to laugh in your face as they whip off their dirty diaper and run away.
Life before kids is a time to enjoy the calm and the sweet ignorance of truly not knowing what is to come. Once children enter the picture, all the lies before kids you were sure were true go out the window, and you’ll have to pivot and adjust your expectations. Keeping an open mind and going with the flow as best you can will serve you well. Remember that there is no rulebook for parenting. Just do your best with what you have and where you are. It’s all you need.