Lessons on Motherhood: Theory Versus Reality of Raising Children
I’ll never forget the night I brought my son home from the hospital. My husband and I sat on the couch staring at this tiny sleeping bundle of joy, looked at one another and asked, “Now what?”
I had a lot of theories on parenting, but no actual experience.
Today, my happy, healthy child is growing before my eyes. Every day is a new experience and everyday negates another theory.
If one thing is certain when it comes to being a parent, it's that nothing is certain.
Here are six theories on motherhood from before I was a mother. Spoiler alert: They were wrong.
"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories." - John Wilmot
Mom Theory #1: Nursing like a boss
I will breastfeed my son for a full year without any problems.
Reality: I had my fancy breastfeeding accessories and steadfast determination, but I never quite mastered the skill that other mommies happen upon so naturally. Latching was a painful disaster and I quickly developed an infection. I read that formula was poison, so I continued breastfeeding, despite the agony.
My OB-GYN set me straight. She said the benefits of a happy feeding and bonding experience far outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding. The minute I switched to formula, it was like a cloud was lifted. Motherhood became way more realistic and enjoyable.
Breastfeeding has amazing benefits and I highly endorse it, but it’s not always practical or even possible. You're not a bad person if you don't breastfeed, or you only do it for a short time. Formula isn't poison.
If breastfeeding is important to you, I recommend researching a qualified lactation consultant while you're still pregnant, or soon after you get home from the maternity ward. Not all lactation consultants are the right fit (pun intended) Find one who you connect with, so you can connect with your child.
Mom Theory #2: Temporarily Off-Air
I won’t show my son the TV or a tablet before he’s 2 years old, except maybe for very limited educational programming.
Reality: Even though we limited our child's TV time, one of his first words was “Elmo."
Don't use a TV or tablet to babysit your child, but some usage is fine. Set limits early so they develop healthy technology habits while they are young. And follow the recommendations of the experts:
When using technology with your child, make it a bonding experience. Watch a show or play games as a family. Eventually, you'll have bigger concerns like sexting and online predators.
With evolving technology and older age, setting limits gets harder. Try to be open and communicative, not critical, about the videos and content your child is into (while keeping an eye out for any potential danger, of course). And never forget, you kid probably knows more about smartphones and computers than you.
Mom Theory #3: Nobody puts baby in daycare
I will never send my son to daycare. I don't want someone else raising my child.
Reality: Not every mom can afford stay at home with her child when maternity leave ends. Unless you’ve telepathically deduced the winning Lotto numbers, your child may have to go to daycare at least a few days a week.
Kids with working moms turn out just fine. There are decades of research to prove it. Plus, your kid will benefit from the socialization aspects. My son went to an in-home daycare, made friends and formed a loving bond with his daycare provider.
When exploring day care centers, visit several to find the right fit. There may be pros and cons to each, so trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
Mom Theory # 4: You go play, I'll rest
Taking my child to a children's play place, like an indoor trampoline park, climbing gym or fun center means I can relax and do nothing.
Reality: From the moment you decided to expel a child from your uterus, you basically abandoned all possibility of ever again relaxing and doing nothing. I'm not saying you can't get a moment of respite, but you probably won't.
Anything can happen in that urine-soaked jungle of slides, trampolines, ropes, rides, climby things and random children. That's not to say you don't have some control. Supervise your child appropriate to their age and keep a watchful eye for a variety of possible scenarios, including (but not limited to) mean kids, tantrums (see #5), potty accidents, suspicious-looking strangers and kids oozing with infectious drippy goo.
Your day will be smoother if you're prepared with items like a sippy cup or bottled water, boo boo bandages and wet wipes. And bring a fully charged phone or a camera to capture the memories.
Mom Theory #5: Tantrums are for other kids
My child will never have a meltdown in public.
Reality: My child has had a meltdown in public. My child will have one again someday soon.
It's embarrassing. Mortifying. Soul crushing. But it happens. It doesn't make you a bad mom.
According to the Child Mind Institute, there are many triggers for tantrums and meltdowns. The key is to figure out your child's specific trigger. If your child's tantrums get out of hand or you're concerned by their frequency, talk to your child's pediatrician.
Mom Theory #6: Mini-Vans aren't cool
I will not buy a mini-van. Never ever.
Reality: OK, well this one sort of holds true. I don’t own a mini-van. But we did upgrade to much larger vehicle. I don't have a problem with mini-vans. My family had one when I was a kid and I drove it a few times in high school.
This theory is my way of saying that having a baby matures you overnight. Suddenly you find yourself doing unselfish things, like buying a mini-van for your growing family. There are some nice mini-vans, but you aren't choosing it for its amazing horsepower and sexy body. You're choosing it to safely transport your family from Point A to Point B.
All it took for us was one road trip to realize our small sedan wasn’t going to cut it. A child takes up a tiny area of the car. A child's stuff (stroller, portable crib, diapers, toys) takes up the rest. Add pets into the mix and you're practically relegated to the roof.
I'm thankful for seat belt laws.