Six lessons about motherhood: Theory vs. reality of raising children
Welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood
"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.”
– John Wilmot
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 good parenting, but no actual experience. Today, I have a happy, healthy child dancing through my hallways, filling my household with absolute awesomeness.
If one thing is certain when it comes to being a parent, it's that nothing is certain. But I guess I'm doing something right.
Theory #1 - Nursing
Theory: I will breastfeed my son for a full year, no matter what.
Reality: I had my fancy breastfeeding accessories and steadfast determination, but I never quite mastered the skill that other mothers happened upon so naturally -- even after working with a lactation consultant. My son never latched properly and as a result, nursing caused me immense pain, which made feeding him a horrible experience. Two months in, I ended up with a nasty infection. I read an article online that said I would poison my child by switching to formula. So I kept breastfeeding, despite excruciating pain and misery.
My OB/GYN finally set me straight. She said the benefits of a happy mom and a happy feeding and bonding experience far outweighed the benefits of breastfeeding. The minute I made the decision to switch to formula, a cloud had lifted. Motherhood became a joy.
Lesson: Breastfeeding has many amazing benefits, and I highly endorse it. But it’s not always practical or even possible. A lot of people have breastfeeding problems. You are not a bad person if you choose not to breastfeed. Your child will still be smart and healthy.
Tip: If you have any concerns about how to breastfeed, meet early on with a lactation consultant.
Theory #2 - TV
Theory: I won’t show my son TV before he’s 2 years old, except for very limited educational programming.
Reality: While we are careful to limit our son's TV watching to less than a couple hours a day, I’m not going to lie. One of my sons' first words was “Elmo” and that little bald Canadian kid, “Caillou,” is the only one who will hold my son’s attention long enough for me to quickly set the table or wash the dishes.
Lesson: There is no excuse for using TV as a babysitter for your child. But a little TV isn’t going to fry your child’s brain, especially if you limit the time span and control what he or she watches. If you watch with him or her, and interact, it becomes a bonding and learning experience. Don't worry, a little bit of the purple dinosaur every now and again won't kill you. Nowadays, there is a lot of great children’s programming geared towards different stages of learning.
Tip: If your child is watching too much TV, kid-friendly music is a good alternative.
Theory #3 - Daycare
Theory: I will be a mompreneur so I and don’t have to go back to work and send my son to daycare. I don't want someone else raising my child.
Reality: Hats off to mompreneurs. I truly applaud you. But even with a mompreneurial spirit, it’s not always possible to focus on starting a business when you’re completely sleep deprived and adjusting to your new family member. Sometimes life intervenes, maternity leave ends, and you DO have to go back to working for someone else. So, unless you’ve telepathically deduced the winning Lotto numbers and will soon be independently wealthy, your child will probably have to go to daycare at least a few days a week.
Lesson: Daycare really isn't a bad thing and sending your kid isn't a form of neglect. It can be a wonderful opportunity for socialization. My son had a ton of friends at daycare, and had a very loving relationship with his daycare provider. He caught a few pesky colds early on, but now his immune system is stronger. Kids with working moms turn out just fine. 50 years of research can't be wrong.
Tip: Visit a lot of daycare centers to find the right one for your child. Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
Theory # 4 - Chuck E. Cheese
Theory: Chuck E. Cheese is awesome!
Reality: I’m pretty sure the E. stands for E. Coli and the giant mouse is a fuzzy, buck-toothed abomination.
Lesson: Adults beware. Chuck E. Cheese is much more awesome if you are indeed a child. Also, you will be spending a lot of time here. So get used to it. Stay close to your young son or daughter at all times because it is easy to get separated in that madhouse of pizza-filled, fruit punch-drunk kids and blinking lights. Also, the people working at Chuck E. Cheese are teenagers, so don't expect them to babysit your kid. They will, on the other hand, stamp your hands when you enter to make sure your kid doesn't leave with a stranger. And they throw one heck of a good birthday party.
Tip: Save up your prize tickets. You really can’t score anything good for under 500 tickets anyway. Also, Chuck E. Cheese sells beer (thank goodness).
Theory #5 - Tantrums
Theory: My son will never have a meltdown in public.
Reality: My son has had a meltdown in public. And he will have one again someday soon.
Lesson: A study by Michael Potegal, Ph.D shows that tantrums are as natural to toddlers as yawning is to a tired person. It doesn’t make you a bad parent and it doesn’t make your child a bad child.
Tip: Tantrums beg for attention. So don't give in. Be sure to pick your battles wisely. The last thing you want to do is escalate the situation. Once the tantrum subsides talk to your child calmly about their feelings.
Theory #6 - Mini-Van
Theory: 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 have to upgrade to a larger vehicle. A Honda CRV.
Lesson: All it took was one road trip with our son to realize our small sedan wasn’t going to do the trick. Our son takes up one tiny little area of the car. His stuff (stroller, portable crib, diapers, toys…) practically relegated me to riding on the roof. Thank goodness for seat belt laws.