I have a friend who had her first baby about 6 months ago, who I merrily judged throughout her pregnancy for the ridiculous things she said. “I wont get stretch marks because my sister never got stretch marks” “I wont have any trouble breastfeeding because I’m really committed to it, and I don’t give up” “I plan on working throughout my maternity leave, while the baby plays and stuff.” “I’ve read an article about how to get a baby sleeping through by 6 weeks. I plan to follow that, and then I can see my friends in the evenings.” I could go on, but you get the picture. It can all be summed up in one sentence really. Having a baby won’t change my life, and it wont change me.
What a crazy notion.
In no other area of our lives, do we go through a huge experience, and expect to come out the other side the same way we went in. In no other area of our lives do we want to. For me at least, starting a family was the single biggest adjustment I am ever likely to make, it has involved the most changes to my lifestyle, the most alterations to my mindset, and the most practical differences in my day to day activities that I ever could have conceived beforehand. And before you do it, you simply cant understand that. Truthfully, you will never be truly prepared. But to go in with the naive and selfish assumption that you can (or would even want to) keep your life the same afterwards, just makes me think that a person isn’t ready for parenthood in the first place.
But as I said, none of us know what it is going to be like, and therefore we cant really be blamed for our naivety. What we can be blamed for, is taking that out of the pregnancy, and into our lives with our babies.
I haven’t spent much time with the woman I mentioned above since her pregnancy became an actual child, so I couldn’t say whether her ignorant viewpoint has passed over into motherhood. But I do know plenty of people for whom this is the case. The mums who are shocked when the ‘fool-proof’ technique for sleeping through the night doesn’t work from 2 weeks old, and therefore they can’t manage their usual 8 hours per night. The mums who complain that their six week olds aren’t able to be left with a babysitter so that they can regain their lost social life. And the parents who drag along toddlers at all hours of the evening to fit in with their own plans, long after they should be asleep.
I’m not saying there is no life after kids. But it adapts. It has to. If you cant afford a babysitter, the answer isn’t to drag your 2yo along with you and hope they nap in the buggy. You just can’t go out. Or you have to go somewhere free and use the money on the sitter instead. If your baby is still a newborn and genuinely needs feeding at night, then that’s what they need! There aren’t any ‘quick-fixes’ to help you feel better rested, that’s your job right now. It is true that we’re not all equipped to be with our kids 24/7, some of us find it impossible, either emotionally or financially. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in working mums, at least part time, and taking the help when it is offered. But even that has its limits. If we are truly honest, we all know when we are acting in our families best interests and when our motives are mostly selfish.
Your baby hasn’t read the books, she doesn’t know what she should be doing; only what you teach her. And acting like your kid is an inconvenience to your schedule, teaches nothing but that, even if on the outside it seems to be working fine. Parenthood is meant to change you, not just the way you feel, but the way you behave. That’s why it is such a big deal in the first place.
It’s not always a case of forcing a baby out of a routine in order to keep your schedule of course. There are families which have full time help on hand to deal with all that ‘baby stuff’, night nurses, au-pairs, mother’s helps and the like, which means your life doesn’t have to change, as others would. But I really believe that even in these cases, you are not being honest with yourself about what your family needs. Whether you are both full time working parents, or just ladies of leisure who want the extra pair of hands, if your life is exactly the same as it was beforehand, then this may sound harsh, but why did you have the kids in the first place?
I’ve heard people say “Why should I have to choose between my social life/work/hobbies and my family?” and I laugh. That’s just life. We make choices, we make compromises. Surely the one factor that should never be compromised is your children, however great your own adjustments have to be.
So whether it’s someone else that’s doing the parenting for you, or whether you’re shaping your baby to fit into your schedule; if you’re in a position to say “Having kids hasn’t changed me” then I hate to be the one to tell you- you’re probably doing it wrong.