Parenting: Expectations vs Reality

The other day I was talking about parenting with a few friends, and how some of the things you thought pre-children end up being dramatically different once you have them, while some things actually end up meeting your expectations. Since then I've been thinking a lot about those things, the ones that ended up went according to plan, and those that didn't. Naturally, there's a list:

(disclaimer: this is about my experiences and what works for my family. We all have different experiences, preferences, and situations and I'm not here to judge)

(disclaimer #2: this ended up being long.... moms love to talk about parenting)

What I was wrong about/didn’t realize:

How fun it is- I actually never really thought about the potential for fun all that much when I was pregnant, mostly because I sort of assumed that my mom had little fun raising the four of us (sorry mom...). It has actually been such a blast! I love doing simple things around the house like building with LEGOs or larger activities like going on vacation. Everything is so fun and exciting to him, and that positivity ends up being contagious. 

My child is an incredibly picky eater and it is incredibly irritating- I am quite picky myself, so why I didn't think my kid would be is BEYOND me. I think because he was pretty easy when he was first started eating solids I just assumed that he would continue to eat anything I put in front of him. Not so much. I also didn't anticipate how annoying, and sometimes enraging, it would be sitting across from him having stalemates over how many bites of meatball (or whatever) he needed to eat. He's actually gotten better lately and negotiations have improved, but there have been some "moments," to say the least.

Just how tiring it really is- I'll talk about my failure at sleep training in a second, but Sawyer didn't sleep through the night consistently until he was about three and a half. He didn't wake up screaming, but he'd wake up 2-4 times a night even after he stopped nursing, and it was brutal. He'd have bad dreams, need his blankets, think it was morning, etc... and I'd have to settle him back down. After working a full day, taking care of the house, being a mom, trying to work out, etc... it was just soul-crushing. Yes, I'm still tired now, and still don't get enough sleep, but it's much better. 

How stressful childcare logistics are- We knew that we'd use daycares since before he was born and it was my task to find one (we don't have any available family and I didn't want him with one single person alone all day every day, anyway). We knew we wanted something secular and geographically convenient, so I interviewed tons of places before going with a home daycare my husband's sister's kids went to. It was great while he was a baby, but we outgrew it and then she ended up retiring, so I had to find another place when he was three. That was incredibly stressful, but we ended up finding an AMAZING preschool that I wish he could stay at until he goes to college. Both times made me really anxious; there were tears, lost sleep, excessive internet searches, etc...

That I'd fail at sleep training-  I really, really planned on making Sawyer cry it out and read all the books. Night one: he sobbed uncontrollably for hours to the point were he vomited in his bed. The mother-effing end. I couldn't watch my super happy, easy-going baby go through this. And yes, I was the mom crying in the other room while this was being attempted.

That I wanted another baby- I come from a family with four kids and always assumed I'd have multiple kids. Turns out we're one and done; kids take up tons of time and money and I know myself well enough to be confident that I'd become a complete monster if I added another one to the mix. I don't have enough time in the day to work full time, be a good mom, take care of my home, participate in my own hobbies, have a social life, and sleep. Some women can do it amazingly, but I am not one of them. Plus I am thirty-five and it took us awhile to conceive the first time around. I have moments where I reconsider,  as I do sometimes feel guilty Sawyer won't have a sibling, but I don't feel okay bringing another life into the world just because my kid might like a playmate. 

The strain it puts on marriage- Clearly I won't be airing our dirty laundry here, but for most of Sawyer's life my husband has worked very long hours and I have done a lot of the domestic stuff. My schedule is really conducive to child-rearing, which is awesome, but it can also be tough. It's also rough when your baby is breastfed and you're their main source of food and comfort- it became habitual. We didn't get divorced, though, so clearly we figured something out. 

How much kids talk- My child doesn't shut up. Ever. This is hard for me because I hear people talking ALL DAY at work and don't have time to decompress until he goes to bed. Back before he was born I'd have until my husband got home from work at like seven to collect myself, but now, not so much. I mean I'm glad he talks and that he wants to interact with me, but all he does is talk. And talk. And talk.

Pumping is a huge pain- I honestly had no idea what a huge pain in the ass pumping would be at work- the stress of not pumping enough, making sure no one walked into my class to interrupt, dealing with all the pump parts, washing everything at work, and the freezing/thawing task. I stuck it out until he was a year, and I was really proud of that, but I hated it SO much.  

Things I ended up being right about/expectations that proved true:

Limited screen time- I limit Sawyer's screen time to about a half an hour on school nights, with more flexibility on weekends. He doesn't get to use the iPad unless we're in the car for like more than three and we don't take it to appointments or dinner out. Mostly this is because I want him to be active and playing, but also because I don't like all the extra noise that comes with technology. I think coping with boredom is an important skill too and I know I am guilty as an adult for relying on my phone to alleviate that. We do have some educational apps, but, honestly, I usually forget to have them to them because he's too busy playing with LEGOs or blocks. 

Not wanting to be a stay-at-home mom- I've known my whole life this isn't something I was interested in; I need to be around people and get out of the house. Being a mom is important, but I put a lot of value in my career as well. It was tough sending him to daycare the first week or two and I always love extra time off with him, but I could never stay home full time. 

Maintaining an active social life- I probably am more social now, since I need to get away and have some time with friends! I make it a point to go out without Sawyer at least twice a month and then with him sometimes too, when meeting up with my mom-friends. I honestly don't know what I'd do without the time I have with my friends!

Still devoting time to my hobbies and interests- I refused to be a mom that quit doing what she loved because she had kids; I read just as much (if not more), I work out, I bake, etc... If it's important you make it work.

Being flexible- I really mean this in the broadest sense; routine, health, expectations, etc... I knew that I wanted to make sure Sawyer was on a routine, but I also knew that I'd be flexible so that we could still have fun. I know kids get sick and you have to adjust your life, and the same with just having rough days. Very little is locked in when you have a young kid, and I think growing up in a big family prepared me for that. 

Not being dramatic about health concerns, behavior, etc… Kids get sick, kids get upset, and kids regress in certain areas. Again, being around little kids growing up helped me big time here. I am also super chill when it comes to medical issues in general, so it takes a lot for me to take Sawyer to the doctor (he has probably gone in less than ten times in his life, not counting well-child visits). I have been lucky, though, as he has been relatively healthy. (I will admit that anything with teeth bugs me, though).

No babies/kids in my bed- I can't stand touching anyone when I sleep, so this simply wasn't going to happen. When he was tiny I probably would have been fine, since babies are relatively still and cuddly, but I knew that if we settled into the habit it would be hard to break, so I really forced myself to stick to it. There were many, many nights that I wanted to just bring him to sleep with me so I could knock out, but I was determined. A few times when he was sick and  I slept with him on the couch to really be as stubborn as possible.  

Exposing him to lots of things- Before I was pregnant I was determined to get out and about as much as possible during his baby and toddler years, so that he would be exposed to different places and people, and would learn how to act appropriately in different situations. He likes visiting museums, but will also go crazy at the trampoline park. He'll walk around zoos or hike for hours and knows how to sit still in the movies. This didn't just happen, though, I started taking him places when he was a newborn and had to really learn to be patient and positive.

Being (appropriately) honest- I never wanted to sugar-coat things for him, so we call our body parts by their names, have given him the basics on death, and he knows that sometimes moms and dads fight. I keep it age-appropriate, but I want him to have a firm grasp on reality.

Making Sawyer as independent/self-sufficient as possible for his age- My mom was a stickler for chores and for making us do things on our own (I remember learning to use the phone book quite young and calling places like the library on my own to see when they were closing for the day), so I knew that when I had kids I'd do the same. 

Parents! What were your experiences? 

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