Realities of Parenting

This is an article that I found calming 🙂


By Kathryn McGrath, MSW, LSW, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

After bringing baby home, new parents often discover that much of what they spent so much time learning and worrying about (diapering, bathing) turns out to be a piece of cake. Instead, it’s a whole set of larger issues that turn out to be more difficult than expected. Research shows that parents who anticipate and discuss these issues fare much better than those who don’t. A bit of advance knowledge and planning will make everything that much easier when baby arrives. Here are some of the challenging new realities that you are bound to encounter, as well as suggestions on how to best adapt to the changes.

Reality: Baby care is extremely hard work.

I know what you’re thinking. How could a sweet little 7-pound infant be that tough to handle? The answer lies in the sheer amount of time that baby care takes. If you’re not convinced, do the math: In a 24-hour period, newborns need to eat eight to 12 times (with each feeding lasting 20 to 40 minutes), have their diapers changed a dozen or more times, and be bathed, cuddled and comforted. An experienced parent can tell you that anything done with a baby takes five times longer than you think it will. Add to that the increased household responsibilities (think baby laundry galore!) and you’ve got a lot to accomplish each and every day.

Time is about to become a very precious commodity. You need to make tough decisions about what’s going to be done and who’s going to do it. Taking care of a baby is not a showy task – you can work yourself silly all day long and have nothing to show for it except a happy baby. A partner who understands and values that is worth his weight in gold.

You and your partner will have to allocate chores in the fairest way possible. Resentment over the inequality of work distribution is one of the most common, and potentially destructive, issues that couples face. Take time now to talk about how you can fairly divide the increased work. The future of your relationship hinges on teamwork and being partners in every sense of the word.

Reality: Sleep deprivation is a very big deal.

Having a baby will change your appreciation of sleep. Never again, for the rest of your life, will you take it for granted. How can you make sure everyone in the family gets as much rest as possible?

Make your sleeping arrangements based on where and how all of you can get the best sleep. This is different for each person. You may want the baby in his own room. Remember that what works now may change with the baby’s age.

Sleep whenever you can. Daytime sleep is just as important as nighttime sleep. If you’re not a day sleeper, you may have to fool your body into thinking it’s night by putting on your pajamas and drawing the shades.

Learn how to breastfeed lying down so that you can rest as you feed. See if both you and your baby can take a nap after a long, peaceful feeding.

Dad can play an important role in feeding, even if you’re breastfeeding. How? He can bring the baby to you, change the diaper before you switch to the second breast and then get the baby back to sleep afterward. That way, you hardly have to wake up.

Reality: Parents have needs, too.

Attention all moms and moms-to-be:Read this section twice! New moms have a knack for taking care of everyone but themselves. It’s essential that you figure out how to meet your own needs as well as your baby’s.

Time for yourself is not time stolen from your family; in fact, it’s necessary to replenish yourself so that you can continue to give. It isn’t self-indulgent to catch a nap, take a few minutes for a cup of tea, exercise or spend time with a friend. Remember, you’re a woman as well as a mom.

This is not to say that there won’t be a major priority shift when your baby is born. Activities that seemed vital before birth may fall into the “who cares?” category afterward. Talk with your partner about each of your needs and how to make sure they are met.

Reality: Recovering from childbirth takes longer than 6 weeks.

A recovery period of 4 to 6 weeks is unrealistic for the majority of women. The truth is, your physical and emotional recovery should be thought of in terms of months rather than weeks.

At 6 weeks postpartum, most women have not yet had one good night’s sleep and are just beginning to think about the world outside the walls of their home. Don’t push your recovery. Allow yourself the time you need to adjust physically and emotionally, and you’ll fare much better than if you try to do too much too soon.

Reality: Your baby’s birth is not the end of your pregnancy experience.

And you thought it was over in 9 months? Actually, much of your experience takes place after childbirth – mulling it over in your mind, making sense of what happened, processing what you felt on the inside and understanding what other people saw on the outside. The greater the discrepancy between what you expected and what you got, the tougher this task will be.

It’s very important that you have supportive people around you (starting with your partner) who will listen without judgment to your birth story – as many times as you need to tell it. By reviewing the experience with someone else, you can better understand it yourself and successfully move on to the other issues and demands of mothering.

Reality: There is no such thing as a perfect mom or dad.

We all have a picture of the ideal mom or dad – and it’s always the person we aren’t. In truth, most parenting skills are learned. The first time you give your baby a bath, it will probably take an hour and make a mess. But a month later, you’ll be ready to teach a baby-care class. Everyone has to learn the ropes through trial and error. So give yourself a break. Love and enjoy your baby, let your baby love and enjoy you, and keep your sense of humor. Even the craziest days can make for hilarious stories later on.

Reality: Moms and dads have different parenting styles.

Dads tend to be more playful and physical, which encourages and promotes muscle development and motor skills; moms tend to interact in more quiet, soothing ways that stimulate language and cognitive development. Several research studies in the last decade have shown that both styles of parenting benefit babies, so it’s best if you’re both actively involved in daily baby care.

Sometimes men come into parenting with less baby handling experience than women. They stand back, worried they will do something wrong. But the only way for a man to learn how to care for a baby is to just get in there and do it. Dad shouldn’t worry if he doesn’t do things exactly like Mom does, as long as the result is more or less the same. Mom should try not to give too much unsolicited advice. Unless safety is an issue, stand back and let Dad give this a try. He’ll figure it out more quickly than you’d expect. Soon you’ll both be pros.

Reality: With change, there is ultimately loss.

We’re all aware of the indescribably wonderful joys that come with having a new baby. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a sweet-smelling newborn nuzzling against your neck. But the birth of a baby also brings some necessary losses – your lifestyle, freedom and some of your income. The appropriate reaction to loss is grief, and the only way to get to the other side of it is to feel it and move through it.

Our culture tends to shun new parents who express any sadness. We tell parents that they should feel only joy and gratitude, but this doesn’t make sense. Having a baby is no doubt the biggest life adjustment you will ever make; it’s only natural that you’ll feel emotions on both ends of the spectrum. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge the losses, ambivalence and moments of regret. It is part of letting go and moving on.

Reality: The support of family members and friends is invaluable.

Parenting was never meant to be done alone. We all need people around us who can show us the ropes, lend a helping hand, and provide reassurance and encouragement. In our culture, extended families are often too far away to provide the guidance new moms and dads need. So you must be creative about arranging and asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask your next-door neighbor to do a diaper run or have a friend watch the baby while you take a nap.

Remember, adjusting to parenthood will take time for both partners. Recognizing and discussing these issues before your baby is born will give you a head start as you begin your new life together as a family

2 thoughts on “Realities of Parenting

  1. Good article. So true we all function better on sleep. Babies and moms!

  2. Lamps Shades says:

    I recommend it to teenagers, college students, parents and even grandparents. Lamps Shades

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