Before the birth of your first child, how did you imagine life looking? Which expectations lined up with reality? If you’re honest, I’ll bet a fair amount threw you for a loop. This was definitely the case for me. Our family life expectations vs reality are sometimes two different worlds. Especially as a new parent.
You can’t know, in the months leading up to their arrival, who your child will actually be, and how you’ll actually respond to them. They are their own person, with preferences and opinions about the world you’ve spent hours cultivating specifically for them. Our babes do not always agree. Whether we like it or not.
In the nine months since my daughter was born, I’ve eaten my share of crow. Therefore, I write this to expose a glimpse into my truth. Whether you’ve been here and totally relate, are on the cusp of new parenthood, or (like I used to) enjoy a good laugh at parents’ expenses, behold my Family Life: Expectations VS Reality:
Expectation: My baby will eat only fresh/organic/no sugar/no additives/low sodium food, prepared with love, from scratch.
Reality: Who has time for that? Seriously? Parenting is a busy job, and sometimes, cubes of cheese is all my daughter will eat. At least she’s not hungry, right?
Expectation: No TV until they are at least 2 years old.
Reality: Sorry, not sorry. My daughter loves Sesame Street. Using Elmo and the gang as entertainment so I can eat/shower/clean/do laundry/pay bills/finally call my mom back/go to the bathroom solo, is a needed reprieve. I play and engage all throughout the day, but Mama needs a goddamn break.
Expectation: Days will be occupied with reading and educational toys.
Reality: I dreamed up BIG expectations about play time. We built our daughter a little library, sectioned out toys based on her age. Turns out, she could not care less about reading. In fact, books seem to annoy her. And the favorite “toys” are TV remotes and a set of plastic measuring cups. Not sure what exactly those teach, other than “this goes pretty far back in my mouth.”
Expectation: I will not raise my voice at my kid.
Reality: I think children are born with an uncanny ability to test your patience. Occasionally, I react loudly. I lose my temper because I need her to “just give me a fucking break.” I’m human. To be fair, sometimes I raise my voice for safety. But more than likely, I’m saying “no,” which is my daughter’s least favorite word.
Expectation: We’ll create a magical nighttime routine to help baby wind down and sleep through the night.
Reality: Bath time, reading, singing songs, all the typical sleepy time routines, rile up my daughter. “Oh, these silly parents. I see where they are going with this, but I WILL FIGHT. YOU CANNOT NOT CONTROL ME. Also, I plan on waking at least every two hours all night long, so best of luck.”
Expectation: I’ll be a cool parent.
Reality: My baby is too young for me to embarrass her just yet. But wearing sweatpants in public in your 30s is cool, right? And “Baby on Board” signs? What about memorizing the PBS kid’s show songs?
Expectation: Instagram Parenting.
Reality: Whatever social media teaches us about what parenting looks like, the reality is definitely not perfect. Life isn’t one big photoshoot (though photoshoots with my baby are the most fun). I enjoy posting sweet moments, milestones, and funny glimpses into our life. That being said, I’m for sure not pulling out the camera when I’m covered in shit or my daughter is losing her mind because “no you can’t have that, its not for babies.”
Expectation: My house will stay clean and organized.
Reality: Sometimes. This is only sometimes true.
Expectation: I will take time for myself.
Reality: My personal time is napping with my daughter (or laying down with her when she falls asleep and rewatching “Parks and Recreation” because it’s the greatest show). Driving the long route home from the grocery store to hear the end of that song I love. Reading instead of tackling the dirty dish pile. Personal time is about taking care of yourself, however you define it.
Expectation: I will love my child.
Reality: The love is beyond measurement.
At the end of the day, parenting requires flexibility. Going with the flow, and whatnot. Family life is surprising, glorious, messy, and unpredictable. Laugh off what you can because it’s the most beautiful experiment in which you don’t know all the rules. Embrace the chaos. Learn to love reality not meeting your expectations because family life is so much better than what you imagined.