Last weekend, I was at a birthday party for one of my daughter’s friends, and while the kids played, I passed the time chatting with the moms, one of whom is pregnant with her third child. We all got to talking about the stuff people say about parenting before they actually become parents.
“My child will only eat organic, natural foods.”
“We plan to be a TV-free household.”
“I plan to make all our baby food from scratch.”
Yeah, we had a good laugh about that one.
I loved being pregnant—who wouldn’t? Every time you walk into a room, people smile at you. They hold doors open for you, offer to carry your stuff. They’re endlessly curious about everything: “What’s the sex of the baby? Have you picked out a name? Are you so excited? Is this your first? How do you feel? Oh my goodness, just eat the cookies! You’re eating for two!” There’s nothing more fascinating than a pregnant woman. And nobody as wise, obviously. Expectant parents know everything. They have it all figured out.
I remembered those days fondly. Having gone without a child until age 36, I was self-employed and worked from home, alone. I was pretty set in my ways, and yet somehow I was convinced that the tiny person about to come out of me would be absolutely malleable and would bend to my will. I had seen so many people “doing it wrong,” and I just knew I’d have my shit together as a mom. I said some outlandish, hilarious things about parenthood—as most people do who have no kids and yet somehow know freaking everything. Here are a few of my favorite gems.
“I will not let the TV babysit my child.”
Oh my God, how do people without television get anything done? When my daughter turned 18 months, she discovered Winnie the Pooh, and the heavens cracked open for her. She sat rapt for hours in the Hundred-Acre Wood, and I felt concerned about it for about 10 minutes, until I realized I could probably have a glass of wine and cook dinner in peace while she stared at the screen. Before long, we were the parents we had SWORN we would never be—we put movies on our phones and handed them to her when we went to restaurants, so my husband and I could eat at the same time without getting dirty looks from fellow customers about our noisy, disruptive, impatient daughter.
Look, I’m the first person to admit that kids these days, in general, suffer from too much screen time and not enough face-to-face or reading time. We still eat dinner every night at the table, with the TV off. But I also know that I grew up watching TV, and I think I’m okay. Just chill out. Your kid will watch TV, and it won’t give him brain damage.
“No formula for our baby! Breast is best!”
The problem with this statement is that very often, your breasts don’t get the message. They give you what they want to give you, whether or not your baby screams at them in hunger. Then there are the logistics of pumping, which ain’t easy unless you spend hundreds on a hospital-grade pump, or the fact that dads need to be able to feed babies sometimes, whether there’s a pre-filled bottle of mother’s milk in the fridge or not. I cried for days when my body wouldn’t cooperate with me and I could only pump a trickle of milk after 20 minutes. I cried when my daughter had been nursing for half an hour and was still desperately hungry. I went to a lactation specialist, convinced that I was doing a terrible disservice to my daughter, depriving her of essential nutrients that I’d been told repeatedly could only come from breast milk. And that woman told me something that made a world of difference: “At least your baby is getting something from you every day, right? Give her what you can. She’s getting her vitamins from you every day.” On formula, my daughter stayed fuller longer, and I rested better knowing I was giving her all I could through nursing, which I did for a year, despite how little I was able to give her. I got over the guilt. I wish someone had told me that a lot sooner. I’d have stressed a lot less.
“I would never give junk food like that to my kid.”
I’ll preface this by saying that my daughter eats pretty healthy. She eats fruit a few times a day, eats second and third helpings of salad, and thinks of vanilla yogurt with berries as a special dessert. But make no mistake, she’ll eat the crap out of a cupcake, would drink Coke all day if we let her, and begs for McDonald’s regularly. We were pretty high-minded as new parents, sure our kid would never drink sugary apple juice or sodas. She got all the way to age five before someone (ahem… I won’t name names) decided to give her a cup of Coke and got her hooked.
Before we became parents, we saw parents in Walmart buying McDonald’s Happy Meals or processed snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups and Lunchables and wondered what kind of awful people would give those growing young bodies such bad-for-you foods. But you know what? Unless you keep them in a plastic bubble, they will go to daycare and school and birthday parties and playdates and they are going to have them. Get over yourself. And it’s pretty likely that you’ll need to use that junk food on occasion in order to bribe them into doing stuff you want, like eating broccoli or going potty on the toilet. All you can do is avoid keeping junk food in the house, purchase more of the healthy things they like and will eat, and talk often about what foods are best for your body. But if you make junk food into forbidden fruit, they will want it even more. Trust me, I say that from experience.
“My child is never going to sleep in our bed.”
When I was pregnant, I read books and articles about the million things that can kill babies, and I’ll tell you, it’s enough to keep you from ever sleeping again. One of them was the danger of rolling over and suffocating your baby. I was terrified. Not only that but I was convinced that letting my daughter sleep with us at all, ever, would turn her into a codependent, needy child who would never sleep on her own.
Now, I think an argument can be made against constant co-sleeping, but I’m not willing to argue that here (so please don’t). What I will say is that when she woke me up at 5 a.m. wanting to eat, you’d better believe I brought her into bed with me so she could nurse while I grabbed another hour or two of sleep. In fact, I credit nursing for allowing me to get about 95 percent of things done in the first year of my daughter’s life. I nursed so I could talk on the phone, eat a meal, watch TV, check my email, work, sleep… Trust me, you will be happy to have your child sleep anywhere, at any time, even if that means it’s in your bed now and then.
“I’ll just work/nap/eat/do laundry when the baby naps.”
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Yeah right. That’s a good one.
Babies don’t operate on any kind of schedule. They don’t nap in beds at prearranged times. They nap in car seats, on your lap, on the edge of the couch, face-down in a bowl of food (true story), in the swing (the horror!), and any other inconvenient spot you can think of. They nap at 9 a.m. noon, 6 p.m., or any other damn time they feel like it. They’ll nap for 15 minutes one day and three hours the next. Planning a nap is laughable. You won’t get anything done on the days when you need to.
Somebody told me when I was pregnant that I was lucky I worked from home. “Babies sleep all the time,” said this idiotic person who must not have had kids, a fact I must have overlooked at the time, “so you’ll probably be able to work while she’s there with you. You won’t need daycare.” The truth is that for the first year of my daughter’s life, I had to hire a babysitter just so I could go sit in another room in the house for two hours. This is one of several reasons that daycare is life-changing (it was with potty training, too). There’s something about a room full of kids being told to nap at the same, predictable time every day, by people who are not their parents, that is a narcotic for children. Otherwise, get used to working/reading/checking email/eating in the car, parked in your own garage, while your kids naps in the car seat behind you.
“I would never let my kid scream like that in public.”
Oh yes you will. If you need groceries and this is your only chance to go, and there’s absolutely NO WAY you are buying your kid that candy bar no matter how loudly she screams, because you are going to TEACH HER A LESSON ABOUT APPRECIATING WHAT SHE HAS, DAMMIT. You absolutely will listen to her scream and throw that tantrum, because BY GOD, I AM IN CHARGE, not that little three-foot-tall monster, and OH MY GOD I JUST NEED TO BUY SOME MILK AND BREAD, if I can JUST spend 10 more minutes here, it’s fine, I can put up with it, and STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT, like your family is so perfect! Your kid was just picking his nose a minute ago, so don’t you DARE judge me!
Your kid will be THAT kid sometimes. It’s inescapable. And some know-it-all jackass will offer up some inane advice or give you a dirty look, as if you were the first person ever to have a noisy kid, because up until now kids were born as fully formed angelic beings who knew how to behave in public and never once talked back to their parents.
So let’s hear ’em—what ridiculously naïve things did you say before having kids?