12 May The most important, least recognized job of them all – Motherhood (and parenting in general)
Motherhood is a job where expectations are massive! It is no coincidence that pregnant women are often referred to as “expecting”… and then, once that child arrives, most of those “expectations” go out the window.
Here are 5 things parents don’t often expect before having children;
1. Your child is their own person.
This is an obvious one when you think about it; that your child is their own person (lightning flash of realization!!) and that they have their own needs, wants and desires. Sometimes your child is so far from what you expected them to be like that their arrival displaces you to another planet. Not necessarily a bad planet, but one you hadn’t planned on travelling to.
2. You don’t just give birth to a baby… you give birth to a new you.
We don’t realize how much parenthood changes us. It changes us both physically (men more than women apparently) and emotionally and, for most, it changes our priorities. Some things we thought were going to be hard aren’t hard at all, and some things we thought were going to be easy are a struggle. All this can bring on a sense of guilt.
3. The prevalence of parent shaming.
Parent shaming seems to come from all directions, from the media blog posts about helicopter parenting and the dangers of too much screen time, to mother-in-laws’ more or less discrete comments, “You know, little Johnny, looks hungry/looks like he needs a walk/looks cold” (i.e. “You’re doing it wrong.”)**. Funnily enough, our harshest critics are generally us. “Am I not doing enough? / Am I doing too much?” These feelings of guilt and unanswerable questions probably keep all parents awake at night at some point or another.
4. Parents and children haven’t changed, but the way we parent has.
You often hear claims about how kids are so different these days – I don’t believe that for a second. Kids are the same they always have been, sometimes funny, sometimes loving and sometimes outright jerks. In my opinion, parents haven’t changed either. They still want what’s best for their children and although that may look different (there isn’t ONE right way to do it!). The intention behind someone’s parenting choices is almost always the same; to give their child the best opportunities in life. What has changed, is the way we lead and live our lives. Humans are herd animals, meant to live in packs of up to 200 individuals where children are cared for by many. These days many of us live in nuclear families (with two parents) or in single parent households and are often far away from relatives who could offer support. Some are in areas where traffic and other safety concerns prevent children from leaving their homes on their own until they’re well past 10 years of age. Although children and parents haven’t changed, parenting has. The way we live our lives these days calls for other networks of support for parents and children.
5. How essential surrounding yourself with people who make you feel safe and support is.
For some, mother’s groups can be a safe place to share experiences of being a parent for the first time. For others, a friendly neighbour can step in as a substitute grandmother. When these types of supports fail to materialise or we need more, seeking help isn’t being weak, it’s being responsible. Don’t forget you’re doing the most important and least recognized job of them all – being a parent.