In a world where we can read about what to expect before expecting and make plans for when, where and how we want to give birth, it’s no wonder I’m having a hard time letting go of my parenting expectations. For the first time in a long time, I have to admit that I might not have control of, or even have a plan for, the next five minutes of my life, never mind the next five years. And while I’m not saying that as a new mom I am throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best, I am saying that even if I try to schedule, plan and prep, things might not go exactly how I hoped and that has to be ok, because having unrealistic expectations for a new baby is a recipe for disaster. So I am going to share a few secrets based on our experiences so far.
Realize that you are not Raising a “Robot Baby”
There is something about the experience of parenting that forces you to step out of your comfort zone and asks you to stop expecting that things will end up how you planned them. Complete control of a nine-month-old’s daily routine seemed plausible, even possible to me a few months ago; I just assumed that the routines would solidify, become written in stone, and we would have a fully functioning “robot baby” that did things exactly on time (laugh). The best part about this was that my expectations were so high I had no idea what to do when things began to shift. The only thing that made this manageable was to let go of these expectations. Yes, babies need routines to help them feel comfortable, but as they change and grow these routines need to change with them; we aren’t programming mini computers, we are raising little humans.
Things get Easier, Sometimes
I think as new parents we like to tell each other that things get easier. I’m not sure if we want to hold on to some false sense of hope so we feel better periodically (a way of helping each other through those inevitable tough times), or if we actually get so used to the insanity that things appear easier as time goes on. Either way, I foolishly believed everyone and began to think that baby life could become easy and everything would fall into place (you know like in that commercial where the woman wakes up and has her coffee handed to her in bed). Well, she mentions the curve balls in that commercial too, but no one wants to see what those look like, because it’s kind of terrifying. So try your best to let go of the expectation that things get easier with time. I don’t mean like a little shrug off the shoulder let go, that you don’t even really believe; I mean like don’t even have too many expectations at all. Instead of expecting things to work out a certain way, try things on and you may be surprised by the results. Things do get easier sometimes, but think of parenting as a series of ebbs and flows, sometimes things will seem easy and fluid and sometimes they will get harder. Just don’t expect that they will stay the same, ever.
Many new parents develop expectations based on comparisons between other babies /parents and this can make things very challenging. Yes, it’s amazing to learn from other parents and to share ideas, but getting caught up in this “parent trap” can cause you to place unrealistic expectations on your own baby or even on yourselves. Your baby might not nap, crawl, walk or talk the same way or at the same time as other babies, so excepting that they will or should will only lead to frustration. Instead of expecting things to be at a specific point on the “baby meter” or for your little one to win the “baby Olympics” try to enjoy the season that they are in.
There may very well be fully functioning “robot babies” out there that live out their day on a perfectly timed schedule and never veer from the timeline by more than half an hour, but for our little one this was a short-lived experience. While our son does wake up at around the same time each day, even on Saturday’s (apparently babies don’t know we sleep in on Saturdays) and goes to bed at around the same time each night, the series of events that ensue between these two things varies drastically. Some days, weeks, even months have been smooth sailing (routines in place and similes all around), but there are also times (a lot of times) when our little one refuses his naps, won’t eat the food we make and wakes frequently in the night. One thing that does stay the same is that things keep changing, so try your best to enjoy the season you and your little one are in and let go of pre-conceived expectations of what motherhood, parenthood or baby life should look like.