People love to give you their worst-case scenarios. Seriously, from the moment I got engaged to my husband 13 years ago, people started telling me how terrible my marriage would be in 15 years. Maybe I was surrounded by the wrong people, and yes there probably were people with great marriages who were genuinely happy for me, but for some reason my brain lingered on the bad, the scary, especially from those I perceived had experience and probably knew a thing or two. Were these people right? I didn’t want to believe them.
It got worse when I was obviously pregnant with my oldest child. Suddenly there was tidal wave of strong opinions rushing my way about the best way to take care of my body, to raise a child, to adjust my life to parenthood. And, oh, the list of “you’ll nevers.” I got so scared after getting pregnant because so many people started implying that my life was going to get so, so hard and so, so exhausting.
Now that I have come through the most intense years of motherhood—pregnancy, breast-feeding, caring for infants, keeping toddlers alive, and am entering the school-aged years, I want to debunk some of the myths that are told to expectant and new parents that are not entirely, and certainly don’t have to be, true. Unless there are health and development problems in your family, or you have serious financial limitations or perhaps are a single parent, you’ll probably see how false these myths really are. The truth lies somewhere beneath the myth, and it’s this that can give you hope as a parent.
So below, I’ve tackled five of the myths I hear most often when people bemoan the changes of becoming parents.
Myth #1: You’ll never sleep again. Sleep is that one thing that you do every day of your life that doesn’t seem so important until you aren’t getting it any longer. And there’s no foolproof way to prepare expectant parents for the mind-numb, zombielike, caffeine-guzzling creature they’ll become in those first few months of parenting, so many people just resort to extremes by telling them to get used to it because it’ll never end. The good news is, your child will start sleeping through the night, it’s just a question of when. The timeframe depends on numerous factors: the child, the sleep-training techniques the parents use, the sleeping arrangements, health. But I promise you, your child will most likely enter the preschool years as a great sleeper. Have you ever met an elementary aged child who doesn’t sleep? Be patient—it’ll happen.
Myth #2: You’ll never fit into your old clothes. Pregnancy does quite the number on a woman. Your skin stretches to an extent you didn’t think possible. Your ankles and feet swell and you’re permanently a size 9 in shoes and no longer an 8.5. Even your vision can change! But to throw out all your old clothes would be hasty. This truth is one that you must work for—you won’t suddenly lose the weight like your child suddenly starts sleeping through the night. You must plan, prioritize, and dedicate yourself to making this one a reality. It absolutely is possible to get back into your skinny jeans. It’s all a question of whether you want it badly enough. As a former personal trainer and fitness enthusiast, I know this to be true. Your body is fully capable of being fit after giving birth—if you decide to put it to work.
Myth #3: Your house will never be clean. I sometimes feel like this is just something people say when they feel guilty because they haven’t picked up all week. They blame the mess on the kids, when the reality is, just a little intention and discipline can keep the mess at bay. Dedicate one room to toys so they don’t spread across the entire house; put things away as you go; wash the dishes as soon as a meal is over; make your bed when you wake up in the morning. As you discipline yourself to clean up and put things away, you will indirectly teach your children to do the same. They are teachable—if cleaning up is important to you, you can train them to do it as well.
Myth #4: You and your husband will never travel again. I think this one bothers me the most because so many of us look back on the trips we took with our spouses as some of our favorite experiences together—discovering new foods, places, and people. To think that those days are over until we’re empty nesters is downright depressing. That’s why I’m here to tell you that it does not have to be true! My husband and I have gone on many trips alone together since our kids were born, and to make this possible you need do just two things: ask someone you trust to keep your children and relinquish control of their childcare for the duration of your time away. If you are blessed to have helpful family members living nearby, the only thing standing between you and some time away is you just exploring this possibility. If you don’t have family but you do have some disposable income, consider paying a nanny. There are several reputable sights where you can search for and interview nannies for extended time away from your children. And all of us have close friends to whom we would trust our children for a few nights. If cost is an issue but travel is something you’d really like to do–drop some extra-curriculars or eat at restaurants less to save money for a trip. My point is: the possibility of spending a few nights away from your children is not unreachable, but most of us are too nervous to ask for help or are too controlling in our role as parents to take some time off. And it’s precisely the controlling parents who need time away the most!
Myth #5: Your children will turn into jerks when they become teenagers. So, to be fair, I don’t know for sure that this one isn’t true because my kids are only 7, 5, and 3. But, because I know that people love to tell you how bad things are going to be, and because all the preceding “nevers” have not proven true for me, I suspect that the above myth is not true either. Because, I have great kids. Yes, they can be jerks sometimes, but so can I, and that doesn’t mean that I am actually a jerk. It just means that I have bad days when I can use a little more grace, not that I’m without hope. I fully intend for my kids to go through some difficult developmental years, but I’m not dreading the years ahead. I’m enjoying the moments with them, and all their changes as they grow, and dealing with the hard days as they come. (And spending a lot of time in prayer.) After all, what good will it do me or my children if I dread the teen years before they even arrive? Most likely, they’ll turn out to be better than I expected. I’ll learn a lot and look back on them with fondness, much like I’m doing now when I think about my children in their infancy, years ago.
See, what people should say to you when you’re expecting, is that the degree to which you enjoy your role as a mother depends on your ability to let go of your past. If you cling to the “used to be’s” you’ll only focus on what you’ve lost: 8 hours of careless sleep, a neat but silent house, a flexible yet self-focused schedule—and you’ll become someone who recites the “never myths” to other parents with sarcastic flair. But, if you approach parenthood embracing your new normal and not trying to be the same person you were, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and your opportunities to enjoy the small pleasures that remind you of your carefree days will only be limited by your creativity.
So my advice, if you want it, is much simpler: Never believe the “you’ll never’s,” because there’s always the hope that you can.