You have my permission
I wish we could power the world with unasked-for advice.
Think about it — totally renewable, takes up space only in the air (though it does sometimes demolish the psyche) and it’s endless! Someone get me a Nobel, I’ve finally found a use for the stuff.
And the advice never comes faster or as furiously as when people discover you’re growing — or raising — a human.
Full disclosure: I’ve done this. (Sorry, to any and all.) Hopefully not as egregiously as the woman who tracked me through a Trader Joe’s once, insisting my baby was too young to ACTUALLY be smiling already (she wasn’t, and she was) and to never invite my baby into my bed (already there, but thanks). Etc., etc. etc.
I was just there to get cookie butter, and instead I took home a pound of shame about how I was screwing my baby girl up at just 6 weeks old.
Now I’m gonna do it again. In print. Well, this isn’t so much advice as it is permission:
First, one of the best pieces of advice I got before I became a mother: Whatever you think parenthood will be, that is not it. True.
Liberate yourself of Instagrammy parenting daydreams. It’s not that you won’t have those beautiful moments; it’s that you’ll need to make room to appreciate the intense joy and pride — and to give yourself grace when you meet the other end of the spectrum.
You can be secure in knowing that small humans, like grown ones, are messy, flawed creatures who are nonetheless capable of great love, resilience and delight.
You are enough.
You’re destined to be this child’s parent. Remember when you got the infuriating response of “Because I’m the parent,” or some variant thereof? The deal is that — when you become a parent — you deserve some benefits. The Because Clause is way near the top of the list. With this phrase internalized, you can politely tell naysayers or armchair advice givers to politely shove off — and to let your children know, as they get older, you’re still the CEP (Chief Executive Parent).
Allow for the possibility.
Get informed, but try not to decide how you feel about anything in advance — breast vs. formula, co-sleeping vs. crib-sleeping, public vs. private, working vs. staying home.
After hearing almost nothing but horror stories when I was pregnant for the first time, I was like, Whoa, so I’m going to probably hate this whole thing? Allow for any and all things, including … loving being a parent!
I believe this push for hardline philosophy-following is partly what’s behind mothers blaming themselves for everything and calling themselves failures — when they’re anything but — or feeling secretly guilty or jealous.
I’ve watched incredible mothers unfairly and endlessly beat themselves up when they come up against their own or other’s misguided expectations.
Be good to you. Parent with the flow.
Because here’s the honest truth: You won’t know ’til you get there — no matter how much kid experience you have or how much research you do. (FYI: Babies don’t read those books.)
That’s really hard to accept. I say this with all kindness and empathy: Welcome to the trenches.
Feel the love.
I used to get SO angry when people would say that I couldn’t know true love, the love of a child, until I became a parent. What a jerk thing to say — like I don’t understand love or have meaning in my life?
I realize now: OF COURSE you can know love and experience profound meaning without having children.
It’s just that you can’t know the very specific emotional swings, the devotion or the pressures, until you’re squarely in the middle of it with your own specific tiny tyrant(s). That’s terrifying. It’s also what I’ve come to think might be the world’s greatest honor with some of life’s very best rewards.
Kids have an incredible ability to hold up a magnification mirror up to you — the kind that allows you to see your pores, translucent stray eyebrows and dust motes — but it’s the kind that examines your parenting work instead.
I give you permission to like what you see.
Katie Dohman lives in West St. Paul with her three kids, two dogs and one husband (and now a cat). She loves them a lot, and loves her espresso machine ALMOST as much.