Childrearing

No One’s Prepared For Parenthood And You Can Blame Liars On Social Media That Make It Look Easy‏

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new baby

It would seem that most new parents think they are prepared for their new baby. They’ve gone to the childbirth classes, they’ve read the books, they’ve done more internet research than a college student writing their senior thesis. They are ready for anything and feeling quite smug. I was one of those new parents seven short years ago and I remember having my ass handed to me by my darling, new daughter the very first night she was home. Were those noises she was making normal? Should she sleep that long? Should her poop be totally liquid? Should I be feeling this tired and helpless? I had so many questions and suddenly, none of that obsessive research meant anything. There is a steep learning curve when you become a parent and a new study suggests that despite the wealth of information available, no one’s prepared for parenthood. I have my own theories as to why that is but let’s look at the study first.

A study detailed by The Washington Post shows just how unprepared parents from all types of backgrounds (single parent, same-sex parents, adoptive, surrogate, IVF, etc.) are for when their new baby comes home. The article notes the fact that Americans are waiting longer and longer to start families and overall, are having fewer children. This means that new parents have probably not had the exposure to babies and small children via their friends and family the way that they may have a few decades ago. This lack of hands-on experience definitely makes a difference in the way new parents handle their baby. It also means their expectations are based only on their research and not on seeing things first-hand:

Most parents we interviewed described having “unrealistic” expectations about baby behavior, particularly in relation to crying, sleep patterns and feeding.

As Susanne, a mother in a same-sex relationship, said:

 

… I thought my baby would come with me to the café and I’d sit there and stare lovingly into her eyes and people would say, “Oh, she’s gorgeous,” and I’d be like, “Motherhood’s wonderful” … And yeah, she’d cry a bit at night and I might be a bit tired but my life would essentially be the same with a baby. No. The reality was I didn’t know who I was anymore.

 

Some parents talked about self-imposing standards that were “too high.” And a few mothers believed this contributed to their experiences of postnatal depression. Melanie, a mother of one who experienced postnatal depression, said trying to “do everything perfectly” had exhausted her and made bonding with her baby difficult.

I can absolutely understand what these mothers are talking about. I will go out on a limb and say that despite having more baby gear and paraphernalia than any prior generation (and more access to information via the internet) that we are the most lost in regards to being parents and how confident we are with our parenting. Everywhere we turn, there is contradictory information. The internet, our pediatrician, our friends and our own mothers all have differing advice about our new babies and what are we supposed to do with that? No matter what we do, there is a source that will tell us we are wrong.

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