I Was The Perfect Parent – Before I Became One

perfect parentI’m sure I’m not the only woman who had an image of what her maternal self would look like or an idea of what her maternal self would act like. Years of trying for my first child sort of made me perfect my image of how I would think, feel and act in my role as a mother.

Needless to say – I was wrong.

A good friend of mine had her first child a couple years before I had mine. I was amazed at how much our phone conversations changed after her son came into the world. There literally didn’t seem to ever be a time when she wasn’t whispering. I remember thinking, What the hell? It struck me as so odd that I brought it up to my husband:

She’s always whispering! I mean, your baby has to get used to some kind of noise, doesn’t he? Look at us! We live on top of a busy bar on one of the loudest streets in Brooklyn. What are we going to do when the baby comes? Soundproof the apartment? Whisper all the time? No way. You have to expose your baby to some noise. Give me a break. Whispering all the time – ha!

Flash forward about a year-and-a-half. My son is two months old and is breastfeeding every hour-and-a-half for 45 minutes at a time. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in sleep. I’m walking around in a half-daze, wondering how long this behavior can possibly last. Babies are supposed to sleep all day, aren’t they? One particular day, he finally goes down for a nap and I think to myself – Great! I can make myself a sandwich. Or paint my toenails. Or do anything that doesn’t involve staring at this baby for a few minutes.

Just then my husband walks through the front door obliviously talking on his phone – but not speaking loudly at all. I freak and execute the best whisper-scream ever: SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!  ARE YOU CRAZY?  ARE YOU STUPID? SHUUUUT UUUUPP!!!!! 

Not my proudest moment. It was then that I came to understand all of the whispering.

I realized that before I had a child I thought that I would be able to somehow seamlessly fit him into my daily life without changing much at all. Well, that’s ridiculous – I didn’t really feel that way. But I never envisioned myself as the mother who would be trying to create the perfect, controlled environment just so my child would nap for a few minutes. To be fair – I didn’t really understand how desperate I would be for those few minutes until my child actually arrived.

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You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Cee

    When I was attempting to conceive, I was 110% certain that I was going to birth a baby naturally, with no drugs. I also said I would teach my children many languages and some other bullshit. Forward a feel years and have made the firm decision to be childfree.

  • Blueathena623

    The thing I had all figured out during pregnancy was the “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing. I didn’t care if my house went to shit or we are TV dinners for a month, I was going to do my best to avoid becoming a walking dead mom. And if people came over to help, is ask them to clean or cook food, because I wasn’t going to do chores while hey got to SIT and RELAX with my baby.
    I’m rolling my eyes typing this. Lets see, how many ways was I wrong?
    1. I knew babies ate every 2,3 hours, but I somehow didn’t figure that they don’t teleport the food into their stomachs. So feeding takes 30 – 60 minutes.
    2. Babies, at least mine, don’t automatically go to sleep, and that’s IF its time to for them to sleep (I thought babies slept all day? Maybe I got a defective one.) So 15 – 30 minutes of rocking and bouncing to be out down.
    3. I can’t power down like a robot. Even IF jr really would sleep until his next feeding, and I could theoretically get 1.5 – 2 hrs of sleep, I can’t fall asleep instantly, no matter how exhausted. So I’d close my eyes, wait, look at the clock, think “ok, if I fall asleep NOW I can still get an hour . . . 45 minutes . . . 30 minutes . . . 15 minutes . . . And he’s up.”
    4. With the relatives helping thing? After about 3 days I was so tired of sitting down with the baby, I was desperate to do something, anything that wasn’t sitting. So when people came to help, I tossed the baby at them and did laundry and cooked and even scrubbed the toilet once.

    • LiteBrite

      I too heard “sleep when the baby sleeps.” It never worked for me. I also can’t power down like a robot. Instead, I thought of all the things I could and should be doing (housecleaning, laundry, cat entertaining) while the kid was asleep.

    • Blueathena623

      Ugh, yes, cannot turn thoughts off. Plus I never thought I’d be one of those “oh god, SIDS, make sure the baby is still breathing!” types of moms. And I’m not (mentally), but my body didn’t get the message. If I did fall asleep, he could do the quietest baby snort and I’d be instantly jolted awake and buzzing with adrenaline. That still happens (baby monitor) and it bugs the crap out of me. Hello body, that was a baby fart, not a tiger. Stand down.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

      yeah – the whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing is crazy. That’s the only time you have to accomplish everything else in your life that needs some undivided attention!

    • AS

      “Sleep when the baby sleeps”….HA! I can’t believe that seasoned mothers give this advice, but I sure got it from them. Naps are like a panic attack rushing to get everything you possibly can done! And agreed, its not like most people can just lay down and instantly asleep. I can count on one hand how many times I have had a simultaneous nap.

    • Andrea

      You know who can do that? Dads! Don’t ask me why or how, but if he was in charge of the baby, he most definitely could power down like a robot the second the baby dozed off. Pissed me right off! LOL

    • Andrea

      I LMAO @ the “got a defective one” cuz I definitely got one of those too and the “toss the baby at them” cuz I MOST definitely was dying to do anything (ANYTHING!!!) that didn’t involve me holding the baby. Ha ha ha ha ha..those were the days (and I don’t miss them!)

    • K.

      The other thing I love about that advice is that it presumes you’ve only got one child to care for.

    • heathersal

      amen! Oh, yeah, sleep when the baby sleeps…nevermind the toddler dissembling your kitchen…

    • Amanda

      I so get this. My big issue with napping when the baby is napping is that I’m so anxious that they could wake up at any second. When I’m in a deep sleep and woken up suddenly, it almost physically hurts, to the point that it was just better not to sleep. And the anxiety over worrying about waking up at any second kept me awake. My baby is 6 months old, and I still have trouble going back to sleep after a 5am feeding. It’s so lame.

  • LiteBrite

    Oh yeah. Been there, bought the t-shirt. I was going to make my own baby food, eschew the T.V., and ban all processed food. No Mac-n-Cheese for my little darling. He was only going to eat all natural, HEALTHY food. T.V.? NO WAY. Nothing but a natural birth for me too. Oh, and I was going to wear that kid until he was a teenager! (Okay, I’m exaggerating on the last one.) One more thing: I was going to teach my kid French. (Not that I’m fluent in it, but still….)

    I did none of it. Still don’t. The boy was breech, so I ended up having a C-section, was unable to breastfeed, and the baby carrier was used once. Did I mention the kid’s two favorite foods are hot dogs and BOXED Kraft Mac-n-Cheese. (Although I do try to limit the amount of crap he eats.) Oh, and the only French my son knows is “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien” from Madagascar 3, and even then his rendition is spotty at best.

    Life happens, and things don’t always go as planned. So I’ve abandoned a lot of my original ideas about what I would do as a parent and have tried to go with the flow. I figure as long he remains happy and healthy and is not in jail by the time he’s 18, I’ll have done okay as a parent. Maybe.

  • peggy

    “I was the perfect parent – before I became one”

    This x1000. I have said this exact thing so many times. I was going to breastfeed exclusively as long as I could, wear my kids everywhere, all organic home made food, cloth diapers and wipes washed in homemade detergent…..the whole nine yards. Some of those things I did, others not. My kids are healthy, smart, and active. I think I’ve done okay thus far.
    I was thinking the other day about how hard it must be to be a first time mom now with pinterest around. All these pins about making everything from scratch, people posting boards for families that aren’t even conceived yet…I hope it doesn’t give too much pressure to be the “perfect” mom.

  • K.

    One of my friends DID manage to live up to expectations. Her child is now a busy 2-year-old who has never ingested a grain of sugar (save for his 1yo birthday cake, which mom triumphantly informed me, was ‘to sweet for him!’), is shielded from the presence of ANY screen (TV, iPad, iPhone, etc.), and subsists on a diet of like, kale, quinoa, and goat milk (because dairy milk isn’t good enough and neither is soy)–all organic, of course. He is on an ironclad schedule which includes 4 hours of daycare where he learns Chinese and two 47-minute naps amidst handmade blankets and a white noise machine, plus mommy-and-me classes that involve things like ‘Toddler Drum Circle’ and ‘Toddler Night With the Impressionists’ at the local art museum . At two, he still breastfeeds. The family has never owned formula. Or a pacifier, or any toy that’s not wooden and Danish.

    Mom, on the other hand, is so wound up, she could sling-shot herself to Mars.

    • whiteroses

      And here’s hoping her kid doesn’t send her there. Wow.

    • gryphon50

      wow that sounds like a really fun childhood.

    • Wendy

      Oh my God. Best. Line. Ever, K.

  • whiteroses

    Birth and raising a child is such a crapshoot. I have certain ideas of what I want to do and how I want to raise my son, but the thing is…. he’s eight months old, and an individual. He has his own likes and dislikes, and nothing I can say or do will change them. And as much as I’d like to put him on lockdown so that he can achieve everything I want for him, that’s not realistic. I would rather be the type of mother who loves her children as they are- warts and all- than have everyone marvel at my mothering skills. You can’t encourage children to be the same as their peers, push them to preform, schedule their days to the nth degree without any leeway whatsoever, and then encourage them to think for themselves once they hit adulthood. They won’t know how. It doesn’t work that way.
    We all want the best for our kids. But your child’s best may not be my child’s best. And, in the end, that’s okay!

  • Amy

    I loved this! I am NOT a parent, but I definitely find myself admonishing parents for things that *I* would never do… I’ve been trying to train myself out of this because when/if the time comes that I have one of my own, I don’t want to fall into some kind of weird spiral where none of the expectations I held match reality.

  • MeLuRe

    The classic children’s rhyme, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit,” is also great advice for parents. It is important to to be realistic about what you are working with (or who, in this case). Parents to be should read child development books instead of parenting books…in my humble opinion.

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