To say that becoming a parent changes your life immensely is to state the obvious. Intellectually, you know that everything is going to be different: your priorities, your sleep schedule, your credit card balance.
But knowing something in the abstract and living it every moment of the day are two wildly different things. Giving birth to my daughter made me realize how little I really understood that, and it forced me to reflect back on the many mistakes I made along the way to starting a family.
Here are six dumb things I did, and you probably did too:
Asked people about their family plans.
It’s always a little annoying when someone asks you a question that’s just too personal. But for many people, a question about having children can be not just obtrusive, it can be heartbreaking.
Until I knew firsthand the devastation of a miscarriage and the frustration of trying to conceive while being subjected to nosy inquiries, I had absolutely no idea how depressing it could be.
I will always regret how insensitive and unthinking I was.
Told women who were struggling to conceive that it would be happen.
I wish I’d learned sooner that not every confidence I’m given requires me to offer a solution, or worse, a platitude.
In many cases, the best thing you can offer a friend who’s struggling with infertility is a shoulder to cry on. Just listen, and don’t feel like you need to come up with the perfect thing to say – because you could just be making it worse.
Assumed I knew what gender an expecting couple wanted.
As the mother of one little girl, I think girls are magical. I’d love another just like her. Or two more. Or three more.
I’m sure sons are also awesome, and I’d be happy to have one. But that doesn’t mean my family needs “one of each” to be complete, and neither does anyone else’s.
You know that saying, “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes?” I’ve now run a marathon in those shoes, and my feet are killing me.
All those things I said I would never do? I’ve done them, and you will too. I’ve been that mom trying unsuccessfully to calm a screaming baby in public. I’ve been that mom who flipped on Disney channel to buy myself 3 minutes alone in the bathroom.
We’re all just doing the best we can, and we deserve all the sympathy we can muster for one another.
Thought I knew what being tired was.
I used to think that because I had a demanding job that required me to spend my weekends waking up at 3AM, and worked a long day on little sleep, that I understood what it meant to be exhausted. This was so unbelievably dumb of me.
When you reach your breaking point at work, you can take some time off. But moms and dads never clock out. My insane hours on the job were an absolute walk in the park compared to life with a newborn.
Didn’t appreciate my freedom and lack of responsibilities.
For all the love and joy children bring us, they’re a huge time-suck.
Even when my daughter is peacefully sleeping and I’m finally relaxing, there’s a countdown clock running in my head reminding me that there’s still a long to-do list waiting for me. Things like reading, watching Netflix, or enjoying a dinner and a movie almost always take a back seat to baby laundry and keeping my house habitable.
Someday, I’ll have the time to do those things again, but it remains to be seen whether or not I’ll have enough brain cells left to enjoy them (see above about being tired).
While I certainly wish I’d come to my senses about these things sooner, I’m not sure it would have been possible without experiencing the other side of these mistakes for myself. Parenting is the greatest learning experience ever, and class is always in session.