Even before I became a parent, I was determined to be a good parent. The type of parent that always, without a doubt, puts her kids’ needs above her own.
Too many of us define what it is to be a good parent before we are parents! No wonder we sometimes disappoint ourselves when we can’t meet our own, far-fetched, expectations. They were entirely built on our ideals, or what we swore we wouldn’t do based on our own childhoods. Long story short, my expectations were so far from realistic, no wonder I was feeling so much self-doubt, and disappointment that I had become a parent that just wasn’t good enough.
Here are six things I wish I knew before becoming “mom”:
- Prioritizing your child 24/7 is possible. Wait, what? Prioritizing your child 24/7 makes it difficult to be the best version of yourself. Newborns are newborns for a relatively short period of time and it’s inevitable that they need you most of the time. They are your priority, but even at this stage moms and dads can try planning short breaks during this time too. When my son was a newborn, I looked forward to my partner watching my child for 1 hour or more once a week. Even grocery shopping felt like “me” time. As my son got older, boundaries and more self-care would be equally important. Now, “me time” entails getting a moment to write, or having a moment to actually use a gift card I got for Christmas.
- I would raise a perfect child. It seems sinful that I would have ever believed this was possible. Perfect people don’t exist. Love can be perfect, but people can’t be. They are intrinsically flawed and flaws aren’t something to hide, we must embrace flaws to fully love ourselves and our children. Your kid might not be a prodigy, but they are your favourite little people in the world and you love them for them. You don’t try to “mold” or shape them to be more like you want them to, but you learn to see the good in them and you’ll to anything to draw that out.
- I would never yell. In the midst of newborn-lacking-sleep, trying to make it all fit in to the perfect picture and missing the mark, frustration is not a far cry away. Asking people politely only works for maybe the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time, but by then, you tend to boil up. Getting angry is not something we’re proud of, but let’s admit, it does happen. Apologies also happen.
- I would be super-environmentally-friendly mom. Let’s face it. We can reuse bags, bottles and purchase things with less packaging, buy things from the thrift store, use cloth diapers; but some things, like when other people buy things for your kids, you find yourself throwing out a lot of packaging/crappy plastic toys. It’s hard to implement green zones in your home when it might sound rude to tell people you don’t want them to buy things for your child. Sometimes being “green” just isn’t as easy when you’re caring for everyone else and you’re busy. When leaving the store and my son has a meltdown, I try so hard to resist being the stinking toy he’s clasped on to – but sometimes I don’t have the strength to listen to more whining and melt-downs, so I cave in. Being environmentally friendly is more of a global economic, political and social problem and we can each make efforts, but we cannot place the burden solely on parents.
- My child would be the model of love and respect. My son is fully capable of loving and respecting other kids, but I did feel a pang in my chest when I saw him push someone else at the playground. “He must have learned that from another kid!” I exclaimed. Kids will be kids. Pushing and shoving, in my opinion, does need to be corrected, but it’s going to happen, especially on the playground. There’s more value in modelling love and respect than dehumanizing your little person my scolding them every time they look at someone the wrong way. Live and learn.
- Laughing and frolicking doesn’t happen every day like I imagined. Laughter happens all the time. But so does frustration and many attempts to get through to my kids. The teen years are definitely the hardest when they are striving for independence, and you are stretching yourself trying to give them choices that are age-appropriate. Life isn’t all laughing and frolicking, and it’s not always being listened to (it’s being ignored, too!). So I’ve learned to take the good times as they come and stop always playing bad-cop, because while jumping with glee might not always be a reality, perpetual discord doesn’t have to be a reality either.
While I’ve accepted that my previous expectations of parenthood are so ridiculously far-fetched, I know that I, as well as many of us, sometimes hold ourselves up to unrealistic standards of parenthood. As many of us say to “stop and enjoy our kids because before we know it they will be older and moving out,” it’s also important to know that we are growing and won’t ever recover our time. It’s better to accept what we can’t change and change what we can’t accept, but stop evaluating our efforts based on loose expectations we’ve placed on ourselves (and that are placed on us my others!).