Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

Before I Had Kids, I Thought I Had Parenting All Figured Out

Ad failed to load

When my friends tell me they're pregnant, I try to avoid giving unsolicited advice. Particularly if they're going to be a new mom. As much as I want to warn them that all their ideas and plans will go out of the window when they haven't slept for a few nights, I don't. I simply smile and say, "Oh, I wish I had planned it out that well when I was a new mom," because as much as I understand the advice that was given to me when I was first starting out, I rolled my eyes so much at every person who shared their two cents that I didn't request. I laugh to myself about it now, but at the time, there was no way I was going to listen. Because I thought I had parenting all figured out.

Like most non-parents and first-time moms, I had my own thoughts about how parents should be, and how I'd be as a parent. In hindsight, of course I know now how silly I was being, and I'm so grateful to all the veteran moms I vented to about what kind of parent I wouldn't be. Everyone was so gracious with me, not bothering to correct me or tell me it would probably be different. Perhaps it's just what happens when you've parented long enough to understand the realities of it. Nonetheless, I started with many ideals before I was humbled. From an early age, I knew I wanted to be similar to my mom, but not exactly like her. I felt as if she was always too strict and I thought she didn't need to take everything so seriously. I critiqued her different ways of parenting, not ever to her face, but as I got older I made a mental list of what I definitely wouldn't do and what I would.

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen
Ad failed to load

I definitely judged parents before I was one. I thought women who chose parenthood over their careers, or exploring the world, were missing out. I assumed that they were fitting themselves into the box of what was expected of them by society. If their children were crying in a restaurant, I'd come up with an opinion about how the parents were handling the situation. I'd make a comment about what I would have done, despite the fact that I didn't have any children. To me, most moms fell into two categories: the soccer moms and the non-soccer moms, and I decided I wanted to be the latter if I ever became a parent.

I had so many opinions about children whose parents put leashes on them until my own son kept darting into traffic, so I put a leash on him.

I was also under the assumption that once you became a parent, so many things in your life had to change: your free time, your friend time, your ability to get work done, your drinking habits, your going-out habits, your hanging-out-with-friend habits. I assumed that once you had children, they became your life and that was it. Then, once they turned 18, you could catch up on all that lost time. And personally, that sounded like a life sentence — I had no idea why anyone would choose that life. That is, until I met my ex-husband and we talked about having children. Then I thought, This is why people have children! You get to raise them with your best friend, and theres so much love how could you not love it!

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

While I was pregnant, different people would ask if I planned to stay home or go back to work. I'd respond, very conceitedly, "Of course I'm staying at home! I want what's best for my kids!" I truly believed that working moms could never actually choose work, because who would choose work over raising your children. I thought that they only worked because they had to. Being a stay-at-home mom was the ultimate parenting goal for me, or so I believed at the time. And I did it for a few years, until I figured out just how much I hated it. Staying at home with the kids wasn't for me at all.

I'd been so opinionated in the past about how parents should be, how their children should come first, how work should be an afterthought, but I realized, once I was working full time and was thriving, that being a parent meant that my definition of the way things should be would always be evolving.
Ad failed to load

After learning that many women actually prefer to work while raising children, I soon came to realize that I too, wanted to work. At first slightly guilty that I preferred working over staying with my children day in and day out, but over time, I got over that guilt. It took a few years of constantly wearing milk-stained shirts, never being able to find shoes or socks for my children or myself, and living for solo trips to the mall to realize I didn't want to keep staying at home. But of course, I didn't share this with anyone for awhile. I'd been so opinionated in the past about how parents should be, how their children should come first, how work should be an afterthought, but I realized, once I was working full time and was thriving, that being a parent meant that my definition of the way things should be would always be evolving.

I realized that even though everything I'd read said to start feeding a child rice cereal at 6 months old, it was OK that I went with my gut and gave my daughter store-bought baby food. Or that, when my son was little, I didn't sleep train him like I assumed I would, because I didn't realize how tired I would be with two children. I had so many opinions about children whose parents put leashes on them until my own son kept darting into traffic, so I put a leash on him. I received the same glares I dished out at parents who'd gone before me and done the same things I was doing. I'm sure my response was similar to theirs: You could glare at me as much as you wanted, I'm just happy my son isn't running into traffic and hiding from me.

Even now, with a 6 and 7 year old, I find myself assuming that I'll parent them a particular way based off of what I've seen around me, or what I've read in a parenting book. I have to remind myself that usually, my preconceived ideas don't pan out exactly how I want them to, and that it's perfectly fine. I judged moms before I was one. But now I know better. I now see moms as powerful beings, capable of some much more than I ever gave them credit for.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

5 Parenting Habits That Increase Your Chances Of Successfully Potty-Training Your Child

From starting solids to learning to walk, every childhood milestone presents its own unique set of challenges — but this is especially true of potty training. Indeed, the very thought strikes fear into the heart of many a toddler parent, particularly…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Getting Pregnant Might Mean Losing The Plus-Size Body I Love

For the last two years, I haven’t been my body’s biggest champion. I’ve gained 50 pounds. The stress of helping a parent get sober, a house purchase, and a new job got the best of me. But now, at 36, with talks between my husband and I about having a…
By Loren Kleinman

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger