Romper

What I Thought Being A Parent Would Be Like Vs. What It's Actually Like

Claire Joines/Romper

I always knew I wanted to have kids. Growing up, I loved being a mommy to my baby dolls and I couldn’t wait to start babysitting. During pregnancy, my visions of parenthood became even more idealized; I was seduced by the cozy pregnancy sites and cuteness overloaded baby registries. Then I had a kid and learned that the reality of what being a mom is really like is so different from the expectations most of us go into it with.

First of all, nothing goes according to plan. I really wish I had never learned how to make a birth plan at all. While I definitely think doing so was a great exercise that helped me understand my options and contingencies and preferences about laboring and giving birth, getting married to the idea of all of it going down in exactly the way I wanted was ultimately just setting me up for failure before the kid was even born (and, like, there would be plenty of time to feel like a failure after my kid was born). Second, everything seems different once that baby is on board. Everything. I haven’t looked at a traffic light since my daughter was born without thinking: “Oh man, that’s just hanging there like that? It can fall on someone!” Mom brain is a real thing, apparently.

It’s good to have goals, but it's also essential to your well-being to at least make an attempt at being realistic. I think this is especially true when it comes to your baby, family, and identity after becoming a mother since, if you're not realistic in your expectations and you do end up feeling let down, it's all-too-possible that some of those feelings of disappointment could get globbed onto your actual baby. And our babies aren't the ones who make us disappointed. That's all us, and our unattainable pre-baby imaginations. Sure, picturing the idyllic family experience was a nice distraction on gross subway commutes, but nothing properly prepared me for the reality of parenthood. I guess my mom was trying to tell me something when she scoffed at how I arranged all the infant toiletries in size order on the changing table because it “looked nice.”

So make your birth plans, your to-do lists, your vision boards. Enjoy the fantasy, while it lasts. Because before long, you're inevitably going to discover the very real disparity between what you expected parenthood to be like, and what it's actually like:

What My Kid Eats

Expectation:

All organic, all home-cooked, no sugar. Bam. Done.

Reality:

Lolololololol. K. Sure. Look, if they'll keep it down, I'm down to feed it to them.

Expectation:

Do all the things. Have all the adventures, flawlessly organized, effortlessly executed. Laughter, learning, bonding, wrapped up at the end with parents and kids falling contentedly asleep, with hearts full of memories and heads full of engaging new thoughts. Rinse and repeat weekly.

Reality:

Spend the first half of the day letting screens babysit your kids while you enjoy the fact that you can sit on your ass for the entire length of a cup of coffee. Spend the second half of the day cleaning up from the destruction your kids caused while you were drinking your coffee. Rinse and repeat weekly.

My Feelings About Being A Mom

Expectation:

I would feel full of love for my kids all the time, without fail.

Reality:

Full of love…and doubt, stress, fear, boredom, random pangs of wishing I could be awesomely selfish again, and wondering what crusty goo that is on my shirt...

Family Time

Expectation:

Having kids would make me fall even more in love with my partner and make us even more awesome together than we already were.

Reality:

Having kids has made me fall even more in love with my partner… and made it genuinely amazing when each day passes without one of us killing the other, because hey, you wanna learn all about someone’s flaws and shortcomings? Have a kid with them! And then don’t get a good night’s sleep for, like, a year, and if you can stay in love after that, then you know it’s real.

My Social Media Vibe

Expectation:

I would have a picture-perfect family, clean house, and sweet-ass outfits at all times.

Reality:

The bulk of my energy goes into curating my social media feeds to hide the chaos of having kids while emphasizing all the cuteness. It would basically be a full-time job to successfully pull off.

Going Back To Work

Expectation:

I could continue building a career without missing a beat. Books about perfecting the mom/work balance would hold up my life as the example to strive for.

Reality:

I continued building a career, but missed several beats. In fact, I had to create an entirely new beat, and it probably won't be the last new beat I find myself needing to march to in order to make it all work. Upside: Am a far more agile dancer as a result.

My "Sweet Baby"

Expectation:

My sweet baby would always be my sweet baby.

Reality:

Kids grow up as fast as sentimental cliches would have you believe, and while they're in the process of rapidly becoming grown non-babies, they house multiple personalities and switch between them without warning.

Spending Quality Time Together

Expectation:

I will expose my children to a variety of cultural and artistic experiences that will nourish their little minds and inspire them to seek the truth and beauty in the world.

Reality:

Piano lessons are how much??? Let’s watch Broad City together instead.

Being The Perfect DIY Craft Mom

Expectation:

My kids’ birthday parties will be Pinterest showpieces.

Reality:

What can I make with two toilet paper tubes and some diaper cream?

Me As A Role Model

Expectation:

I will embody kindness, empathy, patience and wisdom. My children will learn from my example.

Reality:

Parenting is about f*cking up, and then trying to do better. I’m so glad my children aren’t growing up feeling like they have to be perfect, but embracing their wonderfully flawed human-ness. I know they will be loved for it.

Me As A Mom

Expectation:

I woke up like this!

Reality:

No, really, I literally woke up like this.