Today's blog is going to be directed to my many friends who are new parents. If you're not a parent yet, this is probably a helpful read, although you may not agree or understand it yet. That's okay. File it away in that compartment of your brain entitled "may someday be useful". If you are a parent, you may or may not have had this experience. I can only speak for myself.
My dearest friends,
Congratulations on your beautiful arrival. You have been anticipating this moment for awhile now, and when you look at your baby you see all your hopes and dreams wrapped up into one tiny bundle of joy. Babies are beautiful and should be cherished, as you well know. You've likely been told all about how wonderful motherhood (or fatherhood) is, how it will be the most rewarding thing you'll ever do, how you will love your baby in a way you could not comprehend loving another person before. All of that is true.
But there's a lot to parenthood that most people don't talk about, and it's those shadows that linger in the background that I believe lead to some of the more painful aspects of parenting--self-doubt, fear, depression, worry, even abuse. The parts that nobody tells you about. Some of these things you'll anticipate--the exhaustion, the constant need of another person being tied to you all day and night. But the wear on a person can be enormous. Until you've actually gone for what seems like days with very little sleep, until you've had another person dependent upon you for everything, there is no amount of description that can accurately portray how exhausting parenthood can be.
Nobody tells new parents how hard of an adjustment it is to give up your social life, your typical relationship with your spouse, your sex life, your regular eating and sleeping schedules. Nobody prepares you for how a simple fifteen-minute trip to the store will now take an hour. How the life you knew before, with spontaneous decisions and meeting friends for lunch or drinks will disappear. Nor do most people talk about the helplessness new parents often feel when they have fed, changed, rocked, and sung to their baby, only to have the child continue to scream loudly for what seems to be hours on end. In other words, nobody tells you the real side of parenting.
I know that some parents embrace every challenge head-on with no (or few) problems, and I applaud them. But for most, parenting--especially initially--is hard. It's overwhelming and scary at times. You wonder if you did everything right, or even anything right. You question if your baby would be crying if you knew more. You wonder what kind of parent you'll be in the long run and if you'll really, truly be able to meet your baby's needs. If this path you've chosen--to give another life--was really a path meant for you at all.
The reality is that some of those fears will never go away. They will morph into different fears and worries over time, about meeting your child's needs and wondering if your parenting skills are what is best in the moment. But many of the fears and worries and even the depression new parents feel in the beginning greatly lessens or even disappears with time. Life will become a new normal, and you will reap all the rewards you've heard about.
If you're a new parent who's struggling, find someone to talk with. Develop a support system. There is no shame in needing to lean on other people. Raising children is one of the hardest jobs on the planet if you do it well. It's one of the easiest if you don't. Recognize that those fears and worries that nag you in the back recesses of your mind are normal. If you are struggling with depression or overwhelming anxiety, find a professional to talk to. See your doctor.
Parenthood is a blessing, it's true. But I've been a parent for ten years and very few days do I go to bed and think, "piece of cake!". I do, however, go to bed and think, "Thank God for my family."
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