Is parenthood really that awful? (How to speak to a first-time mom)

Dear parents of older children:

Thank you for speaking of the joys of parenthood. You’re genuine in your interest to pass along kind wisdom, real struggles, and genuinely encouraging advice for this mom-to-be. The way you speak of your children and how you cherished the early days – or wish you had cherished them more – is endearing. It’s reassuring. The way you speak of your slumber sacrifices, how they were tough but relatively short-lived, is always said in such a Mom way that I hope I’m as patient and giving of myself as you seem to have been.

Thank you for making motherhood seem possible, even enjoyable, and something I can look forward to with joy and gladness in my heart.

Sincerely,
37.5 Weeks and Counting

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Dear Parents of Young Children:

You see my stomach protruding from my body as though I swallowed a watermelon whole, and you are excited. You squeal with delight when I tell you I’m having my first girl, that this is my parents’ first grandchild, and that we have her bassinet all set up in our room. You lament with me about back pain, my frequent need to relieve my bladder, and the difficulty with which I now waddle up the stairs. Then, you move from pregnancy to parenthood. And boy, I have to tell you, you do not make this sound fun.

I get that it’s not easy. I don’t think it was meant to be easy. But please, stop telling me that I’m never going to sleep again, that I’m probably going to have to get rid of my dog, and that my new “bundle of joy” will poop 10 times a day. Please, please, please stop. There is a difference between being ‘real’ and being negative. You, my dear, are being negative. I’m aware that newborns, infants, babies, and toddlers do not always sleep through the night. I am also aware that they poop and pee several times a day and that my life will be a blur of diapers for awhile, and I am aware that there will be a transition time with my sweet pup.

You need to know: your words are not encouraging. In fact, you make parenthood sound like the worst decision you’ve ever made. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you do not actually feel that way. But when all you spout to me about my impending journey is all the crap – literally – that parenthood requires, you don’t put any kind of joy or gladness into my heart. In fact, you incite fear, anxiety, regret, and sadness for both me and my husband.

I will gladly hear your struggles of colic, sleeplessness, and missed time with your spouse. I will also gladly hear your stories of first smiles, giggles, and steps. There has got to be more to early parenthood than misery and anger, sleepless nights and endless diapers.

So please, when you see a brand new mom ready to pop, check your words and encourage her, do not scare her. Let her know that each tough stage is temporary, that the joys outweigh the struggles, that there is support if and when she needs it, and that she’ll be amazed at how her motherly strength and instinct takes over when she least expects it. I’ve heard those things, and I appreciate those words a lot more than I appreciate, “Get ready to never sleep again!” And if you are unable to find anything positive to say, please do two things: abide by Thumper’s rule, and then find some support in the form of counseling, a good friend, or a mom’s group.

Enjoy your children today, because there is no guarantee of what tomorrow will bring. Cherish the time you can spend with your young children, because when they’re grown and out of the house, I bet you’ll be surprised at the precious moments that roll through your trove of memories.

Thanks in advance,
37.5 Weeks and Counting

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