There was a time in my life when I was a really fantastic parent. I mean, we’re talking top-notch on the Mommy Scale. My children were always obedient and well-behaved. I had endless patience and the ability to turn any crummy situation into a learning opportunity. It was a glorious time.
The only problem is, this blissful period of my life happened to be before I actually had any actual children.
You see, before I had kids of my own it was easy to see the best way to handle every situation and raise proper children. It was all a myth, though, because real children don’t want to be raised proper. They don’t. In real life, children have a mind and a body of their own, and they don’t care how many parenting books I’ve read or how many mommy podcasts I’ve listened to: They’re going to do things their own way.
The contrast between the myths and the reality of parenting can be quite stark. As a matter of proof, may I present the following evidence:
Myth: My children will be well-dressed
Reality: Children are basically tiny nudists. If you can even get them to wear clothing at all, it will probably just be underwear on their heads. Just sayin’.
Myth: I will sleep train my baby within the first 3 months of his life.
Reality: Your baby refuses to sleep in a supine position. Any time you try to lay him on his back he instantly startles awake and proceeds to scream until either his or your face turns blue, whichever comes first. He prefers to be held at a 72 degree angle with one arm tightly wrapped in a swaddle and the other hand entwined in your hair. Any other position is absolutely unacceptable and will result in fits of rage.
After the 9th straight month of no sleep you move the baby into his crib in the nursery anyway, turn off the baby monitor, put in earplugs, and tell your husband to only wake you if the house is on fire.
Myth: I will potty train my child as soon as they turn 2 so I can send him to preschool
Reality: You tried the 2-day Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-WEEK Potty Training Method…which turned into the 2-MONTH Potty Training Method…and now you’re still working on the 2-YEAR Potty Training Method. You have gone through approximately 436 pairs of “big-boy undies”, 578 Pull-Ups, and have grown 47 new gray hairs.
Myth: I will only feed my children homemade, organic food. It will be wholesome and delicious and my children will fall at my feet in worship of the labor of love I provide for them at every meal.
Reality: You tried cooking a real dinner for the whole family one time last year. It took 4 hours, 15 dirty pans, and 2 bottles of Chardonnay to get through that meal. 17% of the food ended up on the floor and was eaten by the dog, 53% was thrown in the garbage, and 29% was eaten by you and/or your spouse. Now you think like a smart woman and you cook whatever you want to eat, then feed your children bowls of Cheerios when they refuse to eat it.
Myth: I will set strict limits on screen time.
Reality: Before you go to bed you set iPads and headphones outside of the childrens’ bedrooms in the hopes that this distraction will allow you to sleep in the next morning. What’s a few extra minutes of Paw Patrol in relation to actual SLEEP?! I rest my case.
Myth: I will never drive one of those minivans.
Reality: You’re fine with one kid. Then you have another kid, and you still make it work. But when you have the third kid, forget it. The minivan is your friend. The minivan is your spirit animal. Embrace it. Love it. Because the minivan? The minivan is here to stay.
Myth: My children will behave in public.
Reality: There is a 3-ring circus: You are the circus master and your children are your dancing bears. Everywhere you go, you bring the circus with you. Just call it like it is and buy yourself some peanuts and popcorn anytime you leave the house.
Myth: When my kids go to school I’ll finally get time to myself!
9:00 Drop your child off at school
9:15-10:00 PTA meeting planning for the school auction
10:00-12:00 Volunteer in your child’s classroom during Literacy Centers
12:00-12:20 Scarf down whatever leftovers you can find in your fridge for lunch
12:20-2:20 Clean the house, do the dishes, fold the laundry, prep dinner, run a quick errand
2:25 Drive to the school so you can secure your spot in the school pick-up line
2:35 Reply to a few emails on your phone while you wait for school to be dismissed
2:45 Kids are back in the car.
Myth: Raising kids will be so much work
Realtiy: Raising kids is so much work. So much difficult, rewarding, challenging, enriching, beautiful work. Life will be more full than you ever imagined, and your heart will hold more love than you ever thought possible. You will have days of struggle and tears and anger and anxiety. But you will have many more days of joy and love and learning and fulfillment. And at the end of the day, you will know: this is the best work of your life.