by Kimberly Pangaro | Kimberly is a mom of four daughters and the owner of the lifestyle parenting media company Atomic Mommy. When she’s not running her company or momming all day, she’s writing about family life.
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When becoming a parent, losing pieces of ourselves is never a thought. Instead, we think of the joy in all the possible wonders of parenting. The reality is much different. Parenting, for all of its beautiful moments and love-filled memories, is not for the faint of heart.
While babies bring a world of new and treasured moments, these are not the only things to think about. Becoming a parent is a long journey from babyhood to adulthood.
That’s why in this article, I’m telling you the exact expectations you should have when becoming a parent, and how to avoid the pitfalls that so many couples fall into.
#1 Loss of your personal identity and relationship identity.
As couples, we have our couple identity. Naturally, we also have our personal identities. When you become a parent, you lose a part of yourself and everything becomes all about the baby. Your couple identity gets put aside for baby. Your personal identity intertwines, and ends up ingrained with baby.
This can be a toxic mixture, and often leads to broken relationships. With that said, rather than always being about the baby, be sure to make room for yourself as an individual AND as a couple. So, let’s start with the couples’ side of things.
Most couples fall into two categories, after becoming parents: (1) the couple who stops dating each other, or (2) the couple who never lets one another get a break because being alone with the baby is overwhelming. It is extremely important not to abandon each other during any phase of parenting.
Most people enjoy a bit of pampering and extra attention, whether they communicate it or not. Rather than allowing resentment to grow in your partner’s heart and mind, try a different approach. Time may be a precious commodity you simply don’t have, but you can still make efforts to dote on one another. Try providing each other with a day away from parenting to be one’s self, or a date together, to learn who each other is becoming as a parent.
As personal identities go, mothers are excellent caregivers and we tend to go completely off the chart when caring for our littles. We lose sight of the powerfully independent and confident women we used to be before raising children, filled our heads with immense bouts of self doubt. Our partners do the same to themselves.
To not lose ourselves in parenthood, we must set aside time to be alone. This alone time can be reflective, peaceful, adventurous, and even fun! The point is to get some alone time for yourself so you can cultivate inner peace.
#2 Not receiving enough attention from your partner.
It’s a well known fact that children require a great deal of attention, and mothers are the ones who tend to give it. But what many of us either don’t understand or forget, is that our partners deserve and need just as much attention. Is it hard to do this? Definitely. It doesn’t mean that we should give up handing it out.
When you ignore your partner or do not place enough importance on the doting of your partner, you leave the door open for temptation to creep in, for depression, and for feeling left out. Case in point, how often do we hear adults complain about not having enough hugs, kisses, or cuddling? It’s more likely that you’ll never hear this from your partner, unless of course, they are excellent communicators. So, in between the napping, bathing, feeding, and diaper changes, try to sneak in a few close moments together. Wrap your arms around your partner when they’re doing the dishes, cuddle up close on the couch, or steal a kiss during bath time with the baby.
#3 Time for yourself.
We all know what having a baby does to our free time. And for those of you who aren’t aware, allow me to enlighten you. After the baby is born, there is no more time for yourself, or at least that’s what it feels like.
We are constantly debating on whether we should shower or take the little time we have, to grab some desperately needed zzz’s. This is where we all make the same mistake and why I advise you to get a bit selfish.
To do this, you’ll need to establish a healthy habit of putting yourself first. Try these easy tips. During baby nap #1, take a quick ten minute shower. I know it sounds short, but trust me, those ten minutes will feel like heave. When baby takes nap #2, give yourself a quick workout, even if you don’t have the energy. Start with 50 jumping jacks. This will invigorate you and may help you to lose some of that post-baby belly. If you need a bit more than just nap time for yourself, then ask a relative to watch your baby so you an enjoy a bath or perhaps, a quiet hot meal!
#4 Your memory.
I’m not saying that you’ll have dementia in your 20’s and 30’s, but I am saying you will forget stuff. Lots of stuff! If you have more than one kid, you may forget their names or mix them up. Have keys to your house? Expect to leave those in the car, in a drawer somewhere, or even in the door, because you will likely forget where you’ve placed them. Made an appointment for a doctor? You will probably not make it to that appointment and you’ll have to reschedule, numerous times.
This is why you should set little reminders for yourself in your phone. Something that helps me out a lot is the alarm on my cell phone. I tend to set the alarm on my phone for phone calls that I need to make, bills I need to pay, and even for tasks that I want to get done around the house. As an added measure, I write little messages to myself on Post-It notes, and then I stick them on places I know I’ll see them. If you walked around my house recently, you would have seen Post-It notes on my windows.
#5 Your patience.
I used to have so much patience before children. Then I gave birth. It wasn’t after the first birth that my patience started to dwindle. It was only after my second, when the patience floundered. And by the time the third and fourth babies were here, my fuse was way too short.
The problem? I had too much to do for each child that I never had time to finish anything I started. This became a big problem because I felt like a failure. After some time and some terrible fits, I saw my doctor who explained I was suffering from anxiety because of my lifestyle. The tips the doctor gave me included yoga, fitness, and more sleep. I wondered if the doctor was a parent. As mothers, we simply cannot change our lifestyles or get rid of the kids.
As a mother, you don’t have time for anything other than mothering. After all, it’s not like many of us can afford personal chefs or nannies. Instead, I forced myself to pencil in some time for myself. I started telling my husband he had to watch the kids and that’s when I’d take off. It has helped immensely. So, whatever the cause is for your impatience, figure it out and get a handle it. Everyone will be better for it.
#6 Your single friends.
If there’s one thing that’s true, it’s this one. When we become parents, we tend to lose our single friends. It could because our single friends just don’t want to deal with little kids screaming during wine night, but it could also be because of our mindsets.
Do you ever convince yourself that your single friends don’t want to see you because of the kids? If this is you, then you’re selling yourself short. You didn’t become a terrible person after becoming a parent. Single friends will get on board with your new motherly role if you ask them. They will come to birthday parties, family bbq’s, and even to binge your favorite show on Netflix. Why? Because being friends doesn’t stop at becoming a parent. You can have a glass of wine while your little one is in your lap. You can also enjoy grilling a steak while your kids are playing in the yard. It’s all about your mindset and the ability to stop making choices for your friends. Invite them to whatever family event you have planned and let them into your new life.
#7 Lots of your money.
This is a huge one and also very true. The world of babies is expensive. Diapers, formula, pumping machines, car seats, strollers, cribs, changing tables, playpens, bottles, nipples, scrub brushes, bath tubs, clothing, burp cloths, swaddle wraps, sleep sacks, etc., are just a few of the necessary items that a baby requires for their initial first year of life. This gets very costly to maintain.
I remember spending $100 a month just on diapers. I never breast fed my babies (to each is own), but the organic formula cost was $40 per week. Add just those two costs per month, and I was spending $260 every month for the first year of each of my child’s lives. Now, add the rest of the items that a baby needs to this monthly cost. You can quickly see how expensive having one baby is, let alone multiple babies. So before having a baby, try to financially plan for it by saving as much as you can. Though, the harder truth is that you will probably never save enough to truly be financially ready for a child. So, don’t stress out too much if you haven’t been able to save a ton.
#8 Nice things.
All parents know that having nice things in the house is a fantasy. Children can be a tad over zealous when they’re playing. Expect to have marker up and down your walls, couches, cabinets, and even their bodies. Sometimes, they’ll get too excited and draw with crayon on your television or put pennies into your brand new Xbox. This actually happened to my husband.
Be sure to hide the nice vases and picture frames, because those tend to get run into or knocked over. Do you like wearing luxury clothes? Plan for spit up to be puked on you after each feeding. Say good-bye to those elegant purses, as you’ll only be carrying diaper bags or back packs. Be sure to get the ones that are stain-resistant because you’ll be carrying milk bottles, boogie wipes, diapers (clean and dirty), snacks, and any other trash that can be stored. It’s not so much that you can’t own nice things, it’s just that you need to hide them from the kiddos and not use them unless you’re out on your own.
Brunch, weekday lunches, going to get the random drink after work… good riddance to these, too! When you become a parent, the ability to be spontaneous completely disappears. You may want to tell your best friends to expect random outings, as a thing of the past. Saying yes to anything last minute will just be a hassle for you because trying to find a sitter or pack the kiddos to join you on your surprise event, is not a hopeful reality. I’m not saying you can’t go out, but I am saying your spontaneity will become an old, faded memory. The best way to still be able to hang out with friends, or go grab drinks, is to plan those events in advance. Many, many days in advance.
#10 Your fashion sense.
The days of fashionable style go away when children arrive. It’s no longer about how cute or sexy you look, it’s just about comfort. Sure, you can look cute in leggings and a t-shirt or hoodie, but the comfy wear is here to stay.
Why? Because having babies, toddlers, and school-aged children requires a great deal of bending, running, kneeling, and crawling. When we aren’t climbing up a park slide behind our kids, we’re bending over to put the toys away. If we’re not busy cooking dinner, then we are busy cleaning up after messy eaters. Maybe we’re taking the baby out for a stroll and it starts to rain, so we run back home. Or maybe we’re trying to unpack the vehicle or carry all of the kid-friendly stuff down to the beach. Whatever we are doing, it most likely requires physical activity, lots of sweating, an infinite amount of up and down motions, and a great pair of sneakers. And all of this is why parents need comfy and sporty gear to parent comfortably.
#11 Private time.
It is hard to describe the loss of private time. One never imagines that this is possible. Enter the world of parenting. All of a sudden, you’ll feel like you’ve become a hostage to a little being who cannot speak, nor can this little one understand your needs as their own needs are all that matter.
How, you wonder, will you lose your private time? Close your eyes and try to envision a crying baby in your arms. You do not want to leave the baby alone crying, therefore, you bring the baby and a jumper or the bassinet or the walker or the bouncer into the bathroom with you. You place the baby inside of your chosen soother. And as you begin to lower your pants and attempt to sit on the toilet to do your business, these little beady eyes start watching you. The business you were about to embark on just got harder because you are not used to performing in front of a live audience. This my friends, is how privacy dies. Parenting is filled with the loss of this untouchable yet precious commodity.
As the baby grows to elementary ages, this doesn’t end. The child will frequently disturb your bathroom peace and will even communicate with you. The child may even point asking questions such as, “What’s that dangly thing?” when in the bathroom with their father or, “Why are you bleeding?”. And yes, these questions are important to answer, no one wants to answer them mid-stream.
The cure for this loss of privacy? It is a long journey to reclaim this and one that requires habitual reminders to the children, as they grow. Phrases like these, “Shut the door.” and “You have to knock before walking in.” and “Mommy/Daddy needs two minutes of private time.”, are important to use when trying to respect the child’s need to see you while also attempting to take back your alone time in the bathroom.
#12 The ability to drink a hot coffee and eat a warm meal.
If you’re a parent, you know the longing for a hot coffee in the morning as well as enjoying a warm meal. Many parents suffer from morning starvation and coffee deprivation, for the simple fact that children require a great deal of getting ready in the mornings. Even if your little one is still a baby, it is inevitable that your morning time will be interrupted by a diaper change or feeding. This often leaves parents to leave the house with no food in their bellies or hot coffee to liven them up.
If this is you, take heart knowing that there is a solution. First and foremost, get used to the idea of taking your coffee on the go. There are some great options for the parent road warriors. I have a favorite travel mug which doesn’t spill on me ever, even with the bumpy roads. Secondly, if you’re not a fan of washing another dish when you get home, you can also opt for the drive thru at a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Not keen on spending extra dough every day for that java fill, but don’t want to wash a dish either? Then try creating your very coffee station, with disposable cups and lids.
#13 Sleeping in on the weekends.
Do you remember those long and slow weekends, where you could sleep in, lay in bed cuddling, have sex, or even eat in bed? Me neither!
Parents never get to sleep in, at least, not in the beginning of parenting. Babies are up at all hours of the night, leaving us destroyed in the mornings. Toddlers tend to be up at the crack of dawn no matter what day it is, and school-aged children have a tendency to want fresh made breakfast as the is just waking up. It isn’t until the teen years, until parents can begin to sleep in again, as they once did before they had children.
This does not mean that you cannot sleep in ever, as you raise the children. You and your partner must be battle mates. Help each other out in the sleep department. Take turns staying up with the littles. Make a plan to pump before bed so that both parents can be a part of the late night feedings. If Mondays are your day to make breakfast, then have your partner be the one to cook on Tuesday morning. Create a plan that allows for both of you to function each day at half capacity, or you will both be at each other’s necks in no time.
#14 Intimacy with your partner.
There is no warning, like there are for tornadoes and hurricanes, when children decide to ram your bedroom door walking in on your intimate moments. This will happen frequently and can stunt sexual desire for one another. After all, we aren’t built to light that fuse again, so easily. And if you’re lucky enough to continue on your quest, you will more than likely begin to hear silence throughout the house, causing even more of an interruption due to the fear of what silent children are up to.
When this does happen, be sure to take it in stride, and not feel anxious about it. Laugh it about together, in the knowledge that your patience will bring the two of you back to the moment at a more suitable time. And to help keep things flowing, don’t be scared to try having intimate moments in new places other than the bedroom. You’d be surprised how much of a godsend the garage can be!
#15 Your sanity.
Look, there’s just no way to sugar coat this. You will have your sanity tested, over and over again, once you’ve become a parent. And if you’re a parent of more than one child, you can pretty much expect to have a very few marbles left in your head.
When I sanity, I mean your day-to-day sanity. You might be doing laundry one afternoon, and rather than putting laundry detergent into the machine, you accidentally put bleach instead. Perhaps you’re in the kitchen making dinner, and you go to grab the milk for mashed potatoes and instead grab the water. There may even be times where you’re looking for your house keys or phone, and you’ll end up finding them in the refrigerator. It’s not so much forgetfulness as it is pieces of your brain power fading away.
This of course, is all a normal part of becoming a parent. Why? Because becoming a parent places a great deal of strain on you. The multitude of tasks that you have to complete each day all the while the universal tasks meant for longer term completion, are set aside frequently, which then creates a vicious cycle of never getting anything that you set out to do, done. When all is said and done, your mind begins to confuse your daily tasks with your every day motions.
There is no real cure for this, only better habits to pick up so you can function more appropriately and efficiently. Sure, there are a ton of people who will read this and tell you to take more Ginkgo Biloba or do some crossword puzzles to strengthen your mind. Let’s get one thing straight, no parent has time for puzzles and while Ginkgo Biloba does have its benefits, it’s not an end all be all supplement.
So, to keep your brain at a somewhat appropriate level of function, learn to be easy on yourself. Forgive your mishaps, your forgetfulness, and your inability to do everything on your own. That’s step one. The next step requires you to put in place, certain things that will help you function better. Of course, this doesn’t mean that everything you try will work. You’ll have to figure out the best tips to use for yourself. For my personal self, I spend a great deal of time making lists with dates on them to complete the tasks by. I place the lists on my refrigerator. Every day I have a new list of things to get done in one day. Method works great for me, though it may not work great for you. So, do your research and find the best methods to keep yourself sane.
As you have read, becoming a parent is not without its sacrifices, and with all of the things you lose, that’s not to say that parenting is without any joy. There are many wonderful and emotionally beneficial aspects to becoming a parent. And though this article shares truthful expectations, it’s not meant to steer you from becoming a parent; merely, to place a spotlight on the reality of what to expect when becoming a parenting.