Life Stages

Showing 1-8 of 111 books
Sort by:
View Mode:
Be the Awesome Man

Be the Awesome Man

A Man's Guide to Achieving Discipline, Success, and Happiness
edition:Paperback
More Info
Food to Grow On

Food to Grow On

The Ultimate Guide to Childhood Nutrition--From Pregnancy to Packed Lunches
edition:Paperback
More Info
Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit

How Adolescence Transformed the Adult World
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Impossible Parenting

Impossible Parenting

Creating a New Culture of Mental Health for Parents
edition:Paperback
More Info
Excerpt

One: Introduction

THE DREAM OF THE GOOD PARENT

Before they have children, most parents have a dream of what they think their new life will look like. Some of us focus on snuggling tiny babies, with their sleepy yawns and tiny socks, all nestled into a little blanket burrito. Others think of adorable toddlers with their toothy grins, broken language, and cuddly reading time. A few of us even envision helping school-aged children with their homework or driving them to an early morning sport practice or art class.

In these dreams we usually have quiet, well-behaved, neurotypical, able-bodied children. We have deep relationships with our children where we love and respect each other. Life is good in this dream. It’s happy and joyful. We are good parents with good children.

Some anxiety may slip into this dream. We might worry if we will be enough. We might not know if we can afford the vision. We might see other people’s children behaving badly and wonder how to avoid such behaviours while convincing ourselves that, somehow, “it’ll be different for me/us.”

My vision of parenting was patterned on the life of Lorelai Gilmore, the adorable, confident single mother from The Gilmore Girls. When I got pregnant with my first-born son, I was young — about a year out of high school. I already knew that the person I got pregnant with wasn’t going to be a parent in much more than title, and that I was going to have to figure this out on my own. But that was no big deal. I was Lorelai Gilmore. I imagined going for long walks with my baby in the stroller, coffee in one hand, chatting with friends. I saw us becoming best buds and braving the world together. I knew there would be challenges, but a dynamic team like us? We could handle it.

 

Then I had the baby.

Becoming a parent was like taking a long series of punches in the face. The birth was traumatic. Nursing was simultaneously a nightmare and a cruel joke, landing us back in the hospital after only a few days because I had an infant so dehydrated that he could barely muster a cry. Once he was nourished with formula, he didn’t sleep for more than forty minutes at a time and when he was awake, he cried and cried and cried. I went back and forth, either frantically struggling with a baby that was awake and crying, or stuck under a sleeping baby who could not be put down. He also had a medically complicated urinary system, chronic ear infections, and severe reflux, so we hung out at the hospital a lot. There were no coffee strolls. There were no breaks. We were not friends.

 

I thought the first year with my baby would be the best year of my life. Instead I found myself praying every day that I would die and that someone more equipped than me would be willing to raise this difficult creature into a lovely human. Unfortunately, my experience was not unique.

THE GRIND IS UNFORESEEABLE

Once we become parents, most of us realize that our pre-parent selves were naive, or even foolish. To some extent, there’s a discrepancy for every parent between what they thought it was going to be like and what it’s really like, and there’s nothing abnormal about that. When the gap between expectation and reality feels massive, some people adapt relatively easily. But others really struggle.

 

My partner, Janna, refers to this adjustment as learning to live with the grind of parenting, a term I’ve now adopted as my own. How the grind will feel is simply unknowable before having children. I had two kids when I met Janna, and before we moved in together, we spent a lot of time hanging out as a family. I asked Janna if they were nervous about living with the kids, but they assured me that they had spent enough time with them to get a sense of what it would be like. After a year of living together, we returned to this conversation, and they admitted that while they had a sense of many aspects of parent life, they couldn’t have imagined how wearying the daily grind of chores, the irrationality of children, and the never being “off duty” for any more than a few hours at a time would be. It’s not one task, one sleepless night, or one tantrum that feels tough; it’s the combination of a seemingly endless stream of them, without knowing when you will get a moment to catch your breath, that feels so intense and exhausting. While there are many rewarding parts of parenting, I often liken the early years to waking up with a leak in your energy system and trying to get to the end of the day without letting the grind suck all your energy out of the leak, all the while hoping that there’s at least an hour at the end of the day to fix the leak and fill the tank back up, because you have to do it all over again in the morning.

 

Each parent’s experience is different, and it’s not possible to understand your own experience of the grind ahead of time. Some people cope better with it. Some babies sleep more than others, and some people are less triggered by crying or whining. But all parents experience a loss of agency and control the moment they meet their kid(s) for the first time. For those who are co-parenting, there’s usually one parent, who I call the primary parent, who does more of the parenting work in the postpartum period, and they feel the loss of agency very deeply. And while the desire to be in control has a bad reputation and can get you accused of being a “control freak,” not having enough control can be disempowering and can make you feel hopeless. And yet much of the advice to new parents is to give in and let go of expectations, with very little discussion about what it’s like to live with the serious responsibilities of postpartum life. This leaves parents with little control over their day-to-day lives, because the ever-changing needs of babies and young children often keep us from planning and executing tasks. Establishing a routine feels like a pipe dream, and even when something resembling a routine does emerge, it’s almost never set by the parents, and it can be disrupted at any time by teething, developmental milestones, or just plain old off-days. Every day, postpartum parents try to find the balance between moving life forward, by doing basic things like going to appointments and getting groceries, and letting go of it all when their kid(s)’ needs take over.

 

No one teaches us how to navigate this tricky dance of meeting expectations and letting go of them simultaneously, or how to live in a space with conflicting demands. Most of us aren’t used to being needed in such an intense way, which makes it hard to understand what kind of resources might help us. Even if we do know what we want or need, resources often feel limited, and some parents have much more access to resources than others. We are taught that to be a “good” parent we must work hard, sacrifice, and be joyful, all of which can sometimes feel more like a performance for others than an authentic experience.

close this panel
The Tech Solution

The Tech Solution

Creating Healthy Habits for Kids Growing Up in a Digital World
edition:Hardcover
tagged : school age
More Info
Human Permaculture

Human Permaculture

Life Design for Resilient Living
edition:Paperback
More Info
Rooted, Resilient, and Ready

Rooted, Resilient, and Ready

Empowering Teen Girls As They Grow
edition:Paperback
tagged : teenagers
More Info
Show editions
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...