It starts before the baby is even conceived.
You’re enjoying happy hour (because before kids, happy hour happened all the time, right?) Then a family with a toddler plops into the booth behind you. They need the WHOLE booth because there’s a car seat, diaper bag, baby’s favorite blanket, a bag of kiddo-approved snacks, some toys, an iPad, three books, two sippy cups, and extra table-top clings for the kiddo to tear off and throw on the ground.
“I’m never toting around all that crap when I’m a mom,” you comment as you as order another craft beer and a round of apps.
And with that innocent declaration, you’ve started on the unintended path of absolutes.
It’s pretty easy to make such bold declarations when you’re childless. You really have no idea about the logistical nightmare it takes to tote a toddler to a restaurant. But it’s clear, at least to you, that you’ll make different choices.
It’s not that the other parent is wrong, you reason. It’s just that you’ll ALWAYS have more flexibility. You’ll DEFINITELY use a babysitter. It DOESN’T WORK with your vision of parenthood. You’ll NEVER tolerate that kind of behavior.
Let’s make no mistake, folks. Those ‘absolutes’ are confining, unrealistic, and place unintentional stress on every decision you make.
The good news is that they don’t last long. If you let them, those absolutes start dissolving nearly immediately.
You might be incredibly focused on nutrition and diet during your pregnancy only to discover you’re not stronger than your craving for Donutland. It’s a craving more powerful than the caffeine in the Starbuck’s that you swore you wouldn’t drink until after the baby arrived.
Your zen playlist designed to bring your child into a world of calm was an afterthought when you threw your belongings into a car and headed into the hospital for an unplanned emergency c-section. “This wasn’t my birth plan,” you might have cried; but really, your birth plan was to deliver a healthy baby– an outcome that quickly proved to be more important than the smell of lavender and the sound of Enya.
But your world colored by absolutes is no match for your new child and her laissez-faire approach to life.
You’ll find a new balance.
It’ll happen subtly. You’ll take your never-sleeps-at-night-in-his-crib baby for a stroller ride in the mall, just to get out of the house for a little bit. You’ll see another tired mom checking her phone on a bench in the play area in the mall. Before you might have thought, “Humph. I’m never taking my kiddo to some Petri dish to play. And I’m certainly not wasting these precious moments of my child’s life by checking my phone!”
But the “new you” will understand that you can find time to check in with family and friends through email, text and social media. You’ll understand that you don’t need to ban the screens from your life.
You’ll find that your child needs to burn energy, and sometimes the Petri dish play area gives you both a much-needed break on those long days. (I mean, it’s still pretty gross. But we’ve all taken our kids there. Consider it an immunity-building outing.)
At the end of the day, the absolute of ‘always’ and the definitive ‘never’ are just too constraining.
Save yourself the heartache. There are so many learning curves as a parent already; don’t saddle yourself with the false assumption that there’s only room for all or nothing in this new world.
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