Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Parent I Thought I'd Be Vs. The Parent I Actually Am

Have you ever noticed how judgmental people who aren’t parents can be?  And none are more judgmental than a woman who is pregnant with her first child.  Take, for example, the tall, elegant, pregnant woman with the long, gorgeous, chestnut hair tottering around on three inch heels who sat at the table next to mine at Panera back when Iris was only seventeen months old. 

I admit that I had not gotten to take a shower that morning.  And then Iris and I had gone to the farmers’ market.  In July.  With the heat.  And the humidity.  And I will also admit that it probably wasn’t my best plan.  But, good idea or not, I ended up at Panera for lunch sitting sweatily in the only clean clothes I could find that morning (I was proud that they actually matched) at a table next to this pregnant lady and her work friends.  And, while I ripped Iris’s sandwich up into bite-sized pieces so she could eat it and kept Iris from trying to pick up my soda (because no one wants a caffeinated baby), I knew I was looking....well, like I hadn’t showered and had spent the morning outside in the heat and humidity. 

Then I heard the following conversation.

Judgmental Pregnant Lady: (in what she clearly thought was a whisper, but which could probably have been heard back in the kitchen) Do you see that woman over there?
Work Friend #1: (loud-whispering back) Which one?  The one with the baby? 
Judgmental Pregnant Lady: Yeah…
Work Friend #2: (interrupting) That baby is darling!
Judgmental Pregnant Lady: (interrupting back and glaring at her friend) Too bad her mother looks so….gross.  It’s like she just gave up.  I tell you, I’m not going to give up like that after I have my baby.  I’ll at least put on some makeup.  Sheesh!

At the time, hearing that made me feel pretty bad about myself.  Now?  Now it just makes me laugh.  Because, c’mon, you just know Miss Judgmental Pregnant Lady crapped herself during the delivery, didn’t get to shower for two weeks afterwards because her baby was breastfeeding 24/7, and learned, by the time her baby was six months old that if she waited to go out until she got a shower and could put on makeup, that she was never going to get to leave her house ever again.

And, while I could get mad at people who are judgmental like that, why would I when I was once one of them?   Oh, I rarely said anything out loud, but, back before I had Iris, I passed my fair share of judgments and thought my fair share of when-I-have-a-kid-I’ll-never thoughts.

Want an example?


I’ve got several.

I thought I would be a parent who used cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers.  After all, cloth diapers are better for the environment, cheaper, and would help in potty training when the time came.  Surely I would not be the kind of parent who put my own convenience over the benefits to the child and the environment.

The reality?  When Iris was four months old, we learned we’d be moving from the Cincinnati area to North Carolina.  Until we closed on our new home in North Carolina, we were going to live in a tiny, little, temporary apartment.  It did not have a washer or dryer.  Screw cloth diapering! Viva la convenience!

I also thought I would be a parent who made her own babyfood.  I even got a babyfood maker for my birthday four months after Iris was born.  Surely, food I made myself would be better for Iris, right?  And it didn’t seem too hard, right?


Iris hated babyfood.  I spent the better part of the morning trying to get her to eat maybe two spoonfuls of the crap.  If it was food she liked.  Which wasn’t often.  So, what?  I was supposed to spend all of my free time making eighteen different kinds of babyfood in the hopes the Iris would like one of them on that particular day???  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!  What is this “free time” of which you speak??  Ha!  No mother of a transitioning-to-solid food baby actually has any free time.

Oh, oh, also?  Before Iris was born, I actually said…OUT LOUD…that I was not going to let her watch any television before she was two years old.  And, at two years old, she’d only get to watch an hour a day.  And, even then, she’d never get to watch all those princess movies, ever.


Yesterday?  When I was feeling unwell and could not possibly play any more games or put together any more puzzles?  By 11:00am, we had watched Disney’s Tangled.  Twice.

Are you horrified?

Well, it’s not like my intentions went to hell in a handbasket as soon as I gave birth.  No.  The reality of having a child sets in much more slowly and insidiously than that.

It started out when Iris was about four months old and I wanted to take a shower.  She was no longer happy or entertained by sitting in a bouncy seat in the bathroom.  Which meant she screamed her fool head off the entire time I was in the shower.  No, really, she screamed and yelled and cried.  So, I’d try to take the quickest shower in all of recorded history…washing only those parts of me that might smell, and then I’d get half-dried-off and stand around naked with a towel clutched to my bosom, water dripping from my hair down my back, holding her and trying to calm her down for an hour or so.  It was easier to not bathe.  Easier, but more depressing. And kind of stinky.

So, I started putting the bouncy seat in front of Yo Gabba Gabba and showering with the bathroom door open so I could peek out and see her.  She was happy.  I was clean.  Win-win.  And I comforted myself that it was only 20 minutes.

Then, Iris got older and got mobile and I still needed to fix dinner and do laundry sometimes.  Jack’s Big Music Show to the rescue!  And then, sometimes, I really needed a break from playing blocks and chasing her around the kitchen and family room and pulling her off the dog who did not appreciate being used as a steed.

Then, Iris got even older and some of her friends got into the princesses.  And when they could talk?  Apparently, they talked about the princesses. And then Iris started talking about the princesses.  And then the Disney channel showed The Princess and the Frog one afternoon.  And then my mom bought Iris every Disney princess movie she could get her hands on.  And now Iris is the perfect example of what happens when the Princess Industrial Complex gets ahold of your daughter.  

And I still try to limit how much television she watches.  And, if I think something is too scary or inappropriate for her age, I’ll turn it off.  And she still loves books more than television. And she will play, with the television off, for hours, by herself, making up stories and having her princess dolls and stuffed toys and pirate dolls act them out.  And there is nothing she loves more than running around outside.  Or inside.  Or anywhere.  And, so, I think she’s doing pretty okay, despite my utter failure to live up to my own expectations.

So, I’ve accepted that, like with everything else, we make plans and reality comes in and bashes them over the head with a sledgehammer.

And then we make different plans.


  1. Or in my case, you make plans and your significant other does not comply. ;)

  2. I feel anti-feminist because I like princesses and DisneyWorld, precisely because it's all fake! Plus I wish I could wear a pretty dress and order people around all day as a job, living off someone else's wealth. Sure, I'd do good ... eventually. I can't imagine Iris losing aspirations because of her or her friends' love of princesses! Think of all the legal work a kingdom must be to maintain?? Also, I wonder if your mom had those movies all along, waiting for you to cave?!

    1. I don't think you're anti-feminist. I'm just a curmudgeon. And I don't like the color pink. And Iris is probably going to be popular and a cheerleader, because that is the one thing she could do that I wouldn't know how to guide her through. Plans + Reality = Sledgehammer.

  3. Glad you are posting, please keep sending the links LJ too, so I know when you have blogged?

  4. I love this! I'm the same way, making plans and judging myself. Have to remember that reality has other plans and sometimes I just have to go along with it.

    1. I am re-learning this particular lesson daily. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Raising kids is difficult. Not living up to your own expectations is not failure, just a change in plans.

  5. I love, love, love this post. So very true. Most things are minor - being unshowered when you'd rather be clean. Not making baby food with organically grown garden vegetables. I can make peace with myself over those things. But I still feel abashed when the kids make me so freaking insane I find myself screaming something like "stop hitting each other or I will give you a five dollar fine!" at the top of my lungs on the stairs. At least I don't hit them. But seriously, you'll see. You are going to have the SAME CONVERSATION about something (e.g., brushing teeth, not playing with drinks at the table, etc.) for the next 10 years. I felt slightly better when I head a mom of two teenagers telling them the EXACT SAME THING that I had told my 7 and 10 year olds two minutes earlier.

    We are doing pretty well on the TV thing. We don't watch it during the week. Only weekends. We are doing well on the computer games too. Game time has to be earned by reading or doing math or writing or keyboard or something brainworthy. Then you can melt your brain on the Wii or whatever. But our youngest watched Star Wars III (that is a particularly dark and graphic Star Wars) when he was only 6 -- because he brother got to see it -- so we caved.

    Let all those who would judge you walk a week in your shoes. Then they won't be able to find them. Or shower. Or sleep. Ha ha hahahahaha.