A post of Kittie’s husband, Oggie.
What will it be like? That’s what I wondered and fantasized about when Kittie was pregnant from our first girl. The same question came to my mind when she was pregnant from our second girl. What will it be like to have two kids? So I asked a bunch of friends what their experience was. And I got the same question myself from friends who had no children or one child and wanted to know what it is like to have children or how your life changes from having one to two children. And I answered them how your life changes completely, from loving this little creature like you’ve never loved anyone before to getting by on four hours of sleep at night for months.
What I have come to realize looking back now, is that whatever answer you get as a new parent, is false. Not that people are intentionally lying to you, but how you experience parenthood depends on so many personal factors that someone else’s answer probably won’t be indicative to your actual future experience. It all depends on yourself, your child, your partner (if you have one) and your circumstances. Let’s go through each one of these and how they impact your experience of parenting.
Your perception: my red isn’t your red
You and I might face the exact same circumstances and experience them totally differently. You might think that there is an objective reality out there that we all can percieve and experience in more or less the same way. This is however far from true. Take religions. If there were one reality, there would be no hundreds of religions or people that call themselves atheits. We’d be all percieving the same reality. But, as you know – we don’t. This video does a great job of explaning this concept.
My point is that if you and I have the exact same child, our experience of being a parent will be different. And not only that, you as a parent will experience event X probably quite differently today than a month from now on, depending on what happend that day, how much sleep you got and a million other variables.
Every child is different. Really. Our oldest daughter is ambitious, stubborn, empathetic and really strong willed and her sister is relaxed, always in a good mood, dreamy and agreeable.
Friends of ours had a baby that prevented them from sleeping for like 18 months, while the youngest baby of my best friend slept through the night basically as soon as she was born. When another friend of mine heard that this newborn slept through the night as if she were an adult, he was so bewildered that he asked: “Why?” You should know that parents of babies that don’t sleep well fantasize about liquidating parents of the sleeping babies in spectacular ways – as in the following dialogue:
Parent 1: “Oh, you don’t get any sleep? Hmm, strange – our little Dan sleeps from 7 pm until 8 am.”
Parent 2: “Let me get my samurai sword.”
Your partner or his / her absence will impact your perception of parenthood a lot. Generally speaking, if you have a partner, raising a child is easier because there are more hands around to do all the things that must be done. However, if your partner has an alcohol addiction, (s)he may make your life only more complicated than if (s)he were absent.
A great example of how my wife Kittie positively impacts my experience of being a parent, is her ability to handle adequately when our girls are for instance sick or fall down and hurt themselves. She generally stays really cool and takes charge of the situation. My approach is to immediately start panicking big time. Her reaction however calms me down and gets me into a mode that is more useful than my natural reaction. If she’d be a panicker as well, that would only magnify my state and impact my experience of parenting in a negative way.
Your partner also determines for an important part your circumstances. For instance, if you feel indifferent about childcare, but your partner strongly feels that your child should go to day nursery, you may decide to go for it. If your partner however is strongly against making use of childcare, you may decide that one of you should stay home to take care for the children: different experiences of parenthood. Speaking of circumstances..
Do you have a job? Does your partner have a job? Do you commute? Can you get by if one of you quits working? Do you have support from family members? Are you or your partner taking care of (one of) your parents? Each of us finds him or herself in different circumstances, which (will) impact us as a parent.
Let’s say I’m a stay-at-home dad and my wife works full time. I get the flu. If I have support of family members or friends nearby where our child will be taken care of during the day while I’m getting better, things are great. If families from both of us live 800 miles away, I somehow have to take care of our child while I’m sick. Same situation, different experience depending on the circumstances.
As a new parent, you really have no way of knowing how your life will look once your new child arrives. That doesn’t mean you cannot learn from or relate to other people’s experiences. On the contrary, I think you can learn a great deal from other parents. Having multiple perspectives teaches you different ways to look at and handle different parenting situations. Just bare in mind that the experience of being a parent will inevitably be different for each one of us, depending on ourselves, our children, partners and other circumstances. Luckily, most of these we can influence to some degree, shaping our experience of parenthood along.
What was the one big thing people were telling you about parenting that in hindsight wasn’t true in your situation?