Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

January 06, 2003

Three evil myths about parenthood

Marriage and parenthood bring out the evil in certain people. You know these types when you see them. Once they get married, they never refer to themselves as "I" anymore.

It's "we, we, we." We like the opera. We don't wear our shoes in the house. We don't think Buffy the Vampire Slayer is funny. Or, my favorite, we liked you better with long hair.

It's a closed club, and if you don't agree with the "we," well, that's too bad for you.

Parenthood can inspire similar crookedness. I had dinner with a friend recently. Lucy snored in my left arm while I ate dinner with my right, making jokes about having to do everything one-handed since the day she was born.

That's when my friend mentioned a trip she'd taken to visit an old pal of hers who has three children. One is a baby, and this woman keeps her to an extremely strict schedule. All sleep is conducted on precisely timed intervals, which do not vary more than five minutes per day.

The baby never cries, this woman claims. "She doesn't need to. She's never tired. She's never hungry. She always wakes up laughing."

This is only the sort of baloney sandwich you can serve someone who has never had a kid. People who are parents know better. Some cry more than others, and some are very easy to soothe.

But the fact is, on some days, your kid will cry even though you've tried everything -- fresh diapers, fresh clothes, food, snuggling, sleeping, burping, singing, begging, bribing and despair. Maybe they just need to stretch their lungs. Maybe they're just bitter about being born in the first place. Heck if I know.

But what I do know is, it's really mean to tell someone that it's possible to have a perfect, smiling baby, if only you're the kind of parent who knows the secret formula.

I didn't waste any time in setting the record straight with my friend. "Babies cry," I said. "You'll both get over it."

It got me thinking, though, about some other myths of parenthood.

Myth No. 1
Childbirth doesn't hurt. The baby just slips out!

I heard this myself from a few well-meaning folks. I actually even read a description in a book that said my vagina would open up like a flower during labor. If that's what a flower feels like, bouquets should be illegal. Either that, or they should be sold with Preparation H.

Sure, some people have an easy time of labor. And it is magical to hold a brand-new baby -- almost enough to make you forget about how hard it was to get her out.

But who are these people trying to kid? If childbirth was such as snap, the process wouldn't have killed so many women and children throughout the course of history. No one's a failure or an unnatural freak for using a doctor or anesthesia. And after all, the important part of having a baby begins after the birth.

Myth No. 2
Children make a marriage closer.

If they mean closer in the sense that you will have less room for your stuff, this is true. But having children makes for tired parents. And tired parents don't tend to be as thoughtful or as fun as ones who are well-rested.

This is not to say that marriages can't grow stronger over time. But what makes that happen is when people decide to work together when the road gets bumpy. The thing is, you can choose to increase your commitment to each other without having a baby. So for anyone considering having a baby to strengthen their marriage, I wish they'd just get a goldfish instead.

Myth No. 3
It gets easier.

I was talking to the parent of a two-week old baby today when I heard this one. "It'll get easier," he said. That doesn't happen at all. When you have a two-year-old, you look back on the days when she was two weeks old and you could carry her in the crook of one arm, and she didn't say, "No," run away, bonk you on the head with a plastic hammer, or tell you that you're "really, really yucky," all in the space of five minutes. Being a parent doesn't get easier. But you do get better at it ­ almost as fast as your child can figure out new ways to challenge you.

One true thing
It's worth every scrap of pain and trouble.

It's worth it, because as quickly as your kids discover new ways to challenge you, they also find new ways to thrill and amaze you. And when that happens, it's like holding a damp newborn, all over again. Even though you knew this baby was coming, you didn't know until just then how much had arrived.


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