It’s not all smiles, coos and photo-worthy moments – and that’s OK, veteran dad James Gordon writes
Recently, my brother-in-law and his wife welcomed their first child into the world. It’s been an exciting time, and the arrival of a new baby boy in our extended family has brought countless memories flooding back for my wife Amanda and I.
A lot of those memories have been great. Seeing new parents overjoyed by the presence of their little guy reminded us of the excitement of seeing our son for the first time, bundling him up into the car for the drive home from the hospital, and setting him down in his very own room. We’ve watched a lot of baby/toddler videos of our two boys over the past few weeks.
And some of the memories that came flooding back were… not so great.
I’ve made jokes before on social media about the challenges that come with parenting – especially in those extra-laborious first few years – and on several occasions, people have told me how “refreshing” and “brave” it is to hear someone speak honestly about the flip side of the parenting coin.
I wish it were seen less as brave and more as honest and (I hope) helpful, though. I think we’re doing new parents a disservice by propping up the idea that having a new baby in the house is just like it is on TV or in the movies – all smiles and cooing and snuggling.
Because, truthfully, becoming a new parent can be completely overwhelming for a lot of people and, yes, at times depressing.
Think about it: you’re sleep deprived to the extreme, all the time. Your meals need to be inhaled at light speed so that you can finish up before baby needs something again and, given you’ve never had a baby before, you’re not 100 percent sure what that something is
(it probably has something to do with diapers – another treat for new parents to discover).
Oh, and it’s not like going to work, either: there are no breaks. Sure, the baby will take a nap, but that’s the moment you finally look up and see that your house is a complete disaster.
Now throw in the fact that your life has completely changed in ways you didn’t even consider before. After participating in the initial excitement that comes with a new baby – all the people coming to hospital to congratulate you and clamour to hold the little guy and hand over tiny toques and onesies – everyone else goes back to their regular lives and leaves you to it. They’ll get to sleep through the night and sleep in on the weekend if they want. They’ll be able to go out for dinner or a movie while you’re stuck at home, perhaps feeling isolated and forgotten all of a sudden.
Certainly, there are many of those aforementioned quiet moments of cooing and snuggling, as well as moments of overwhelming pride and happiness when baby hits a milestone like smiling or babbling or taking his first steps. There is no feeling in the world like seeing your child succeed and grow and become these wonderful, caring, interesting little people.
And there are some people who take to parenting like a fish takes to water, which is great!
But I think it’s important to let new parents know that it’s OK if they’re feeling sad sometimes, too. Media images place so much pressure on new parents to adore every moment and make all the right choices around feeding and sleep schedule and activities and everything else at all times.
That can leave people asking themselves, “why do I feel like I’m doing this wrong? Am I making mistakes? Why don’t I love this as much as other people seem to?”
The fact is, everyone adapts to life-changing events in different ways and at different speeds.
So, I’ll tell you what I tell all new parents: hang in there! There will be moments that will challenge you more than you’ve ever been challenged, and there will be moments that will bring you a level of joy you’ve never felt before.
Just do the best that you can do, and know that as you learn and grow alongside your new child, everything will eventually fall into place.