When you’re pregnant everyone wants to share their advice and parental insights and wisdom. This isn’t a criticism of those parents who share. It’s just a statement of fact. I do the same thing now with friends of mine who are on their way to becoming first time parents, while I wait excitedly in the wings to see how they hack it along with the rest of us. Most of the advice is standard, oft repeated, and therefore essentially cliché (but that doesn’t diminish its legitimacy).
- It goes by so fast (True. The first year flew. I don’t even know what happened…).
- You will want an epidural (False. Well, perhaps there were moments when I wanted one…).
- There is nothing like it (True. In the best and worst possible ways).
- Your life will never be the same. Your priorities change completely. It changes you. (True. See previous bullet point).
- You never realize how many creaky floorboards you have in your house until you have a baby…. (Huh? Totally true).
- Just wait until they’re a toddler and start walking, then you’re in for it. Then your life really won’t ever be the same (True, and I was dreading it).
And then, of course, while you’re pregnant there is all the planning ahead (okay, at least that is the case while I am pregnant) based on all of the expectations you have for yourself as a parent and for how your family will be. I have been surprised by the fact that almost none of the things I believed about myself as a future parent have come to fruition, and nearly all the things I swore that I would never do, I have since done.
As someone who was entirely uncertain about becoming a mom (and never even considered such an endeavor until I was almost 40), I felt fairly certain that I would look forward to the day my child headed off to daycare. I felt secure in my career-oriented world, and I enjoy(ed) working hard, being productive, and accomplishing work-related goals. I could not imagine ever orienting myself differently in the world, even if/when I ever became a mother.
While I was pregnant we we came up with a plan to keep the baby at home and out of daycare until he or she (we didn’t know the sex of the baby) was a year old, but this was primarily for reasons related to fragility (feeling like putting a “breakable” child into the hands of someone looking after three other newborns wasn’t an idea we were comfortable with) and germs. I am a self-proclaimed germaphobe of the first degree and dreaded the inevitable: all three of us being sick for an entire season because of daycare germs. Obviously, we were/are very privileged to be able to create such a plan. This is not a critique of mother’s putting their young children into daycare, as most mothers, given the maternity leave issues in this country, must do so out of necessity. We were very fortunate to have the option of avoiding daycare for the first year of Levi’s life. So, what I am saying (admitting) is that I was already looking forward to putting my yet-to-be-born child into daycare. I had plans to find the daycare with the longest number of possible hours so that Dawn and I could get in our workouts, grocery shop, and enjoy other forms of child-free mommy time while getting our money’s worth out of our chosen daycare. I envisioned how exhausting it would be to chase a toddler around all day and felt thankful there were people willing and paid (not well enough, admittedly) to do this for us.
When the time came (around six months) to tour daycares, I initially entered them with excitement: here were the centers of learning and social interaction that my son would soon call “school!” Naturally I wanted to choose the best one (which essentially meant the cleanest one in my eyes. Thankfully, Dawn was there to notice things like newborns left unattended, even if I was the one who discovered the giant nail on the floor of the play room in one daycare…).
Ultimately, we were able to swing the crazy no-daycare schedule for an additional semester, which brought us to the year mark. Meaning it also brought us to Levi turning into an actual little human (not a fetus, not a newborn blob-like creature — and I say these things with love. I do. But a pointing, walking, utterance making, laughing, interacting, hug and kiss giving little human).
Dawn was reminding me tonight of how I used to say that I had no interest in having a baby because I wouldn’t know what to do with it until it could carry on a conversation and think critically. She reminded me of this because I was dancing around the living room with an Elmo “suitcase” pretending that I was going to miss a bus (Levi loves buses), while Levi watched me, slightly bewildered but laughing.
Now on the brink of toddlerhood (well, technically in it, but with years left to go…) and with daycare as a necessity looming for September 2016, I cannot but shake my head at my pregnant self and my daycare daydreams. I am in a constant state of surprise (bordering confusion) that I can find the achievements of this little person as exciting and marvelous (if not more so) as my own career-driven ones. The highlight of my days are my mornings with Levi — reading in the big brown chair, eating cheerios and bananas, playing with magnets and trucks and trains, going for walks, “working out” in the basement, snapping selfies for Instagram and to share with mama D at work. Our mornings are leisurely and not rushed. I wonder in amazement about how all of my friends with kids in daycare make it out the door each morning, and I feel gratitude we haven’t had to figure out that kind of a schedule… yet. I don’t want Levi to go to daycare. Ever. And while this is simply not realistic for me (and not for the majority of mamas out there), I still can’t help but marvel at the mom-to-be who eagerly awaited the childless time in her future. (See the fourth bullet point).