Parenting mistakes are a part of raising kids. We all know that, right? I know I make mistakes every single day: from bribing my preschooler to go to the bathroom before we leave the house in the morning; to letting him watch a bit too much TV so that I can have a proper shower; to the time my son fell off the bed when he was a few months old because he had started rolling from his back to his belly. These kinds of mistakes can be scary, but some are also silly, or even fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things (though if my son needs to be bribed to use the facilities once he’s a teenager, that will definitely be my fault!). I’ve made way bigger mistakes that have helped me to continue learning as a mom. But without a doubt, there is one parenting mistake that I’ve made that definitely trumps the rest: My Own Expectations.
When Your Own Expectations Are Your Biggest Parenting Mistakes
When I was pregnant, I had so many ideas and expectations of how everything would be once my son was born. Every parent does! Every single facet of the first few months of his life was planned out in my head. I knew which super cute outfits he’d wear; the beautiful nursing cover I’d bring with me when I went out for coffee in the mornings; the exercise routine I had planned out to whip myself back into shape once my son was six weeks old; and so much more.
Once my son was born, I was floored by how different my life was versus what I’d expected it to be. He always wore pajamas since we never left the house. I didn’t need the nursing cover since I wasn’t able to breastfeed. I had so much pain that getting back into shape at the six-week mark was impossible. I perceived all of these “failings” as exactly that: failures. Failure to be the best mom I could be. Failure to look my best. Failure to get myself organized enough to get out there and be just like all the other moms I saw looking so stylish sipping their cappuccinos and flipping through magazines while breastfeeding their babies.
I wasn’t prepared for any of those above outcomes at all! I thought I would adapt to being a mom instantly and that everything would just fall into place. And to be honest, I was devastated every single time I didn’t achieve my unrealistic expectations of the reality of motherhood.
But where do these expectations come from? In my case, I know that I’ve fallen into the media trap that portrays parenting a particular way. One of my guiltiest pleasures was (and still is) reading and watching Hollywood gossip online. The image of beautiful new moms losing their baby weight immediately after given birth is the norm in the entertainment industry, and everything they do is just so glamorous. I realize now what we see and what is real are two entirely different things.
Some celebrity moms absolutely do look fabulous right after giving birth. Maybe it’s genetics; maybe it’s their personal trainers; maybe it’s their personal chef; maybe it’s their collection of household staff which makes their lives that much easier than that of the average parent’s. Still, other celebrities manage to make parenthood itself look like a breeze, and maybe it is for them. That’s why I have to remind myself that though they make it look so easy, their reality is not mine. I don’t have their lives (or their money!). My son is an individual just as all other children are; I am nearing forty years of age; I am a stay at home mom making it work on a teacher’s salary; etc., etc., etc.
My expectations as a parent are obviously not limited to the newborn stage of my son’s life. They have continued into the toddler phase and the preschool phase, and I imagine that they will continue for the rest of my life. Now that’s a scary thought!
Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized the importance of being kind to myself. Being forgiving of myself. Trying to be as gentle and patient with myself as I am with my son. It didn’t happen overnight, and I struggle with it to this day when things don’t go the way I think they should. We can read as many books about parenting as possible, but none of them can quite prepare you for the real thing. As parents, it is important to remind ourselves that not achieving an expectation is not a failure – rather, it is an opportunity to learn and, in my case, become a better mom and parent in the process.
What do you feel are your biggest parenting mistakes so far? Are they based in reality or a failed expectation of reality? Share your thoughts in the comments!