What Real Parenting Looks Like

Over a month ago, I challenged myself to set aside 30 minutes a day for kid-free, quality “me” time. I intended to check in weekly and pat myself on the back for taking the time to find more balance in my postpartum life.

And then life happened. In no particular order, the past month and a half has seen:

  • A wedding
  • A family vacation
  • A 911 call and ER visit (we’re all fine, but first-time mommy panicked over here)
  • A forthcoming root canal
  • Mold in the A/C ducts
  • Credit fraud
  • Several days home from work and daycare due to various illnesses going around
  • Teething
  • Crawling
  • Frantic plans for babyproofing

Days went by when so much crap was happening (sometimes it was, literally, crap that was happening), that my cozy little dream turned into an unrealistic expectation I had set for myself.

I do that a lot, the unrealistic expectation thing.

Officially, I failed. I simply did not manage to find 30 minutes a day 30 days straight for uninterrupted me time. I couldn’t do it; it was an unrealistic goal.

I learned some valuable lessons, though, so I’m calling this a win.

Close friends pointed out that while “me” time is a must, sometimes what we want more than anything is quality time spent with our family. I agree. This past weekend, I did not take myself out for a mani-pedi. I did not stroll the mall sipping a coffee. I tried reading while Little Dude napped, and that lasted maybe ten minutes. But I did get an entire family pool day. And you know what? I wouldn’t trade that in for all the exclusively “me” time out there.IMG_3982

My new goal, going forward, is to find activities that recharge me, inspire me, and take me beyond the daily household routine. “Me” time falls into that category, but so do play dates and family outings. The important thing is to find joy in the activities I choose, and to continue to strive for balance. It’s more of a journey than a destination, I’m learning.

Ironically, as I was struggling to keep my own 30-day challenge, I reached out to a Facebook friend who just had a baby. As we exchanged greetings and thoughts on motherhood, I told her that one of the biggest lessons I took from the early newborn days was to lower my expectations for what I could achieve in a day. It seems like that advice is easier given than taken.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. If you select a link to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission; however, I only recommend products that I have tried and loved.

It is so easy to fall into the comparisons trap, though, when every mommy friend posts carefully chosen moments in time that paint a picture of successful motherhood. Social media invites users to tell their own stories, and each storyteller naturally puts her best foot forward. Who wouldn’t?

Suddenly, every other mom out there looks like supermom, and you feel like you misplaced that illusive instruction manual that came with your baby. (Side note: Apparently there is a tongue-in-cheek instruction manual for new babies, for those who really want one. I haven’t read it, but I was intrigued when I found out it existed.)

Well it’s time to lift the veil on that myth. Real parenting is messy, and this is what it sometimes looks like:

  1. Hooking up to the breast pump after oversleeping, only to get 7 minutes into a marathon pump session when your kid starts crying. And you’re the only one home. So you talk/try to reason with Angry Baby until the bare minimum time you think you can safely end the pumping session. Like Angry Baby’s going to listen to reason.
  2. Losing countless hours of sleep researching the best and/or safest car seat/bassinet/changing pad/[insert baby item of choice that you obsessed over], only to lay/change your kid on the floor, on the bed, in the backseat of a car, etc. and realize belatedly that maybe 1/10 of that research was actually worth the time spent obsessing.
  3.  Staying up past your bedtime because you know the minute your head hits the pillow baby will cry. Only to realize way too late that baby plans on sleeping the night.
  4. Going to bed super early because you think baby has started sleeping through the night. You’re excited and looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but baby starts crying the minute your head hits the pillow. You cannot beat baby at the sleep game. You just can’t. But still, you keep trying.
  5. Constantly comparing yourself to your mommy friends, even the super supportive, chill ones. And you’re not jealous – oh no. You’re scared shitless that you’re “doing it wrong” somehow. Google is not your friend.
  6. Hearing a poo-splosion at the most inconvenient time (like when you’ve already gotten him in the car seat after just changing his diaper – it never fails). Then, staring at that shit-eating grin when you lay baby on the changing table. He knows exactly what he did and he’s damn proud of it, despite the experts who swear he’s not developmentally ready for complex thoughts and feelings.
  7. Staring helplessly at your partner as you pass the completely inconsolable, screaming-his-head-off-for-the-last-two-hours baby back and forth, wanting to cry yourself because nothing – and I mean not even questionable pop music – is working this time.
  8. That gut-wrenching moment when baby grabs a fistful of hair/chest hair/boob/clothing/appendage and twists and pulls with all his might while you curse and cry and try to pry said item/appendage out of his grip. It’s a good thing he’s cute…
  9. Stumbling out of bed at 2 AM (Wasn’t there a time 2 AM meant the night was young?), praying you don’t drop your kid on the way to the changing table, only to have him look up at you, wide awake and grinning. And you realize someone thinks it’s playtime.
  10. Gazing at your newborn’s warm, squishy face thinking “Holy Crap…I made that!” Followed by “Holy CRAP – I made that.” And then “Holy Crap! I made THAT!?”

What does real parenting look like at your house?

baby laundry

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