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Please stop telling me how much parenthood is going to suck…

I call them the ‘Just You Wait’ Brigade.

“Just you wait!’ they crowed delightedly when I announced my pregnancy last year. “You’ll never sleep again! Your house will be a MESS! Your hair will fall out and your feet will be huge, and did we mention how you’ll never sleep? Because you’ll never sleep again! JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE!”

Why do people do this, I wonder? Why the constant need to take someone’s happy news and stamp all over it by telling them that, hey, they may be happy now, but HAHA, the rest of their life is going to suck SO BAD! So, so bad!

And, you know, it’s not that they’re totally wrong in the things they say, either. OK, my feet didn’t get any bigger, but yeah, I’m currently losing enough hair to be able to make myself my very own wig if I wanted one (Er, I don’t, just FYI…), my house isn’t the cleanest it’s ever been, and I may be sleeping NOW, but for the first few weeks of new parenthood, I most definitely was not.

So, my problem with the Just You Wait Brigade isn’t WHAT they have to say: it’s the fact that they feel the need to say it AT ALL. I  mean, is it REALLY news to anyone that newborn babies don’t sleep all that much? Or that they’re kind of exhausting, really? Honestly, I spent most of my life being mostly oblivious to the trials of parenthood – it just wasn’t relevant to me – but even I knew that much: so why did everyone feel the need to provide me with this BRAND! NEW! INFORMATION? And why were they so very HAPPY about it, too?

(My face when someone tries to tell me how hard parenthood is. YA DON’T SAY.)

The Just You Wait Brigade plagued me throughout my pregnancy. With every milestone I reached, there was apparently something awful waiting for me just around the next corner (“Oh, you’re 20 weeks? That’s the easy bit: just you wait until 30 weeks – you won’t know what hit you!” “Oh, you’re 30 weeks now? That’s nothing – just you wait until you’re full term, and you can’t even walk!”), and there was absolutely no end in sight. I’d thought – or hoped, rather – that the constant doom-mongering might stop once the baby was actually here, but HAHA, NOPE. Having spent the past 9 months constantly assuring me that having a newborn would be the worst thing that had ever happened to me, once Max was born, the JYWB suddenly revised that opinion, and started telling me that, actually, having a newborn was the EASY bit – but JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL HE CAN WALK! THEN you’ll know how hard life can be!”

With every milestone I reached, there was apparently something even more awful waiting for me just around the next corner 

It’s still going on now. The second I dare to say anything positive about parenthood, or my post-partum experience, the doom-mongers are ready to step in and bring me right back down to earth. When  I mentioned how lucky I felt not to have gotten any stretchmarks, I was told to JUST WAIT, because SOMETIMES they don’t turn up until MUCH later, so I COULD still get them! I mean, sure, my midwife had told me some people don’t notice them until their belly starts to go down after the birth, but my baby was 8 weeks old at the time, and still the JYWB were insisting the dreaded stretch marks would be along any day now. JUST YOU WAIT!

There was palpable disappointment, meanwhile, when someone on Instagram asked me if my feet had gotten bigger and I replied that they hadn’t. “JUST YOU WAIT!” said the messages in my inbox. “IT COULD STILL HAPPEN! Maybe even a YEAR later!” And, I mean… OK? Something else to look forward to I guess? So, presumably  my feet will magically expand at roughly the same time my baby starts rubbing poop into my white walls, stops sleeping altogether, and basically just turns into Satan himself, yes? Because these are all things the JYWB have assured me life has in store for me – and always with the same, “Bless your heart!” kind of attitude, which makes me feel like they’ll be REALLY disappointed if their prophecies don’t come to pass.

By this stage, I’d started to suspect that some people just don’t want me to be happy. They would much prefer to see me fail – and if I don’t, they’ll be more than happy to jump in and assure me that I STILL MIGHT. THERE IS TIME. JUST YOU WAIT.

It’s depressing. And strange. And kind of schadenfraude-y, really. I mean, I don’t REALLY believe that the people who say these things actively want me to be miserable, or to feel silly for enjoying some aspects of parenthood. Well, I mean, I HOPE not, anyway.  I’m sure that if I asked them, they’d simply tell me they were trying to be helpful, by warning me about what’s to come, so I’ll be prepared for it. The thing is, it’s not really helpful to tell a pregnant woman that she’s effectively just ruined her life, is it? Or to tell the mother of a newborn that she might think the sleep deprivation is bad NOW, but just wait a year and THEN she’ll see what sleep deprivation is REALLY like!  Seriously, though: how does that help anyone?

it’s not really helpful to tell a pregnant woman that she’s effectively just ruined her life, is it?

It doesn’t, is the answer to that. In fact, all it does is to scare the person a bit – or a bit MORE, rather. Trust me: most pregnant women are well aware that babies don’t sleep well at first. They know they’re going to gain weight, that their bodies might never be the same again, and that the house will soon be crammed full of LEGO. They know all of this – and they also know there’s not really anything much they can do about it at this point. You actually CAN’T really prepare for the sleep deprivation, say, or many of the other challenges those early weeks bring. You can’t bank sleep. You can’t just opt out of the parts of parenthood that don’t really appeal to you. Most importantly, you can’t just say, “Wait – you’re telling me this baby won’t just sleep through the night, right off the bat? Well, to hell with that: Ima just send him back, then – phew! Dodged a bullet there!”

You can’t do that – and knowing that you’re going to find something hard doesn’t actually make it any easier: all it does is make you worry more, and wonder why the people around you seem so intent on ruining every happy moment you have by assuring you there are dozens of unhappy ones right around the corner.

Are there really, though? Or is there just something about parenting that makes people want to focus on the negatives, and constantly remind each other that it’s only going to get worse? I don’t think there can be many other aspects of life that are subject to this particular brand of schadenfruade, after all. If you get a new job, say, people don’t line up to go, “Well, I know you like it NOW, but give it a year and I bet you’ll be absolutely MISERABLE!” If you buy a new house, most of your friends will  be too polite to instantly start listing all of the negatives involved in moving. Because that would be weird, and kind of rude, really, wouldn’t it? So, why the rush to persuade new or expectant parents that everything about the experience is going to suck – and to respond to every single positive comment they make about it by saying, “JUST YOU WAIT!”?

That’s a real question, by the way: I genuinely want to know. Because, almost five months into parenthood, I’m still being assured by the Just You Wait Brigade that the worst is yet to come, and that my life is now on a steady downward spiral, that will continue until Max leaves home – which will be never, apparently. I’d like to think there’s a good reason for all of this doom-mongering, and that people genuinely believe they’re helping me by telling me I’m STILL going to get stretchmarks, and that, by the time he’s one, I’ll probably have given up the will to live.

I’m just not sure what that good reason is?

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  • Amy
    May 14, 2018

    Imagine being the children of those people? Like, cheers mum/dad, glad to know that you hate me and everything about our life as a family!

    It’s no surprise to any new parent that there are going to be tough bits, it’s the least imaginative comment you can make. And, it’s kind of sad that it erases all of the good stuff. Yeah, it probably is going to be tough when my baby starts walking and I have to run around after him and stop him getting into trouble. But, also, it’s going to be so fun to go for little walks together and see him toddling around. Have you ever seen a baby walk? It’s fricking adorable!

  • Myra
    May 14, 2018

    I will offer an invaluable piece of advice ie when Max gets to the Lego stage, wear shoes or at least slippers around the house lol
    Be happy, one little smile makes anything worthwhile

  • Alexa
    May 14, 2018

    I’m not a parent, so I can’t claim to have any expert knowledge in this area, but I wonder whether the people who delight in this kind of behaviour were actually rather unpleasantly surprised by some aspects of being a new parent, and want to share the pain! It seems almost like a form of envy – perhaps they had a challenging time, so they don’t like the idea that someone else might have it easy, and feel an uncharitable, almost vindictive need to burst that person’s bubble!

    Anyway, I for one hope parenthood brings you much joy, now and in the future.

    • Nina
      May 14, 2018

      I totally agree with Alexa, including the not being a parent part.

      I really guess these people can’t help it and honestly – whenever people say things to you, it will mostly be about them, not about you. So just like Alexa said – they might want to share the pain because they might be unhappy. Not fair to you and not helpful, but maybe they’re not in a position to be helpful?

      Anyhow, maybe you could start to think of these remarks as a “dirty boot” that someone has thrown your way and while you see/acknowledge that it is there, you just don’t pick it up (and maybe stay away from the shoe-thrower ;D [unless it’s red or sparkly heels, I’d clean those babies and wear them if it is the last I do]).

      I think you have every right to ignore them and just enjoy the happy moments! Life is always up and down, but worrying, as they say, is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere 😉

      So anyway, I wish you all the joy in the world with Max, Terry and you are both terrific people and Max is just the absolute cutest <3

      Much love,

      • Fiona
        May 15, 2018

        I am a parent and I think Alexa has it spot on. I think, actually, that people aren’t given the time or space to process the huge changes (and are maybe unaware that they need to) and so it ends up coming out inappropriately in comments like these. As I’ve said before though, your blog is not the place and it’s wildly unfair to pregnant women/ new parents. For the record, I just kept finding it got easier (you can talk and they understand! They can talk and YOU understand!) all the way up to where I am now with teenagers- and genuinely love it, they are so funny and have this amazing, possibly inherited, good taste. It’s just so much fun. Remember little Amber’s diaries? Yeah, all that! ???

        • Alice
          May 15, 2018

          The talking is amazing! My daughter is at the stage where she understands a lot and says a few words – it still astounds me that I can actually talk to her, I can say “would you like an apple” and she says “yeh” or “no”. I still have to guess what she might want then ask as she isn’t able to ask for many things, but it’s amazing to be able to converse at all, I still can’t quite believe she can do it.

          • Amber
            May 15, 2018

            I’m really looking forward to this ?

  • Linda Libra Loca
    May 14, 2018

    I love being a parent (yes, despite the fact that my house could be cleaner and that i used to sleep better and that I sometimes long for just one day free of responsibilities) and I am accompanied by lovely members of the YJWB that tell me whenever I talk about what a deligth my kids are, to “You just wait – it will get even better!”
    I hope there are a few out of those around you too (and I bet there are) because so far that has only made me more excited for the times ahead. My oldest daughter is four now, so for the four years coming, I can assure you: It is different, but equally amazing every single day.
    And I still don´t have any stretchmarks.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

  • Emerald
    May 14, 2018

    Oh, the Merchants of Doom! They crop up everywhere. I once worked with a 26 year-old guy when I was in my early 40s who would throw cold water over anyone who had plans for a life outwith of work (and I just happened to have most if them so most of that water ended up on me!). Meanwhile, a relation’s face screwed up mid-pizza when I told her about a new guy I’d met, instructing me not to get my “hopes up”. Nothing would’ve pleased these two more than to do an “I told you so!”

    I imagine women know perfectly well that their lives are going to change when their children come without being told. Shouldn’t people be passing on joyful messages? My friend Fiona, for example, refused to say her daughter was going through the “Terrible Twos” for example, calling it the “Terrific Twos” instead. And that wasn’t her being Pollyanna, to my friend it was interesting stage in her child’s development when she could finally speak and her personality developed more.

    Meanwhile, my sister and her husband have taken to the road with their two, running photography workshops around Europe. They home school their children, which may not be everyone’s ideal, but the whole family is thriving. For my sister and her husband, the last thirteen years of parenthood have been the best years ever (and yes, tgere have been a few sleepless nights which they anticipated!).

  • Carly
    May 14, 2018

    My little boy is 4 and we are still plagued by the JYWB! I have been so blessed that he sleeps well, eats well, enjoys people’s company and is a delight to parent. Yet at every turn there is a naysayer, almost as if they were wishing for the moment they are proved right and I join their negative little group. Currently we have the “just you wait until he starts school. He’ll turn into a proper horror then.” Sigh. I have opted to enjoy my son for the delightful boy he is. I hope you do too!

  • Marie
    May 14, 2018

    If parenthood was that much of a nightmare, there wouldn’t be 7 billion people in the world, and no-one would do it more than once. So it can’t be that bad, can it?!
    I don’t know why people are so negative – I’m pregnant right now, and I’m fed up (to put it politely!) of people’s birth horror stories. I can’t imagine how awful that was for you throwing tokophobia into the mix! Birth is so different for everyone and I ultimately can’t control what happens, so yeah, while I’m anxious about it, there’s literally no point in me worrying about all of the horrible things that might happen that are not in my control. And shame on anyone who shared a horror story with you, knowing about your condition.
    But… the positive people are out there too, and I’ve had lots of lovely comments from people saying that they enjoyed their labour (really!) and that babies are just the best and I’ve got so much to look forward to. So I’m choosing to listen to them!
    You’re awesome basically, and whatever life throws at you, you will deal – you deserve only good things, but you are also very strong. I’m not sure why people love to be negative, but you’re an advert for someone overcoming a lot of adversity and nailing pregnancy and motherhood – and all without stretch-marks! In awe! X

    • Amber
      May 14, 2018

      The traumatic birth stories are the worst – I was so surprised by it: it just seemed like basic common sense to me that a pregnant woman wouldn’t want to hear that kind of stuff, but nope, it sometimes felt like people actually wanted me to be scared ?

  • Alice
    May 14, 2018

    It’s weird isn’t it? I wonder if it is a form of boasting – ‘you are naive I know better than you’?

    I think you thought I was doing this on one post (where I said how hard it is to get ready with a mobile toddler) – I didn’t mean it that way. It is tricky but also great fun! She does try to draw on the walls but I don’t let her.

    And I still have the same size feet, normal hair, and no stretch marks. She’s almost 20 months.

    • Amber
      May 14, 2018

      I don’t recall ever thinking that about something you’ve said, but yeah, I do often feel there’s a bit of a “showing off” element to it, like they just want to emphasise the fact that they know more than me, and that I’m just hopelessly naive. There’s a definite “bless your heart” kind of tone to it sometimes!

  • M
    May 14, 2018

    This reminds me of customers at work (I work in a shop). whenever it’s cold outside, and the breeze blows through the door onto my till, they just HAVE to comment on it, and ask if I’m cold here etc etc etc. And I understand where they’re coming from, because they’re making conversation, but did they not hear the four people in the queue before them also mention the same thing? I’m starting to think people like commenting on he negatives just for the sake of it now.

  • Anna
    May 14, 2018

    I’ve never been a parent, but I’m encountering a lot of the same types of “just you wait” people lately as I get close to graduating college. I’ll mention how excited I am, or how stressed I am about an exam and people are all “oh, just you wait! You won’t know real stress until you have a REAL job! You’ll be miserable for the rest of your life! And you’ll NEVER be able to retire! And oh, honey, bless your heart! You think a computer science degree will get you a decent paying job? Just you wait! You’ll end up breaking rocks at a misery factory for 2 cents an hour and living in a box at the dump!!” It sucks because I already have extreme anxiety about my future, and I’m just trying to be excited for a major milestone in my life. I don’t really understand the need for people to convince others the rest of their lives will be total miserable, but unfortunately, I think it’s pretty common.

  • Ali
    May 14, 2018

    And also all the people who write about “the truth about motherhood/pregnancy/breastfeeding/birth/whatever” as though it is all some awful dark secret that everyone pretends is fun.

    I’ve actually found motherhood fun and rewarding, pregnancy not a big deal, breastfeeding easy, birth not great fun but a means to an end and it didn’t take long – I’m not boasting, I suspect I am the norm or there wouldn’t be so many women out there with more than one child – but it isn’t fashionable to say it’s mostly OK!

    • Amber
      May 14, 2018

      I have found it all pretty challenging (especially pregnancy), but I’ve still been surprised by how negative people are about it. And yes, it almost feels like it’s fashionable to complain – you have to be seen to be struggling, or you’re letting the side down, somehow!

      • Ali
        May 14, 2018

        And saying its’s all easy just sounds really smug (it isn’t *easy* necessarily, but it isn’t that bad, and the pros definitely outweigh the cons) – but yes people seem to want you to say it’s all really awful.

        Re traumatic birth stories – I actually think people do that about all kinds of hospital experiences, etc – my patients having heart procedures get told about bad experiences – but birth is so much more common.

  • Nickolina
    May 14, 2018

    Just you wait, every day has a blessing in it and there will be people in your life who love you back. It’s good you are taking pictures to remember these days because you do forget since the days ahead have so much in them. The days are long but the years are short, in other words. Thanks for sharing the things in your life as you go through them.

  • lalie
    May 14, 2018

    I think some parents felt like a total failure because they struggled and they were not really prepared for the struggle, so they mean well.

    • Alice
      May 14, 2018

      I don’t think it’s just that though. There is definitely a gloating aspect to it.

    • Amber
      May 14, 2018

      I think some people definitely do mean well (although I don’t think meaning well is an excuse for behaviour that’s rude or hurtful – I get a bit frustrated when people are all, “Oh, but they mean well!” as if that excuses everything…) but I also think there’s a definite gloating tone to a lot of it, which is just really bizarre!

  • Ali
    May 14, 2018

    Re pregnancy btw – I think I was just really pessimistic, expected to have symphysis pubic dysfunction, sickness, lots of weight gain, etc – so the fact tht it was just straightforward was better than I expected.

  • Iliana
    May 14, 2018

    I honestly think there is a bit of “I want to see you fail”. At least in my experience, the people who said it to me were full time mothers, which I know is a huge challenge! I’ve never denied that. But before I got pregnant, all the comments I got from them were about how I lived in my own little bubble outside of reality, but for them, fighting THE battle, things were completely different. Then I go and get pregnant, and they had to remind me that I would not have life as easy as I had up to this point (because of course working a full time, really challenging job is a piece of cake), and JUST YOU WAIT. Then, it turns out that you do wait, and you just cope, you come out victorious, so then of course YOU JUST HAVE TO WAIT A BIT MORE.

    I am 3.5 years into motherhood, and I have never once had a moment of epiphany that made me say, “Oh, this is what all the JUST YOU WAIT meant! I see now!”. As you said, there are challenges, but you work through them. We knew what we signed up for, and we just deal with it. We, unlike some of the naysayers, don’t need other people to be miserable to validate our own experiences.

  • Elizabeth
    May 17, 2018

    Hi Amber, I’m new to your blog, but can’t help commenting here. Perhaps a kind thought would be that many of these women are suffering from unresolved post partum depression. I have four kids and yes I have stretch marks, bigger feet, and haven’t had enough sleep for 9 years. What’s more, I have spider vains, a bigger waistline, and I can’t wear true heals unless I’m going to an event at which I will be sitting most of the time. But guess what? It is all so worth it! And seriously, how are these the worst things in the world? So I have an excuse to buy new shoes! And I never had aspirations of being a bikini model. But if someone goes into parenting strictly for what they can get out of it instead of for the joy of bringing a totally unique new person into the world and try to help that person grow and develop into the best person he or she can be, while struggling to become a better person herself, the parent probably won’t enjoy being a parent. Parenting is very often painful and not fun, but it is something so much more deeply enriching than fun. I would not send any or all of my kids back to look better or to get more sleep. I’m so grateful for my kids and being able to stay home with them. The people you should listen to are the ones who say to enjoy it as much as possible because they grow up so fast. I hope being a mom is a joy filled experience for you. Sorry for being so long winded.

  • Emily Smith
    May 21, 2018

    I love this post! It was absolutely constant for me too. Every positive about Freddie was turned into a just you wait! Oh so he’s a great sleeper now but just you wait! Oh so he’s well behaved now but just wait TIL he’s a teenager and hates your guts! When I say how affectionate he is people say enjoy it now because he soon won’t want to be anywhere near you!

    Now, pregnant with my second, it’s oh you had it easy with Freddie so just you wait TIL your second when you will REALLY know what it’s like.

    It’s an incredibly isolating perspective to have because parenting is difficult for everyone, in different ways. We should be building each other up rather than tearing each other down!

    Again! Love this post!

  • Rachael
    May 22, 2018

    I feel your pain. My parents especially were the worst after my baby was born. He turned out to be a great sleeper but my mom just kept telling me to wait, he would be the worst sleeper ever. ? so apparently I never stopped crying as a baby and it sounds like it was a pretty traumatic experience for my parents (yet they still had more).
    People have finally stopped making the just you wait comments about my current son because he is pretty much the happiest kid they have ever seen. Instead they say things like, he can’t be this happy all the time (yes he can).
    However, because I’m pregnant with our second child (15 months in case you’re wondering, I get that one a lot too), people love to tell me how insane I am. Yes I’ve literally been called crazy. It’s really depressing actually. I’m really excited about having another kid and this close. But everyone wants me to be upset about it or mad at my husband. Like I didnt have a choice in having sex with him. One stranger even suggested that I didnt have this child because X might happen. It was so offensive and sad. It makes it hard to share my joy or fears with anyone because they rush to pull me down.
    RE traumatic birth. I cant believe anyone told you those stories. You dont want to hear that! I did have a traumatic birth but I refuse to tell currently pregnant women about it. No one wants those fears. Because it may not happen to you!!! Women have been giving birth for thousands upon thousands of years. That was my montra to get through everything. Furthermore having a traumatic birth doesnt keep you from having more kids. I felt like a badass after getting through labor and knew I wanted another one asap. Birth is going to happen no matter what. I’m so excited for you on this new journey into parenting. It really is amazing and wonderful.

  • Sora
    May 25, 2018

    You know, I’m that girl who says she’s not going to have kids (mainly because I’ve never felt like it), but I hate it SO MUCH when people do that!!!

    Besides, I have NEVER heard anyone say they regret having kids!

    Sora | http://dangerouslyme.com/

  • Lynsey
    March 10, 2020

    Really, if it was that bad people would only ever do it once. I have 3 and they have all been very different. Just take it all as it comes and don’t listen to the “just you wait” brigade, clearly they’re just jealous that you haven’t got stretch marks 😄