Why are people so negative about parenthood?
“You’re a glutton for punishment!”
“I hope you aren’t planning to sleep again any time soon!”
As soon as you announce a pregnancy, the comments start rolling in – and while many of them are positive, of course, it’s amazing just how many of them revolve around the theme of, “Haha, you’ve totally ruined your life: can’t WAIT to see how this one pans out!” <insert popcorn emoji>
I started noticing these comments a few years ago – back when my friends started having children, and I’d scroll through their Facebook announcements, and be absolutely amazed at how much negativity was sprinkled through the congratulatory messages. It was obviously all well-meant, but as someone who was already pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to deal with pregnancy and childbirth, the endless comments about sleepless nights and relentless drudgery did a pretty good job of convincing me I wouldn’t be able to handle parenthood, either. Now that I’m pregnant myself, I’m still worrying about that one: but I’m mostly just wondering, WHY? Why are people so negative about parenthood? And is it REALLY as bad as it’s often made out to be?
Here, for instance, are some of the things I’ve been led to believe will be the inevitable result of becoming a parent:
I will never sleep again – ever. (Or not for AT LEAST 5 years, anyway – which feels like much the same thing to me.)
I like my sleep: I like it quite a lot, in fact, and I’ve been liking it even MORE since I got pregnant, and 10pm started feeling like an outrageously late night to me. Lazy weekend mornings are one of the things I live for – and, as I’m self-employed, I have to admit that lazy weekday mornings aren’t too shabby either. I genuinely worry about how I’ll cope with the approximately zero hours of sleep per night I’m told I can expect once the baby’s here: surely I’ll be able to sleep SOME of the time… won’t I?
I will not be able to wear any of my favourite clothes again.
According to the all-knowing internet, even if I do manage to lose the baby weight (Which I won’t, because no one has ever done this in the history of forever, apparently, and anyone who says they have is a straight-up liar…), my body will still be totally different (Boobs down to my knees, hips so wide I’ll have to enter rooms sideways, etc, etc…), which means that, instead of spending years building up a wardrobe of clothes I love, I should really just have taken all my money and set fire to it: WOE!
None of my shoes will fit me, and I’ll have to throw them all away.
Especially the high heels, because even if my feet DON’T change shape (Which they will, because the internet said so…), no woman has ever been able to walk in heels – or, indeed, wanted to – following the birth of a child. There are no exceptions to this, so again, I should probably just throw away all of my shoes now, and start trying to make peace with the unfortunate way my legs look in flats. It’s OK, though, because…
I will not care about any of this! My priorities will totally shift, and none of the things I cared about before will matter any more!
I mean, I guess you could see this as a good thing – I certainly think the people who say it intend it to come across that way – but while I’m sure my priorities WILL change dramatically once I become a parent, I’m also pretty freaked out by the idea that my PERSONALITY will apparently change, too: to an extent that makes it sound like I’ll barely even recognise myself. (And not just because of the flat shoes and totally new wardrobe, which, wow, is going to cost a FORTUNE, OMG!) It’s actually quite hard to explain this, but, well, I guess it’s just that I’ve had a very long time to get used to being ME, and it’s a little bit freaky to think about this complete stranger arriving to take my place. I can’t really imagine myself as this smug, holier-than-thou person who goes around saying, “Oh no, I don’t wear MAKEUP: I have much more important things to worry about!” but that’s what I’m led to believe will happen. I apologise in advance.
My house will always be filthy and untidy: specifically, it will be coated in a thin crust of LEGO at all times, and the baby/toddler will draw on all of the walls. It will not be possible to control or stop this.
I’ve long suspected that people think my white walls are a lot more important to me than they actually are, to be honest, but this whole, “the child will draw on the walls” thing was still a surprise to me, because I’ll let you in on a secret: I once WAS a child (Yes, it’s true!), and my parents tell me that no, I did not draw on any walls. (And my parents’ walls were OMGWHITE, too!) My friend’s children ALSO don’t seem to do much drawing on walls: mine, however, apparently will – and they will smear poop on them, too. Yes, POOP. I, meanwhile, probably won’t bother to clear this mess up, because I’ll be too exhausted/have better things to do with my time, so my house will slowly start to look like something from an episode of Hoarders, and I will not care one jot. (See above.)
Now, despite what you might think, I’m not totally naive: I’m not expecting the house to be immaculate at all times (It’s not immaculate at all times NOW, actually: don’t believe everything you see on Instagram, folks!) but I’m always a bit taken-aback by the sheer GLEE with which people tell me what a mess my house is about to become. One woman recently told me she “couldn’t wait” to see my white walls get ruined”. Again, I’m sure she didn’t mean it the way it came across, but, seriously, WTF? Why would you be so keen to see that happen? To “teach me a lesson”? Because you want to see me fail? Or do you just REALLY hate my walls, and want me to have to paint them? I have no idea, but I genuinely can’t imagine looking at someone’s home and thinking, “I really hope that gets ruined!” so stuff like this has me scratching my head for a very long time…
I will not be able to go to the bathroom on my own for at least 5 years.
Because there will always be a baby/toddler with me: sometimes it will sit on my knee while I use the bathroom, and I will tolerate this, because there will be no other option. (“WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO TERRY?” is what I always wonder when I hear this one. “WHAT DO YOU KNOW THAT I DON’T?”) This one troubles me a bit because I’m the kind of person who frequently needs a bit of “alone” time to stop me completely losing my tiny mind. I’m not expecting to have a whole lot of that for the first few years at least, but, well, a bathroom trip generally takes me 2 minutes, max, and the thought that I won’t even have TWO MINUTES to myself, EVER is kind of mind-boggling, really. (With that said, Rubin used to frequently try to accompany me to the bathroom, and, when I didn’t let him come in with me, would valiantly try to insert his head underneath the door, so I guess I should be used to this kind of thing…)
For the first year, I will basically never change out of my dressing gown: ever.
Because the baby will have to be held constantly (No, seriously: WHERE WILL TERRY BE?), and will never be able to be put down, so there won’t ever be time for me to get dressed. No one has said this to me directly (A lot of these are things I’ve read online, or heard said to other people…), but I’ve heard so many friends talking about still being in their dressing gowns at dinner time that I have to believe it’s totally true. To be perfectly honest, I spend a lot of time in my dressing gown even NOW (And during the vomit-tastic weeks 8 and 9 of my pregnancy, it was pretty much all I wore…), so I’m not too precious about the wearing of the gown – again, it’s really just the thought of not even having two minutes spare to pull on a pair of jeans and a sweater that bothers me. And by “bothers me” I mean, “Kind of terrifies me, actually.”
There is another side to all of this, though.
Since I started writing about my pregnancy – and, more specifically, about my fears – I’ve had quite a few people contact me to tell me that, actually, things don’t necessarily HAVE to be as downright awful as some would have me believe. Thanks to those people, I now know that it’s not necessarily a given that shortly after giving birth, my house will fall down due to sheer neglect, and all of my clothes will run screaming out of the closet. They’ve told me that, yes, there will be some serious adjustment involved (And I’m absolutely expecting that: as I said, I’m not totally naive, and I’m really not expecting that absolutely nothing will change…), but that my life won’t necessarily come screeching to a shuddering halt, and my personality won’t just change overnight. I love those people: they’re the ones who’ve given me hope that I can still be ME at the end of all this, and still enjoy (most) of the things I always have – in fact, they’ve told me I might even enjoy them MORE. Imagine that!
I also know that my real life friends haven’t changed at all in the way I’m told is inevitable after having children. Yes, their lives are different now, but THEY’RE all still the same. So I have friends who have clean houses AND toddlers; I have friends who look exactly the same as they did pre-baby, and who wear the same clothes, too; I have friends who still enjoy the things they’ve always enjoyed – and who really enjoy parenthood, too.
The problem is, though, that most people don’t tend to talk about the positive aspects of parenthood unless they’re prompted, which means that the narrative surrounding it continues to be this gleeful, “Just you wait!” schadenfreude-drenched negativity, which makes people like me often wonder what the hell they’ve let themselves in for. In six months time, will I still be more-or-less the same person I am now (or on my way back to being that person, at least…), or will I be this strange Imposter Amber I keep hearing about, and don’t even recognise?