[Disclaimer: As always, written in an offending sort-of-way. Don’t read it further if you feel offended already or if you are one of those perfect “Thou shall not err, ever!” parents. Sinners like me, carry on!]
So you are expecting your first child and hoping that raising a baby will be as perfect as the photos you see in parenting magazines and websites. Other parents, of course, try to warn you of ground realities, disguised, quite poorly, as parental advice, but you think: “Eh, that’s not going to be us!” and move on with your perfect little family daydreams.
Then your bundle of joy arrives. From that absolutely flawless moment when you hear your little one’s first cry and hold his tiny frame in your arms, it all goes downhill quickly……and it keeps going…..and going…..until all joy disappears from your life and you realize that your expectations from parenthood were far from practicable. You are jolted awake and forced to adjust your expectations to the reality of your situation! As you come to terms with life post parenthood, you wish you had gauged what you were signing up for before getting sucked into it for life! Don’t get me wrong here. Parenthood is one hell of a rollercoaster! You don’t want to miss it, well, at least once! But only when you’ve learnt to brace yourself for the steep plunges way before the actual events will you be able to enjoy the soaring heights afterwards and have the time of your lives!
So without procrastinating further, here’s my list (not in any particular order) of some things they did not tell you about parenting. Things, I wish, I knew before Sunny Dearest wrecked havoc on my DINK (For the uninitiated, DINK = Double-Income-No-Kid) lifestyle and transformed it into SINK (SINK=Single Income Naughty Kid)! And just so you know, this list will hold true even after your little one’s third birthday (and my fear is that it will continue till he goes off to college!).
- Doing Laundry: Remember those days when you used to do laundry once a week (or sometimes even once a month) and still your closet used to be chockablock with clean clothes to wear? Say, bye-bye to those golden days! Now, doing laundry will be one of the top things occupying your mind, every single day! You will see yourself walking to the washing machine on auto-pilot every day at a set time before even realizing it. And worst of all, despite all the laundering, you will end up saying “I don’t have any clean clothes!” way too often (Yeah, yeah, I get it… women always complain about having nothing to wear…but earlier it used to be “I have got a closet full of clothes but nothing good to wear”; now it’s simply “I have an empty closet”. See the difference?).And if you were like me and used to dump your clothes into the laundry basket after just one wear, you will now see yourself rely more on your sense of sight and smell and ditch that wear-once-wash-once stupid rule! “If it isn’t smelly or dirty-looking, why wash?” All your old discarded clothes forgotten in the back of your closet will now start looking appealing because they don’t smell of milk, pee or rotten food!
And get this….no matter how many loads of clothes you wash, you will never be able to see the bottom of your laundry bin ever again. Like magic, it will always have some teeny-weeny T-Shirts or Pants to wash every time you look inside! And as ridiculous as it may seem now, you may even end up saying no to a movie-date with your husband over the weekend because you have to catch up with your wash-load (and of course, because you have nothing clean to wear to the multiplex)!
- Lying and Stealing: Remember that time when you rolled your eyes at your friend when she nonchalantly lied to her daughter about something and you thought, with extreme prejudice: “Oh my god! Did she just tell a white lie to my niece? How could she do that to her own daughter? She should know better!” Gone are those days. Now, you will happily agree with your three-year-old when he mistakes fruit yogurt for ice-cream and Coca-cola for medicine. And to top it all, you will even tell your hubby, family and friends to lie on your behalf and use your kid’s nomenclature than the real ones!And no, it just doesn’t stop at these seemingly harmless white lies. You will steal from your kid too. You will steal and hide his candies (NOTE TO SELF: I need to find out who the hell keeps giving candies to my son at school!), you will open his annoying loud toys and steal the batteries (And then lie to him: “Oh No! It’s broken!”). You will never charge his battery-operated motorcycle (because that would mean tolerating him bulldozing over everything lying in the way) and pretend you can’t hear him complaining. You will feign deep sleep (so that hubby will need to entertain sunny), exploit your child’s fears (to get him to do what you need him to do), say “Yum, tasty!” with a straight face to the goop that you are making him eat (when you yourself will never eat that stuff) and so on. The list could go forever. In short, from being an honest straight-forward person, you will see yourself getting transformed into this conniving thief, master manipulator, cheat and liar.
- Craving Alone Time: Remember those days when all you had to do to unwind yourself with some “me-time” was to cancel your weekend plans and tell your hubby to leave you alone? Try the same strategy with your son now and you will be in for the rudest shock of your life!
When you try to reason with a three-year-old about how mommy needs to be alone “Just for fifteen minutes” will be met with a non-comprehending stare followed by “Come, Ma, play ball, puh-leeze Ma, please!”, no amount of whining or begging: “Ma is soooo tired!” will help you here.
For a very long unforeseeable time in future, you will never ever be alone. Ever! You will have company in the bathroom, in the kitchen, while sleeping, at the beauty salon (If you are like me, you will quit going altogether), while doing laundry (NOTE: Be sure to check extra hard for that green piece of cloth which gets sneaked in past your keen eyes along with your white clothes just because “(I am) Helping Ma”!) and so on and so forth. Well, you get the picture. You will forget the concept of “alone” probably till the time when your teenager slams his room’s door at your face and yells, “Leave me alone, Ma!” (I am guessing and hoping this will happen!).
- Wearing High Heels & Fashionable Clothes: So you read all about the derogatory effects of wearing high heels during pregnancy and so, packed in your fabulous stilettos for after your baby’s birth. Great! Just don’t bother unpacking it afterwards as well. Better yet, go ahead and donate them! Why? Well, try running and catching your pesky little sprinter in those high heels around the neighborhood and you will know why! And even when you are not with your kid, you will always be in a hurry dashing from one thing to the next and wearing high heels while running…not such a good idea. If you were as clumsy as me prior to parenthood, chances are it would have multiplied many folds. Your ability to topple over without any external stimulus would seem incredible to bystanders (“Wait, what just happened? How on earth did she go splat on the pavement?” etc. etc.), but this shifted center of gravity will forever be a detriment to you wearing high heels.
Ok, so you think it’s not such a big deal. You can always find some fashionable flats to match your fabulous clothes. Think again! Children are not programmed to distinguish between a top-end restaurant and your living room. They will spit, spurt and throw food with equal abandon in both places. It doesn’t matter if you are in your PJs or in designer-wear, some of their food will invariably land in your clothes. So your best bet? Dump fashion in favor of comfy layered clothes! Jackets, shawls and dark clothes will become your fashion statement now… well at least till they learn to eat on their own without making a mess!
- Being Stressful: So you thought your job was stressful? Try juggling both! If you are like me, you will hate it so much that you will end up quitting. When in office, you will be worried sick about how your son’s doing at the daycare and when you will be at home, he will drive you nuts, so much so that you won’t be able to wait for next day to go back to work. The vicious cycle will go round and round forever. I broke this pattern when I quit my job. But, think again! The cycle will have a way of forming even when you remove one of the contributing factors! Now, when he is in school, I worry about him (and of course about my joblessness) and when he is at home, I stress about why the school can’t have longer duration for pre-nursery classes.
In addition, you will worry about anything and everything under the sun, from the first hiccup to a tiny cough and sneeze to the color of his poop and pee, the number of spoon-fulls of food he ate, the ounces of milk he drank, a bump here, a bruise there……well, you see where I am going with this, right? Basically, everything will be a cause of worry. In addition to the physical stuff, you will sweat plenty over emotional stuff as well. “Am I neglecting him?” “Should I talk with him more?” “Was my yelling wrong?” “Am I spoiling him with so many toys?” “Should he be watching so much TV/Youtube?” “Am I under-feeding (or over-feeding) him?” I could write pages and pages about parental stress points, big and small, and it would not even come close to finishing. The fact of the matter is: you will always worry and stress about your children, irrespective of whether they are three or thirty! Ask my parents, they still do.
- Being Shameless: So you were this refined individual who’d look all dressed up even when going to the neighborhood grocery? Ha! The day you drop your son to school in your PJs and bathroom slippers without brushing your hair or teeth (just because your son refuses to go with Papa alone and it’s getting late!) will be the day every ounce of shame will get drained from your being. Well, the act of becoming shameless starts the day your baby is born (right from the labor room itself), but the small, small embarrassing events from time to time make you completely immune to the ignominies associated with being a parent. Be it some random individual walking in on you while you are nursing your infant, or your own kid walking in on you in the shower, your level of humiliation tolerance will sky-rocket. By the time your son is three, you will be so undignified that you won’t even bat an eyelid when your son is howling at the top of his voice, throwing your specs away, pulling at your ponytail and rolling on the floor of a departmental store all at once during a typical temper tantrum. Or when you are walking home from the park barefoot dragging your son behind because you broke your sandal’s strap (of course, thanks to your son!). Or when you look like a housemaid when you open your apartment’s door and see your guests standing in the doorway. There is nothing more to say here. You will be shameless and you won’t care.
- Husband, Who? : Remember the bygone days when “the love of your life” would mean just one and only one person: your hubby? Eh, not anymore! If you are somewhat like me, then for the first two years after your child’s birth, your hubby will be just another person you run into, in and around the house, while you are busy doing chores for and taking care of your one and only love! And the same would apply to your husband as well. You will both be just parents for a while and completely forget about being spouses. Your priority list will look something like that: Your Son, Your Job (in case you still got one), Your Home, Your Pet Fish, Yourself, Your Spouse! And when after two years, you wake up and try to rekindle your romance, guess who will be standing in the way, sulking and occasionally throwing tantrums? Your son, of course because “(She is) My Ma! Mine! Mine! Mine!” Holding hands with your hubby would involve first taking permission from your loony possessive son.
- Becoming a Cry-Baby: So you were prepared for bucketful of tears from your child….awesome! But did you prepare for tons more from your own self? It doesn’t matter if you were impervious to soft mushy feelings earlier; post parenthood, you will cry at the slightest of pretext. And no, these will not just be post-partum hormones talking! You will continue being a cry-baby long after your child crosses infanthood! You will cry when happy and you will cry when sad. And worst of all, the smallest of things associated with your child will reduce you to tears without warning; be it some stupid movie (you will know in your heart that you are being ridiculous but you won’t be able to stop!) or his first day of school or the simple fact that you are at work and just missing him. It doesn’t matter what. From a reasonable person with almost stoic demeanor, you will turn into this teary-eyed cry-baby forever.
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