Dear __________: A Letter to the Expectant Mother/Father,
Before you become a parent, you might think it is going to be easy. Do me a favor, and don’t assume you know what I’m going to say next. I promise not to make any assumptions about you, as long as you promise not to make any assumptions about me.
Before you become a parent, you might think it is going to be easy—to spend time with your child. They’ll be your precious miracle, your wonder, the new light of your life. You’ll be overwhelmed by the love that swells in your heart for them. You’ll think your son or daughter is so cute you won’t be able to pry yourself away from him or her. Well, I’ll say it like this. Just like you might think it is going to be easy, you might find out it’s incredibly hard.
I’m not saying you won’t love your child. No, I believe you will. When you’ve got them enveloped in your arms, swaying slightly from side-to-side as you kiss their neck, the warmth of their newness rising up from them into your heart, you’ll feel love like you’ve likely never felt it before. No, I believe wholeheartedly that you will love your child.
It’s incredibly hard to make sacrifices to a promising career, if you’ve got one. It’s incredibly hard to ignore the dirty dishes, if you’ve got them (and if you don’t have them, I must know your secret). It’s incredibly hard to put down the novels, if you read them. It’s incredibly hard to push back your writing, your pick-up games, your solitude, your date night, your screen time, your dinner with friends, etc.
It’s incredibly hard to remember to be present.
People sometimes mistake parenthood for a metamorphosis. As in, you’ll suddenly be the all-patient, all-knowing, all-selfless, all-perfect wonder of the natural world. As in, you’ll naturally stop wanting to enjoy the people, places, and things you once enjoyed. As in, you are faithfully devoted to your child 24/7, 365 days a year simply because you brought them into the world.
What I think I’ve learned is that parenthood is not a metamorphosis.
And I think you should know that I think that I’ve learned this because it’s important not to expect more of yourself than you can possibly give. While it might feel like parenthood is going to be natural, like you’re going to unconsciously submit undivided and limitless attention to your child without once questioning it, I urge you not to expect this. I urge you to consider the possibility that it might not be this way at all.
In fact, I propose that it is much more likely you’ll find yourself making conscious efforts to remember to spend time with your child. Undivided, limitless-feeling time. When you’re holding your child in your arms, and that warmth is siphoning off into your heart, you might think, I don’t do this enough. The first time you think this, if you’ve been expecting the parenthood metamorphosis, you’ll feel sad, guilty, and disappointed. You’ll scold yourself for not being perfect.
I beg you—don’t scold yourself for not being perfect.
Accept the mere possibility that I might be right, and expect to continue being human once your child is born. Try not to assume it will be easy, easy to spend time with your child, if you can help it. That child will be your precious miracle, your wonder, the new light of your life…for sure. Even still, you might find it easier than you thought to pry yourself away from him or her. You will love your child, but you will likely question the sacrifices as you make them all the same. Being just a mere mortal, though a mere mortal parent, you’ll probably have to gently remind yourself not to miss too much. To be present. To be in the moment, at least the majority of the time, with your child. Parenthood might not be a metamorphosis that turns you into to Saint Teresa with a child, but it will be something remarkable.
Remarkably rewarding, remarkably gross, remarkably joyous, or remarkably frustrating, but it will be remarkable. So, be expectant (after all, you are expecting!). But be realistically expectant.