Parents, What Were You Unprepared For?

I’m not a parent, so this goes out to all you folks with the wee little shavers

Most people try to prepare themselves as best as they can for the job of rearing a little child.

My question is for those who prepared themselves what’s the one thing or things you overlooked. Something that came as a total unexpected surprise to you, when you became a Mom or Dad?

Having a rough birth, a month in NICU and then an official diagnosis of autism. The rest was a piece of cake.

Honestly, this sounds like it should be a no-brainer, but I was shocked by the (for lack of a better term) 24/7-ness of parenting. Even when you’re not with your children, you’re thinking about your children. My mom told me when I was pregnant for the first time “Your life will never be your own again”. I knew what she meant, but I didn’t truly get it until I had my son.

The total lack of sleep.
I thought she’d fuss a bit, maybe we’d be a little drowsy for a week or two until she got settled…


How much food teenagers can eat at one sitting. How stressful it can be to have a teen-aged daughter. How even more stressful it is when she becomes pregnant at 17. How absolutely unlike each other they are (I have four kids).

I thought I would be unprepared for the lack of sleep…then I got a baby that slept. Really well. Hmm, that’s not right.

What I was really unprepared for was the overwhelming sense of responsibility. My mother told me about it, but I didn’t get it until the wee chap arrived. It was all consuming at times. The need to make the absolute best decision for this little baby, and that any mistakes I made would have repurcussions that would reverbrate for decades.

A year on (in a week!). I’ve sort of got over the worst of it, but I still marvel at how my life has changed on a daily basis. My head is filled with so much ‘other’ stuff, that there is sometimes little room for ‘me’. It’s a hard balance to get right. I don’t think my husband has quite this much trouble, though. I don’t know if that’s a boy-girl thing, or a me-him thing. All I know is that it’s something most of my mother friends talk about a lot.

I was shocked at how baby boys can pee everywhere. My goodness, it was amazing, like a little bitty fire hose unleashed on full blast.

On the plus side, I can change a diaper lightning-quick, now.

The sleep deprivation. 3 years of sleep deprivation.

And then after a couple more years I forgot how bad it had been. It’s been 1.5 years of sleep deprivation with the second kid so far…

Yep. I have four too, one girl and three boys. My daughter didn’t get pregnant, but she started using drugs at about age 14. She’s 44 now and has been fine for a long time, but there were some difficult years. I was unprepared for rebellion, because I didn’t think she had anything to rebel against.

And yep again. My four are not a bit alike, in any way. I swear they were “raised the same” but I’m not even sure what that means.

Trying to explain the difference between renaissance art and pornography to my 7 yr old, especially since I didn’t know much about either one.

I was surprised about just how smart the kids became at a very young age about the general truths of life. It became evident early on that when I tried to do the ‘you’ll understand when you get older’ thing, that I was losing their respect.

I learned to respect the kids by always being as honest as I could and not trying to bullshit them, because they could see that coming from a mile away. There is no magical point where a child turns into an adult, it is always a growth thing. They are always people in their own right and if you treat them as some sub-species of pre-adult you are going to have problems with communication and rebellion during the teen years.

I was also surprised that their basic personalities seemed to be formed at birth. The happy, easy going baby is the happy, easy going adult. The fussy, sensitive baby is a fussy, sensitive adult.

ADHD, and the possibility of not being able to afford to treat it medically. Though we could have been further ahead at this point if her doctor had actually given us some coping and management advice instead of just prescribing drugs and sending us off.

I also was unprepared for the sheer pain of back labor. I knew labor would be very painful, but I was pretty sure I could handle it without drugs, and I did for awhile anyway, then the back labor started. Oh, and I wasn’t prepared for the snarky comments about how I handled pregnancy and labor. Is it my fault I was passing out from low blood sugar and needed an extra snack break at work?

The fear. I didn’t realize how afraid I would be for my son. I was terrified of dropping him as an infant, afraid of him getting hurt if I let someone else watch him, my heart would sink when I watched the news and they reported on an injured child. That fear lessened a tiny bit over the years, but he’s 16 now and the idea of him driving makes me ill. I have always been pretty cavalier about my own health and safety so I was totally unaware of how motivated I would be to protect another person.

Absolutely this. I was the youngest of five girls, and my oldest sister had a baby when I was just 8YO. Then, my sisters (well, the three oldest ones) just seemed to keep taking turns having babies.

As a result, I got plenty of opportunity to babysit, help with the babies, etc. So when I was pregnant for the first time, I thought “Well, I know how to do this!” Hah! I thought I knew about being a mother because I knew how to change a diaper, rock a baby to sleep, bathe and feed a baby, soothe a crying baby, entertain a bored baby. . .
But about two weeks into the whole motherhood adventure it hit me: Holy Crap! This is 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of my freakin’ life! A little overwhelming!

And here’s something I never knew about having more than one child (until I had more than one): sometimes, more than one of your kids will really, really need you, right here, right now, in different ways. This sucks! When you have two kids who seem to need you equally, right at this very moment, but there’s no way you can respond to both needs right then. . .wow. Talk about overwhelming!

I took mudgirl to her bowling tournament yesterday. There was a girl there, supposed to be bowling, but she wasn’t bowling because she was sick. The girl was maybe 15 or 16. Her mother was walking up and down the length of the bowling alley with her; the girl was holding her stomach, moaning, crying, and occasionally stopping to vomit in the nearest trash can. The girl probably really needed to be at the ER. BUT the mother also had younger children who were bowling in the tournament. They were too young to be left there on their own. So, you either round up the younger kids, make them stop bowling, and drag them to the ER with you, or you help your older kid ride out the last hour of the tourney so you can get your younger kids to a more appropriate place (Gramma’s, maybe?) and take her to the hospital.

I felt terrible for that poor, sick girl. But I really, really felt bad for the Mom, too.

The fun.

I knew it was going to be a life changing, sleep-deprived hard slog. I knew I’d be cleaning either her or the house from dawn to dusk.

Then, before she could speak or even sit up by herself, she could let me know what games she wanted to play. Since those all involved her laughing, I ended up having a giggle too.

I got to rediscover all sorts of games and toys and songs that I had long forgotten.

The personality thing is spot on. It’s like she was born with it and has just spent the last twelve years polishing the presentation.

First two thoughts: The feeling in the pit of my stomach when my phone rang, and it was my son’s teacher, and she started by saying “The ambulance has just arrived…”

And the tremendous relief when the diagnosis was finally settled and I could call everyone up and say three words I never thought I’d link together before: It’s just epilepsy.

How much time and effort it takes to go anywhere, at least with small children. It used to be I could make a decision as to where I was going and be out the door in ten minutes. Now I’m lucky if I can get out the door in 45 minutes. Just getting yourself ready takes twice as long because your constantly being interrupted breaking up fights or putting out fires. Then you have to get the monkeys ready, which usually entails copius amounts of chasing, pleading, crying, bribing and blackmail. Then you have make sure you have everything you might need: diapers, wipes, hats and mitts in the winter, sunscreen in the summer, change of clothes in case of an accident, juice or water or both, snacks for bribes and blood sugar levels, soothers, toys or books or other forms of distraction. By the time you leave the house you feel like a Sherpa, and you still have to get them in and out of the carseats, no small feat when they wiggle and squirm while wearing snowsuits that make the Michelin Man look svelte. And that’s just for a trip to the grocery store. Don’t even get me started about going away overnight!


One night of poor sleep, not a big deal. A week of poor sleep, once a month during my whole college experience. 5 months of poor sleep, ugh.

Another +1 for this.

I figured it out last night. We just had our second 5 weeks ago and of course we’re waking up twice in the middle of the night to feed him. The reason this is so much harder for the second is that, unlike when you had the first, there’s someone else to care for during the day. So it’s not so simple as “Just nap during the day,” when there’s a rambunctious 2-year-old running around.

That they come out all ready made, with a whole personality and everything. Forget the blank slate thing, they come out with opinions and preferences! Fascinating!