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Debunking a Few Negative Lies About Parenthood

(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Mainstream culture has really been doing its best to make being a parent seem like a horrible experience, but for the first time, I’d say that the common man makes parenthood seem like an unassailable burden.

While I haven’t been a parent for long, there are a few things I was told when my wife was pregnant that ended up being way off. In fact, I’d say that much of what I heard was over-dramatic retellings of people’s personal experiences.

I think this isn’t a good thing, at least in the current climate where society has made fathers out to be glorified babysitters if they aren’t treated as bystanders and tries to make motherhood seem too daunting if not, bizarrely, a modern faux pas. So much seems to be geared toward frightening people off of being parents, even if this isn’t the intent of the person repeating these cliche phrases.

I’ll list a few that are beginning to grate on me.

“Your life is over.” 

No, my life isn’t over. While it definitely changed quite a bit and I have less time for the things I did when I was childless, I still find time to do the things I like. You could take this as an abstract description of how your previous life is dead and your new life as a parent gives way, but this isn’t how people mean it. They mean to say “kiss everything you loved to do goodbye.”

I’m a pretty involved father and split responsibilities in taking care of the kid with my wife down the middle. Despite making time for the child, which has become the priority, I still have the time to do things that please me. Either I make time after the kid is put down to sleep, or we get a break from our amazing support system of family and friends.

“You’ll never sleep again.” 

No. I sleep less than I used to, but I definitely still sleep.

Two things you can’t go a long time without are water and sleep. You can miss more meals than you think before the lack of food really starts to harm you, but refuse water and sleep for a few days and you can really suffer some damage. You will find a way to sleep; it just won’t look like it used to, and you won’t get as much. Thing is, you get used to it, and there are ways of getting more.

My wife and I set up a night watch system that allows us both to get in a decent amount of sleep. Our support system of family and friends also helps us make up lost ground when we really need it. If you have the means, there are services that will send a night nanny to help you when you need one, but I realize that’s not an option for everyone. The point is, sleep is not out of your grasp; you just have to practice a different, more disciplined approach to it. It’s difficult, especially at first, but you get used to it.

“Your marriage is going to take a hit.” 

No, the dynamics of your marriage will change and while it might be different and less about one another, this doesn’t necessarily mean you and your wife/husband will suddenly find yourself on the rocks. Raising a kid is a team sport, and practicing good teamwork can make a marriage even stronger than before.

Sure, the wife and I bicker at each other from time to time, but major changes to anyone’s life would make anyone irritable. It wouldn’t matter who I was living with; a major change that makes life more difficult is going to cause friction during the adjustment period. If both partners do the work and support each other, there’s no reason the increase in difficulty should result in your marriage becoming a nightmare.

“Dad will have to babysit sometimes.”

I’m a pretty easygoing dude despite what my opinionated writing might suggest, but I actually stop and correct people with a firm but friendly tone when they suggest I’m a babysitter to my own kid in some way.

I’m not a babysitter. I’m the father. The activity of raising this child, how the child is raised, the values instilled, the habits he forms, and what he does with his time are my dominion until such a time when he’s old enough to make his own decisions. This is a responsibility I share equally with his mother, my wife.

Calling fathers “babysitters” might be intended as a cute way of describing the relationship between a father and child when the mother isn’t around, but I really don’t think it’s healthy for either the parents or society at large.

Firstly, fathers should never feel like helpful bystanders in their own child’s life. They’re incredibly important, not just in sustaining a child’s health and comfort, but in their development as well. Making a father feel as if he should step back and let mom handle it not only robs the child of time with a much-needed interactive figure, it puts too much on the mother.

Men and women shouldn’t be soaked with this kind of mentality even before children enter the picture. The level of importance of a father figure should be tied with talk of the responsibility of parenthood, and not in how he’s in service to the mother.

The “babysitter” cliche is, in my opinion, one of the disservices we do to fathers and potential fathers.

I’m sure you’ve heard some yourself that should be done away with. While it’s definitely fun to joke and overexaggerate your parenthood experiences, the sad fact is that it scares a lot of people away. My conversations with young adults and hearing them express their fears of being a parent reveal just how much all of this talk has shifted the conversation about being a mother or father.

Parenthood is difficult, but it’s not a nightmare.

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