Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them. – P.J. O’Rourke
When my son was born, I had many expectations on how I was going to raise him. Being a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I felt like I had an advantage. I assumed that the troubles and turmoil parents face could easily be solved with follow-through and consistency. I would often hear fellow colleagues tell me, “Wait until you have kids.”
At the time, I didn’t understand what they meant. I mean, I went to school for this. I’ve taken in-depth courses on child and neurodevelopment. I’ve treated many kids with various diagnoses and difficulties. Why would giving birth change anything? Cue little A, born at 29 weeks.
My husband and I felt it necessary that I leave the workforce and become a stay-at-home-mom. This transition was not an easy one for me to say the least, and despite my efforts, all my previous views of parenting fell by the wayside.
How did my expectations change? For one, I wasn’t ready for a preterm delivery which greatly affected how we spent time with our son for his first few months. I also didn’t consider the effects of postpartum depression, which left me feeling numb and resentful when A finally came home. I love my son unconditionally with all my heart and yes, I would do anything for him; but the new tasks of keeping him alive, paired with exhaustion, took its toll.
Yes, I was equipped with the knowledge to help him achieve his developmental milestones, sleep training, and oral motor techniques for feeding. What I lacked was the patience and understanding of having this baby in my care 24/7 (very different than working with clients who were with me for only an hour at a time).
After recognizing, addressing, and talking about my postpartum, I was finally able to understand my son’s wants and needs. Together with my husband, we were able to develop a routine as a family unit. We looked into parenting techniques, tried some out and modified it if necessary, to accommodate our needs and goals. Easier said than done, I know. For as much as I know as a professional, there were times I didn’t listen to my own advice because the task was too daunting, or I was too tired to do it. This was when I finally understood the phrase, “Wait until you have kids.”
Sometimes I even had to ask myself, “What would OT Mary do/say?”.
Parenting did not come easy for me as I expected. I frequently question if I am raising my son correctly. Am I giving him the opportunities to succeed, to fail, or to figure out who he wants to be? If I yell at him or lose my temper, will that scar him for life? Am I a good mom?
The truth is yes, I am a good mom and I know I am doing the best I can. Preparing for the arrival of our twin girls, I seriously contemplate how I want to raise them and how everything will change. Honestly, I don’t know and I am okay with that.
I have come to realize that parenting, first and foremost, requires patience, understanding and adaptability. It also requires realization of your own faults and strengths, letting go of the idea of perfection, and just being in the moment with your kids. If I can offer that, then I’m already a better parent for it.