Once upon a time, there was a Grammy-winning banjo-playing genius who fell in love with an amazing banjo-playing lady genius.*
Then the two got married.
Then one day they decided to start a family.
With great expectation they looked forward to their summer of newborn nesting and eagerly planned their three months “off” following the baby’s birth. This couple dreamed of writing music, being creative, and having the most productive time of their lives. Almost as if on vacation.
Lo and behold, at the end of this magical welcoming baby time, this banjo wielding couple held a concert to showcase the pieces of music they birthed. They stood before their audience, and spoke this opening line: “We want to play you the great pieces of music we wrote…
…that ended up being the one and only piece…
…oh, and it’s just instrumental…
Moral of the story: Beware the illusive dreams of productivity and prosperity of newborn days!
If you have children of your own, this will not come as a surprise: This IS what happens to most people’s lives when they have a baby. It’s what kids do to a marriage. (It’s why this post is titled True Colors of Parenthood.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing! But it’s reality nevertheless. In so many different ways, a child throws the family – shall we say – off track? At least for a little while…
Having a baby, welcoming a new life to the world throws our whole world off — and of course it does! BUT – Instead of being overwhelmed and disappointed that our maternity/paternity leave isn’t more productive, starting this new time of your life with realistic expectations will go a long way.
What if, instead of beating your head against the wall, we thought about it in terms of just preparing for the inevitable. Yes, plain awareness and knowledge IS half the battle. Once you know what to expect, the blow always ends up softer in the end.
I have noticed that, for many years, few parents-to-be had an honest picture of what this so-called bliss may bring as a by-product. Besides the bliss – because there IS bliss – That it might be the source of new kinds of arguments.
That there might be greater tension in the home. Or outside of the home — with the family or your in-laws.
That there will be little or no sleep some nights. Or most nights at first.
That adjusting to the particular ways of your new baby will be stress or anxiety producing.
That as you are navigating your new roles (and yes, they are roles and yes, they are new) as mom and dad, you will stumble upon newly discovered imperfections within yourselves and the rest of the world.
In the past, nobody used to talk about any of this. As a result, the new parents ended up with self-doubt more often than not. While we do a much better job with it these days – THANK GOODNESS for that- there is often still a gap. When in doubt, remember that you have never done this before – individually or as a couple. Do talk to someone. Many people won’t volunteer their insight or encouragement for fear of being unsolicited and rejected as a result. Once you crack the door open, many will accept the invitation, move a few things out of the way to find a spot on your couch and be real with you.
I can already hear some of you wanting to argue my point here – Yes, there ARE exceptions. I know that. As with every other rule under the sun, this one, too, has been proven wrong. By one parent. Or two. I wouldn’t waste my time looking for more.
Let me say it again — the fact that a new baby throws things off for a while is NOT a bad thing – it is reality. And the realist AKA borderline pessimist in me says that it is just plain something to be aware of so that we don’t over-schedule, over-plan, or ponder these ridiculously high expectations with hopelessness.
The untitled half-completed song by Grammy-award winning artists is a poignant example to me that there is a time and season for many different things — they just might not all happen immediately after your little miracle makes their grand entrance.
*Story based on an interview I recently heard on MPR with musician couple Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck (but I’ll be darned if I can find the link!).