I don’t know about you, but I thought I was really well prepared for parenthood. I read everything I could get my hands on, did all the classes and quizzed friends who had “gone before”. Looking back, I was well prepared for what I thought I needed to know. But not so well for what I didn’t know I needed to know.
Now… I know.
And here’s the thing: while there’s a lot of focus on parenting, there’s something really, really important for parents to know about. It’s called parentHOOD.
The difference in the word is only two or three letters, but I can tell you, knowing the difference can make all the difference for a new family.
ParentING is about your relationship with your baby or child and the ways you care for them as they develop over time: how to work out their body signals and different cries in the beginning, what they need from you and how to care for them, and with toddlers, how to set boundaries, manage supermarket meltdowns and help them navigate preschool politics etc. etc.
Which goes on for the next 10 years.
But parentHOOD, on the other hand is about your relationship with yourself. Because what nobody tells you is that how you feel about yourself can change as you grow into a parent. I was a competent, confident, career woman…until I wasn’t anymore. Parenthood is about how you care for yourself as you develop over time and also about your relationship with your partner and the new life you will have as you both grow into parents...
Your relationship can change too. You can appreciate the new aspects that parenthood brings out in your partner. Or they can drive you crazy in new ways. While I felt like I was growing into someone I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable with – my partner was growing into someone I wasn’t sure I liked! Looking back, I now know it was just us under stress and adjusting, often poorly, to our new life.
But at the time I panicked and thought there was something wrong with “us”.
Your relationship with your own parents can change too. You might find yourself growing closer to a parent when they offer support, want to be involved or through you understanding them differently now that you’ve shared some of their experience. You might see things newly through the eyes of a parent now.
Or you can become disappointed when a parent reacts in ways you don’t expect or understand.
Parenthood – the state of being a parent - can also involve changes in your relationship with your work colleagues, friends and extended family. You may not realise this, but any changes in outside relationships can impact on your relationship with your partner. If, when you become parents, everyone rallies to help, it takes the pressure off you as a couple. But if everyone suddenly disappears like you’ve got a cross on your door and something contagious going on inside, this puts more pressure on the two of you to do everything and be everything.
Which is hard.
Expecting parents deserve more preparation for parenthood, and new parents more support and direction through those early weeks and months of family. So here’s some “need to knows” if you’re expecting now:
As you cross the threshold into parenthood, you will be experiencing things you’ve never experienced before and facing things you’ve never faced.
Be learners, know how to face them together.
Work as a team, and know that big changes are best managed in small steps.
For more information about parenthood, the award-winning book Becoming Us by Elly Taylor breaks the journey through parenthood down into 8 steps that support your whole family and will become your map, compass and travel guide all in one!