5 Things I Never Thought I Would Do as a Parent

1. Be a stay-at-home Mom. I always figured that I would be a working mom just like my own mother. I don’t think I ever really understood that my mother went back to work because she felt it was financially necessary, not because she wanted to. When I got married and later pregnant, my husband and I discussed the idea of me staying home after he finished his Master’s degree and became the main breadwinner. The idea was that while I was home with the kids I would also go back to school part-time for my Master’s, and then I would go on to a better job once the kids started school.

Now you could not pay me a million dollars to go back to work. Ok, maybe a million dollars, but not what little I would get paid if I did go back to work. Once I did quit my outside job, I realized that I was just downsizing my workload a bit. I can’t imagine having to work a full-time job on top of taking care of the house and the kids. Things are busy enough with out all that extra stress.

As for continuing my education, I realized that we really can’t afford it first of all. Secondly, I’ve yet to find a graduate program that really appeals to me. And third, the thought of going back to school is very overwhelming at this point. Since we’ve discovered homeschooling, the kids will not even be off to school until they get to college. It’s funny, too, because I always thought I would want to be a teacher. Now I will be teaching the most important students I could ever have.

2. Breastfeeding. I never met anyone who breastfed for as long as I can remember. Bottles and formula are just iconic of babies. My mom had one “horror” story of the inconvenience of watching a breastfed child and being unable to relieve their hunger. Breastfeeding is just not something that was ever really talked about when I was growing up, so it’s no wonder that I just assumed that I would formula-feed my babies through a bottle.

The first person who I really knew that decided to breastfeed was my college roommate. Then once I became pregnant I did quite a bit of research myself (with a little help from my friend) and decided that I would give it a genuine try and see what happened. Now I’m not going to say that it wasn’t painful at first, because it was and is. But as you and your baby learn it gets easier. The health and developmental benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child are well documented. And it sure is nice not to have to pay the expensive price for formula. The endorphins are pretty cool, too.

3. Co-sleeping. I was raised that a baby belonged in its own crib, usually in a room of its own. This was how I was raised, and this was my experience with the babies I sat for through my teenage years. I always heard “If you let them into your bed it will become a bad habit and they’ll never want to sleep anywhere else.” I even remember spouting off that bit of wisdom to some first-time parents I worked with.

The thing I didn’t realize is that pretty much none of the people that I had experience with had breastfed their babies. Breastfeeding adds a new dynamic because breast milk digests faster than formula, so breastfed babies eat twice as often as formula-fed babies. Now some people get around this problem by pumping milk so that anyone can do night feedings, but I always found pumping more trouble than it was worth. I also realized that I really need sleep to function and be a somewhat nice human being. I also learned that I have a hard time getting back to sleep if I have to physically get out of bed several times a night.

I must admit that with my first we didn’t co-sleep the safest way possible the first few months, but by my second child I already knew I planned to co-sleep. So instead of spending $400 on a crib that would just become an expensive clothing rack, we bought a twin mattress set to put between the wall and our queen set. It offered plenty of room for the new baby to sleep next to me while our three-year-old slept between me and my husband. I figure that eventually the twin set will come in handy as big kid or guest bed.

Yes, it took almost four years to transition our oldest daughter to her own bed. And, yes, our second daughter will probably be in the bed with us for awhile after the next baby is born. But it’s nice to be able to respond to their needs promptly before their or my sleep is disturbed too much. When my older daughter was sick this past month, I felt slightly isolated and out-of-touch with her middle-of-the-night needs. Eventually, my second daughter will transition into the bed with her big sister, too. At least, I’ll have one more little warm body to snuggle up to in the night for a few more years.

4. Go to the bathroom/shower with the door open. This seems like a pretty obvious one. I mean, don’t most people prefer to go have their privacy in the bathroom. This often becomes a luxury for a new mom. It’s just that you bring that little helpless baby home, and your husband goes back to work. And it’s just the two of you. And you put off going to the bathroom because neither one of you want her to be put down. And then your bladder is about to absolutely burst, and the baby starts crying the moment you set her down, and you realize that shutting, much less locking, the bathroom is just wasting precious time in which you could be making it to the toilet before you make a mess and getting back to your baby.

I actually make a point to tell first-time moms that they have the right to go to the bathroom without guilt and that their baby will not suffer (if set in a safe place) in the two minutes it takes them to do so. They look at me like I’m crazy, but I hope that the words come back to reassure them later. Going to the bathroom is never the same for a mom after having kids. If you get off lucky, they just fuss a little bit as babies and camp outside as toddlers calling your name and trying to look or stick their fingers under the door. If you don’t get lucky, they get completely hysterical if they can not have visual access to you at all times, like my first child.

Supposedly, you eventually get your privacy back. My oldest dd now has a better understanding of privacy, and even led her little sister out of the bathroom the other day so I could have some. I still keep the door unlocked during showers, so that I can mediate major disputes and assess injuries. And I know the new baby will be hanging out in the bathroom in her bouncer while I shower for her own safety the first six months. But maybe this will be one I can reverse at some point.

5. Homeschooling. Unless you have been homeschooled yourself, I would say that homeschooling is not something most people plan to do from the get-go. Many fall into it after traditional schooling (be it public or private) has failed their child or their family.  I feel lucky that we discovered homeschooling early.  But one of the major points of homeschooling I think is clearly reflected by the 5 things I never thought I would do as a parent: learning doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. Learning is something that happens throughout life, and it can take you places that you never expected.

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