It is truly amazing how confident I was in my knowledge about parenting … before I became a parent. There were so many things that seemed obvious to me – like the idea that if you are tired, just wait until the baby sleeps, and then you can go ahead and sleep too.
Any actual parent can tell you two reasons why that doesn’t work:
- When the kid is asleep, that’s the only chance you get to do all the normal human things you are supposed to do (like clean your home and yourself).
- Your kid won’t sleep. At least, not long enough for you to get any real rest.
The wisdom that comes with experience has replaced that original misconception but, unfortunately, those aren’t the only myths I bought into.
Speaking of sleep, for instance. I honestly thought that I needed a good eight hours of shut-eye to function, but since becoming a dad I have discovered that I can survive on less than half of that. Am I happy and well-balanced?
No. But I’m not dead from lack of sleep (yet).
Somehow, I also bought into the lie that I wouldn’t need help. I’m not really talking about help with babysitting and the support that we get from our family (although that is SUPER important), but rather the idea that I wouldn’t need counselling and therapy. This is one of the most insidious myths dads are sold: You have to be there, supportive and active and involved ALL of the time, and despite the fact that doing all of that is hard and draining, you should be able to do it all without ever caring for your own mental well-being.
This stupid bravado is incredibly damaging to how dads relate to their children and partners. The joy of having family slowly gets replaced with resentment and that can lead to many poor decisions being made that is bad for everyone.
So, here’s what we should tell dads: you need to be 100% engaged as a father and partner, and to do that, you need to make sure you get the help you need.
On the flip side, we also seem to LOVE to tell parents how insanely difficult it is. Again, this was mostly from people who weren’t parents themselves, but the narrative I heard most of the time was that when you become a father you lose your freedom, sleep and money. Goodbye are the days of late-night parties, of travelling, of being able to work your butt off to get that promotion.
I’m not going to lie. To a certain extent some of that is true, but what those people don’t mention is that those sacrifices come with some benefits. They don’t tell you how wonderful it is to hold your little child in your arms, or to hear them speak, or to watch them grow. I think most parents would agree that all of that makes the sacrifices worthwhile.
“No one’s saying that being a parent is a walk in the park, but we have to get rid of the myth that it will completely and utterly ruin your life.”
And besides, with some planning and foresight, you don’t have to completely lose out on all the things you enjoyed before you became a parent. Can you party every night? Obviously not. But you wouldn’t want to anyway. Can you travel? Yes, you can. There might be a few years when it would be hard, but it’s not impossible. Can you still get promoted? Well, recent studies have shown that dads are actually more likely to get a promotion – probably because they have more to work for than non-parents.
Look, no one’s saying that being a parent is a walk in the park, but we have to get rid of the myth that it will completely and utterly ruin your life.
The final myth I want to bust is that perfection is required. Forget about the Insta-mommies who somehow are always baking with their children in beautifully clean kitchens. That isn’t real and if you could actually be a fly on the wall, I’m sure the illusion of their perfect lives would be smashed in about two minutes.
I think the trick isn’t to try to be perfect – that will always lead to failure – but to rather aim to be better than you were yesterday. That way you treat parenting for what it is: a hard, long, and joyful journey.
AfroDaddy, a.k.a. Terence Mentor, is a place for parents, especially dads, to come together and share in the “duality of parenting” – the fact that being a parent can be fantastic, wonderful and beautiful, while simultaneously being exhausting, frustrating and awful. A husband and father to two boys born 18 months apart, AfroDaddy shares his unique view and experiences, while opening himself to new experiences, learnings and people. You can find him at AfroDaddy.