by Joanne Baum, Ph.D.
Has anyone ever told you that parenting may not be as natural as sperm meets egg, they connect, and voila you become parents 9 months later? Okay, so that's the "technical end" of becoming a parent. But just because you leave the hospital with baby in tow are you a "parent?" And, is it enough to be a parent or do you want to be a great parent so you can raise a great, well adjusted, ready to meet the world kid? Umm, some things to think about.
Have you and your partner/spouse considered whether you should be parents or whether you are bowing to social pressures? Have you two talked about what being a parent might mean to each of you? Do you have similar beliefs, expectations, and hopes about raising a child and being parents together? Maybe the first six questions to ask yourselves before making that important decision of should we or shouldn't we become parents are:
- Do we want/need to be parents to have a full and vital life as adults together?
- What does being parents mean to us?
- Do we have what it takes to be "great" parents?
- How would we define our roles as mom and dad?
- What do you expect of me?
- How do we want to operate as a parenting team?
Do you realize that most people become parents without thoroughly discussing how each was raised and how you intend/fantasize/desire to raise your child? They just assume, "It'll work once the kid is here." But then they run into problems like:
2) What do you mean we can't still go out every week because we can't afford a babysitter and the baby needs us? or
3) What do you mean you don't want to spank the baby when she's "bad."
Adults becoming parents make a lot of assumptions usually based on a fantasy that, "It'll work out and we'll naturally agree and do this well." When those fantasies don't work out you don't even know where to begin to communicate about the differences you're seeing and how upset you are because your wonderful partner is letting you down; and not just you, your partner is letting you and the baby down.
You often wonder, "Why didn't I see this before?" The answer is twofold -- you didn't see it because: a) you never looked, you never discussed, you never shared ideas and expectations; and b) you were blinded by your fantasies and assumptions so...
What Can New Parents Do?
- Stop blaming the other and forgive each other for not knowing enough to discuss things earlier.
- Begin to discuss your childhoods, how you were each raised, what you want from each other as a co-parent, what confuses you as a parent, what are you unsure of, what frightens you, what excites you, what do you want to do differently than you were parented? What are your expectations for family life, what do you need from each other in this new endeavor called "family." What kind of parenting philosophy do you want to adopt?
- Listen to each other with the kinds of ears that allows you to respect what the other is saying, you don't need to be right, or best, and you want to share ideas and figure out a parenting philosophy that works for all three of you.
- Admit there are not enough hours in a day or week to get all your needs and wants met, and prioritize. See how each of your needs and your baby's needs can be met while understanding and accepting that "wants" may have to wait . but not 18 years until your child goes to college.
- Figure out ways you can nurture each other and give each other important attention so the couple stays alive as your baby thrives.
- Have fun together.
- Enjoy the challenging, sometimes frightening and always wonderful journey as parents, and remember to be mutual learners together and be mutual learners with your child
- You don't have to know all the answers, but you do need to consider the questions together, take time outs when you're upset to calm down and figure out rationally how you want to react, know there aren't any rulebooks to follow . you'll learn as you go and if you have a partner who is willing to learn with you, you won't feel so alone.
- When you take care of your baby's needs and your baby is happy, life can be easier for both of you. When your baby is upset or doing something you don't like or you don't understand, be a partner with your spouse and figure it out together.
Dr. Joanne Baum is a therapist, speaker, parenting coach, mediator, author, and columnist. With more than thirty years of clinical experience Dr. Baum specializes in issues faced by couples, parents, families, and individuals. Joanne is available as a parent coach in person, via phone or e-mail. Joanne also works as a divorce coach, child specialist, and Child and Family Investigator for divorcing families. She has authored four books including her recent book, "Got the Baby...Where's the Manual?!?" She has a private practice in Evergreen, Colorado. For more information visit her website.
Copyright © Joanne Baum. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.