From the gross to the terrifying, new parents go above and beyond for their kids in ways they never predicted
Before our babies arrived, we had some sense that parenthood would be a rollercoaster. But there’s quite a bit “they” didn’t tell us would happen. Sure, we expected diapers and spit up and long nights, but what most of us didn’t expect was the gross, comical, and downright bizarre things we’d do for our kids in the name of love. As a mom of almost five kids, I’m both straight embarrassed and mortified, but also strangely proud, of the crazy things I’ve done to keep my kids safe, healthy, and happy.
According to a 2023 Pew Research study, 62% of parents say the job has been at least somewhat harder than expected, and 26% say it has been a lot harder. Mothers had higher rates of thinking it was harder than planned than fathers did. Yet most of us (96%) feel like we are doing a good job or even a very good or excellent job. So here’s to chugging along, making it work, enjoying the tiny, hysterical, sleep-deprived moments, and raising our babies. We’ve become new people along this journey, thanks to the unexpected things we never thought we’d do but would do all over again.
1. Stare in shock that you still look pregnant months after birth.
But, I delivered the baby?! I remember thinking, staring first in the hospital mirror at my empty but still-pregnant-looking stomach. Then months later, I caught myself staring again, and yet again at around six months. Nobody told us just how long it takes for our bump to unbump. And for some, it never does, which, as annoying as it can seem, is okay too.
2. Clean a pacifier that fell on the floor with your own mouth.
So your kid is screaming at the mall. At church. At playgroup. And your only paci hits the floor—nipple down, of course, because that’s how it goes. In the absence of a sink, you stare at the baby, debating what nasty disease you are going to get, then say screw it and pop it in your mouth, and back into the baby’s. No? Just me? Well, that’s embarrassing…
3. Store leftovers in your pockets.
Once, I found a half-eaten cheeseburger in my pocket. I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea how long it was there. Hopefully only a few hours. This is because eating a sit-down meal as a new parent is virtually impossible. So, we hover around the counter, shoveling in food when there’s hot food to be found because another tiny, whining bundle of joy comes first. We eat while we are feeding the baby, while we are driving, and pretty much any other time we can. And when there’s no Ziploc to save our food, apparently we make do.
4. Fish a potato (or other insane object) out of the crib.
Why, oh why, was there a raw potato in my crib? Parents of a toddler and a baby might be able to relate. Maybe the toddler thought the baby was hungry? Maybe he thought it was a ball? Not sure I even want to know.
5. Take a bit of time to fall in love with the baby.
Diaper commercials would have us think that birthing a baby is followed immediately by love at first sight, an instant bond, a magical moment that we will remember forever. But research shows about 1 in 5 parents actually don’t feel that immediate bond in the hours after birth, and that’s totally okay. It makes sense—you’re exhausted from an often difficult delivery, you’re learning brand new responsibilities to keep this other human alive, and it’s just not always instant.
Note: if that feeling keeps going, check in with your healthcare provider, as it can also be a sign of postpartum mental health concerns.
6. Change a diaper on a truck tailgate.
Parents find creative places to change their babies, from the floor of an airplane aisle to the bed of a truck. This is partially not our fault—many bathrooms are still poorly equipped to accommodate parents and babies. But it’s also just convenient. It’s kind of hard to take a baby to a park and make it all happen with a bathroom that’s a mile away.
7. Fake sickness because parenthood is just too tiring.
Can’t make it to a party? A girls’ night? An evening work function? Of course, many a mom has blamed the baby—“Oh sorry, the baby’s coming down with something.” Then, it’s off to early bedtime and a hot shower, because momming is just too tiring sometimes. If you feel lame for not going out, sure, you are, and so are all of us. We need a break.
8. Leave home half-dressed.
The new parenting days, which we’ve always referred to as the “fog,” mean that your standards go down—and then down again. Basically, you have none. So, if you’ve headed to the grocery without a bra or gone through the carline at your other kid’s school in your pajamas and slippers, you are us. We are you. And that’s normal.
9. Gone down a terrifying Dr. Google research hole at 4 a.m.
Nothing good happens at 4 a.m., especially on Google. But, we’ve all decided at one time or another that our baby’s rash is rabies or that a spot on his face is definitely terminal cancer. Of course, our go-to pediatrician is used to those early morning MyChart messages, right? Luckily, we are usually just completely sleep-deprived and totally wrong, but it’s one of many things that will keep us up at night because of how much we love our kids.