It’s a rite of passage for a parent; to throw your hands in the air and gasp melodramatically, “Why did no-one warn me about this?!”. It’s a common topic for blog posts too – I know I wrote a post on the subject at some point – as, when the going gets tough, we ask ourselves why no-one ever thought to warn us about this part?
No-one warned me that the times when your baby is sick are the times you feel like the most colossally useless person in the world. You created this little person, and now they’re poorly. They’re in pain or uncomfortable, and you can’t make it magically better. All you can do is hold clammy little hands and encourage tiny sips of water and hope that it passes quickly.
No-one warned me that it doesn’t matter how many pelvic floor exercises you do; sneezing always carries with it a risk of peeing. The fact that you’ve only just entered your twenties is irrelevant; get yourself to the incontinence products aisle in the supermarket.
No-one warned me about the relentless, pounding waves of guilt you are subjected to with every parenting decision you make. Every choice is laced with fear that you’re getting it all wrong. It feels like there’s someone lurking around every corner, waiting to shame you if you don’t parent the way they do (or would do – for some reason, most armchair parenting experts aren’t even parents themselves).
Nobody warned me that I’d find myself in the depths of hopelessness; a seemingly-bottomless pit of despair, where I wanted the ground to swallow me whole. Everyone around me, telling me that I should be happy because I’m lucky enough to have a baby; oblivious to my desire to just disappear and my constant feelings of not being good enough for my daughter.
No-one warned me that I’d put my heart and soul into meals and activities, for them to end up untouched by a toddler who couldn’t care less how long you spent putting it all together.
No-one ever warned me about these things – and I’m glad. I’m so glad no-one ever took me aside and said “Look, all of these things are going to go wrong”. If they had, I might not have gone through with the pregnancy.
Then I never would have experienced the amazing highs of parenthood. The firsts and the milestones – you know those bits are coming. I don’t need to tell you about those. I’m talking about the extraordinary, unexpected moments no-one warns you about.
The hilarious, toe-curling cringe when your toddler sits beside you in an important appointment and mutters “My god…” when the printer makes a noise.
The memories of a trip to the seaside, made infinitely unforgettable by an episode of projectile vomiting, followed by walking all the way down Blackpool seafront with sick-covered clothes.
The feeling of achievement when you cook a meal for your toddler, and hardly any of it ends up on the floor.
When you accidentally knock someone with your trolley in the supermarket and they glare at you, until a tiny voice pipes up with “Sorry!”, and they can’t help but smile.
The mornings when you lie on the sofa while your toddler brushes your hair and chatters away to you like you’re sitting in her salon.
No-one warned me about any of these moments, and they’re my favourite parts of parenting. It’s easy to forget these tiny moments that we enjoy so much, especially when we’re also contending with the less-than-pleasant parts we were unprepared for.
But next time you feel like complaining that no-one prepared you for the tough parts of parenting, remember all the great surprises parenthood brings too. Part of what makes these moments so special is how unexpected they are – to lose the element of surprise would be to lose some of the joy.
After all – they’re called spoilers for a reason.