Expectations of parenthood

Photo of a wife, husband and daughter laughing. The daughter (who is 16 months) is sitting on her father's shoulder laughing. The family is standing in their backyard close together.

I had a toddler with molar’s bursting through her gums who had been waking every 45 minutes to an hour for the last three nights and someone looked into my very red eyes and asked me “have your expectations of what parenthood looks like been achieved?” In all honesty, this person was a sleep consultant and I had reached out to her for help, so she was just doing her job trying to gauge where I was on my journey of parenthood. Initially, I could not answer it, I had to give her a big fat question mark and bite my tongue. But the question lingered with me for a few days. I talked it over in my head and with my husband.

At first, I wanted to scream “NO!” roll my eyes and bury my face back into my very large coffee mug. Did I expect to not have slept for 8 hours straight in a year and a half? Did I expect to not be able to let this little human cry because they cannot be soothed by anyone, or I should say anything else, other than my breasts? Did I expect to still need to be taking daytime naps a year and a half into parenthood…Nope, I did not expect any of these things.

Mother holding her 16 month old daughter close as they both look out the window into their backyard. The daughter has her finger in her mouth and is wearing a floral dress with jean jacket. The mother is wearing a denim jumpsuit.

I certainly did not expect to be so dedicated to her autonomy as a human being that I would let her poop on the bathroom floor, while wrapped up in the shower curtain because my suggestion and movement towards using her potty brought on a very decisive “NO, NO, NO, NO!”

I am a very visual person. If something looks good in my head and feels right when I think about it I have no problem jumping in (although I have learned in my adult life that sometimes it is best to look at things on paper). I generally will go with how my gut feels when I visualize or daydream about something. I certainly did not visualize the bags that would form under my eyes or the tantrums that would start shortly after the tenth leap that would leave me completely puzzled as to how to react. I thought about the smiles, the cuddles the closeness, the bond that would form between our little family, the little trips we would take and the walks in the woods with a little baby held close in the carrier.

After mulling over this question, and having a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I realized that my biggest expectation and hope, when we decided to try and conceive, was that I would love this little human being no matter what. That seeing the world through their eyes would bring me an abundance of joy and excitement. And these are the things that I live for right now in my sleep deprived days of motherhood. And yes, some days it is a lot harder to seek out these opportunities because all that is running through my head is “I have not slept in a year and a half” and it’s hard to look past the piles of laundry, poop on the floor and heaps of dishes that are taking over our house. But on those days I will try to look for small opportunities to make her laugh and create new adventures we can take together.

Have your expectations of parenthood been changed? Does setting realistic expectations help you see the joy and happiness on the days that are not what you envisioned parenthood to be?

Until next time,


Mother and 16 month old daughter  sitting on a couch in a living room. The mother is holding the daughter in the air over her head as they both smile and laugh.

Photos were taken by the lovely Ina at Ina Soulis Photography.

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