The Dark Side of Parenting: Newborns
Exposing the stock image for what it really is.
Every single parent has it in their right mind to act sane and plead purity when tackling the newborn stage – no matter what child it is in the family tree. Nobody wants to talk about the insecurities and concerns over those first six months; especially Dads, who essentially hide every emotion and bury it in an hourglass. But, the truth is – there is a dark side to parenting.
There are times where we forget parenting isn't just oceans of sunflowers and happy-go-lucky rainbows. Sadly, these occasions I speak of are unpredictable moments where parents feel a twinge in their toes and a brewing anger in their hearts. At what, exactly? Sometimes we might never really know the answer to that question – but it's a dark side of parenting that always seems to loiter.
Nobody is perfect. Just the same as nobody is capable of seeing a newborn through the first year without breaking down at least once. And, if you say you managed to pass that phase with flying colours – then we'd either ask you your secrets or accuse you of cheating at the parenting game. Because, honestly – those first twelve months are near soul-shattering. They're just as beautiful as they are exhausting, sure. But, only when you become a parent do you learn that what we see on TV is really just a glossy pipe-dream with no accuracy on real parenting.
Time and time again we've broken down on our kitchen floors; both men and women. We've screamed into our palms at four o'clock in the morning and we've most definitely felt the urge to leave home for a long period of time. That's the dark side of parenting that not many parents-to-be seem to notice prior to bringing home the plus one. But, nobody can blame them. Parenting is one of those things you'll never really know you're good at until you physically invest yourself in it. But, to truly submerge, one must first understand that sanity is often a card up for exchange each morning. Once you realise that – you're free to place any chips you can afford to lose.
Just how many times have we seen this image above? How many "perfect" families have we encountered online when browsing for the essentials on our journeys to become new parents? Far too many, is the answer I'm looking for. But, ask any veteran out there what really goes on between the capturing of images and you'd be amazed at what "perfect" really looks like. There's no chance in Hell that both parents and children will co-operate every waking moment of every day. Sure, a picture speaks a thousand words. True. But, a parent can speak two words of realism and make an even harder impact.
Everything seems perfect on the shell. But buried deep within the core of every family is a spool of complications that the public struggle to see. And that's pretty much the way most families prefer it. Because, let's be honest – nobody wants to feel a part of some complex and melodramatic household. Nobody wants a family name that is bounced around on late-night talk shows. Everybody wants to feel as if things are fine and nobody has troubles behind closed doors.
But there are. There are always troubles that nobody will see.
Having a newborn in the house truly is a beautiful thing. But it would take a miracle for a parent to power through the long nights without feeling the cogs disintegrating inside your chest. That hits the hardest when the only thing on your mind is how many hours are left before dawn and the general concern over waking the neighbours. And then there's making midnight bottles with teats that clog up every couple of days, as well as the awful malarkey of scream endurance every waking moment of every night. All of that, combined with sleep deprivation, can lead to some very nasty characters; some weaker than others.
A new parent can waltz outside with the widest smile on their face first thing in the morning, but crumble into ash the second the door is closed again. That's something not many people see, because parents learn to alternate between personas depending on who or what is present at the time. Say, a visitor, for example. If somebody happens to stop by at a moments notice – a parent can shed a lighter skin at the click of a tongue and suddenly become something much more pleasant. They can wave, smile, talk about how "everything is great" and pretend as if nothing is different. But then, as the visitor leaves and the curtains are drawn, a second skin is shed; a more worn and lumbered skin that not many people see.
Parenting is hard. I mean, parenting is really hard. But this isn't my way of saying it is impossible, nor is it a warning to any potential newcomers to the life. No, it's merely a heads up that parenting, really, is far more than what the stock image shows you. There are far more darker points to the adventure than any picture will ever tell you – and everybody who has had children will know that. Whether they tell you or not is another question. But they've had them. And you will too, you know, if you're planning on diving down that river.
It isn't pretty, but it is worth it. Like most things in life, it seems; you have to work for it in order to enjoy it. And those tough times eventually get a little easier. Newborns finally grow into little personalities and those gruelling nights stuck by the bottle steriliser finally thin out and become non-existent. Your life somehow sculpts itself back together and the darkest corner of parenting eventually swills to a murky grey. Fast-forward however many years and the colour resurrects the canvas. I only wish I could tell you the amount of years it takes to fully separate from the darkness behind parenting.
Being a parent is a gift, but at times, it can also feel like a chore. That's the shameful truth that not many parents will openly admit. But that doesn't for a second mean they feel any less for their children. No – it just means that it can be far more overwhelming than they sometimes expect it to be. And that's okay.
We've all got a dark side, and parents are no different. So don't believe in the stock images and expect family life to be a breeze, naive and broody readers. There are obstacles with newborns that will truly test the defences of your sanity. And, if you think you'll crack it without succumbing to the pressures of the newborn phase at least once – then you've got another thing coming.
You will break. You will collapse. You will dream only of tomorrow. And those are just three of the many when it comes to painting the dark side of parenting. There's plenty more where that came from, I'm afraid. So, to any expecting parents out there, I wish you the best of luck. You're in for a crazy first year!