The parent I thought I'd be versus the parent I actually am

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

In the years between being ready to have kids and actually having them, my dreams of parenthood were vivid and particular.

Being an always-organised and reliable type of person, I figured that like anything else in my life, my plans would simply fall into place, including parenthood and the way I thought I'd parent. 

Being an only child might have had something to do with things generally going smoothly in my world. No toys ruined by siblings, no sisterly bickering to constantly test my place in the world and challenge my identity.

Parenthood was surely going to be just what I imagined it would be. 

While you might be thinking 'Why was she so naive?' I think there are many in the same boat. Like sailing solo around the world, parenthood is one of those things that elude our field of knowledge until we are in the trenches 24/7. Even if we helped to sail a boat or mind a kid for a few days.

There are seven significant areas of my parenting where the reality was a departure from the fantasy. We all have them, whether we admit it or not.

1. I thought I would be endlessly patient and loving

I'm not. There are days my kids push every button I have and most of the time I keep my temper under wraps but occasionally I let them know they've gone way too far. There are days I dream of booking a hotel for a week to get away from the demands, or even escaping for good (not that I ever would). No, I'm not endlessly patient and loving and that's ok, because they need to know boundaries.

2. I never thought I'd be a soccer mum

Pre-kids, sport didn't interest me at all but here I am, every weekend filled with games and the biggest surprise is that mostly I absolutely love it. 

3. I thought having children would make me feel complete

And they do in some respects - I'd always wonder about them if I hadn't had them, but there is so much more to me and my life than being a mother, and that's a good thing for everyone. 

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While my children take up the bulk of my head space, I also think about other things. I work outside the home, I exercise, I have interests both new and carried over from my pre-kid life.

I think the notion of 'being completed' by children is a lie if we're always looking to grow as people. My identity includes my children, but they're not my entire identity, and I think that's a healthy way of looking at it.

4. I thought the worry would slide off me

I wasn't going to be one of those anxious parents. I was going to be the naturally-chilled mum. The truth is that as soon as these people I made started breathing, I feared for them constantly. It's part of parenthood and any loving parent knows what I'm talking about.

5. I thought the best days would be the baby days

Of course I cherished my bundles of squish; their smiles, chubby cheeks and adorable antics.

But older kids are full of delightful surprises, their observations still beautifully child-centered, with a wonderful, more mature awareness about the world. 

It's an enchanting blend that I enjoy immensely... plus they sleep through the night, use the toilet themselves and get their own snacks.

6. I thought I'd be educational every minute of the day

I greatly underestimated the daily grind of raising kids. In my pre-kid state I imagined grabbing every educational opportunity with glee, reading seventeen books every night and conducting home-based science experiments and art explorations.

Well well well... there's money to earn, groceries to get, dinner to be made, lunches to be packed, homework to be supervised and that's before anything remotely relaxing can occur. 

I occasionally put my little one in his bed with his iPad on night mode to drop off to. Sometimes I ignore that amazing yellow ladybeetle-slash-caterpillar-slash-butterfly and sometimes I tell my kids I'm just too tired to do that right now. 

7. I thought the joy that my kids have siblings would make bickering bearable

Of course the fact that my three kids have each other to walk with in life brings me joy. A sibling or two is not something I've ever had.

But when they're bickering non-stop there are times I long for the relative peace of one child who has no siblings to pick fights with. Bickering is frustrating, even if I am aware they're lucky to have each other.