Expectations and free passes

Two things happened yesterday that made me think about expectations:

1. I became involved in a Twitter conversation about a 7-week old baby, and what the parents could expect of the baby (in terms of sleeping and not crying) (remember that the peak of crying is 6-8 weeks, and all that info is in the timeline) and of themselves. (I was advocating for cutting everyone a break all around.)

2. Kate Middleton had a baby and we were all watching, and it's been less than 24 hours and we've already seen the baby and seen Kate.

I think we're all expecting way too much of ourselves and each other with regard to parenting, especially parenting little babies. As if we have control over it all, and as if we aren't making trade-offs all the time about what we can do, what we have to do, what's responsible to do, what's better for our children if we do, what maintains our sanity if we do.

It feels like it's probably time for another Free Pass for everyone:


You get a pass when you do something you could have done better. I'm
giving you the benefit of the doubt. You're a good parent, and you do a
good job, and when you make a misstep it's just a misstep. Even a whole
week of bad days is a week of bad days. You're smart and loving, and
you'll figure out how to get into a better pattern.

Your kids are lucky to have you.


Now, comments, confessions, absolutions, laments, offers of hand-holding, primal screams, or a toast to all of us…

24 thoughts on “Expectations and free passes”

  1. 5yo demanding attention, almost-7mo sleeping like crap due to working on skills, and 2yo determined not to be lost in the shuffle. Everyone is exhausted, I have no immediate help.Mythbusters counts for science enrichment, right?

  2. I used to walk my eldest into doorframes because I let her head extend past my arm and I was so groggy from lack of sleep I couldn’t walk straight.She’s an awesome kid going into 6th grade. #THISTOOSHALLPASS

  3. Started weaning off antidepressants in early April … decided 6 weeks later that I needed to go back … just last week upped my dosage to higher than I was on to begin with. All this chemical fluctuation in my brain is making this SO HARD to function. I’ve felt guilty for being a bad parent for the last 3.5 months.

  4. Lately, I have not been the parent I wanted to be to the 4 yo. I’m just so exasperated and impatient. I’m exhausted (we also have a 6mo), I feel guilty about sending the 6mo to childcare (I work part-time). I feel guilty about working part-time – and I’m so wrapped-up in feeling bad that I can’t even figure out if I actually want to be working more (more $!) or less (more time with the kiddos).Spouse is great, but I know he’s not getting the best of me, either. Also, he’s on the road this weekend, so I guess maybe I’d also like to apply for a future free pass. Are you giving those out, too? Or is it only retroactive?

  5. Hats off to all of us! It’s a bad time right now, chez nous, given the husband’s job uncertainty (and resulting family-wide stress), the kid transitioning between preschool and kindergarden, and me (grammar-whatev) having been away on a big work trip for 18 days. I’m definitely not at my most patient, and our son is extra needing of my patience at the very moment.Things will improve. For all of us. At some point. Thanks for the free pass, Magda! I needed it.

  6. I have a 6.5 year old and am 8.5 months pregnant (no kids in between). I’m so tired and no fun at all, and quick to be impatient, with some yelling thrown in. One of the reasons we always planned to have one child was so that we could be the best parents we could be – patient and focused and fun. I’m terrified that I won’t be the mother I want to be for the foreseeable future, because I’m going to be too tired and cranky dealing with a newborn / baby. I’m terrified of my son losing his happy mommy. And I really wish I wouldn’t yell at him when I’m short-fused; I always feel like absolute sh*t afterwards. He is so sweet; he deserves better.

  7. Today is the three year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.My nine month old is entering the clingy stage and sleeping like crap. My three and a half year old has been atrocious pretty much since youngest was born. Part of it is the regular three stuff, part is sibling jealousy stuff, and it’s also been a tough year for him since he was diagnosed with and hospitalized twice for viral asthma. I still feel guilt that somehow his health issues (and mine) are related to the horrible pregnancy rage/depression I had when I was pregnant with him (influenced no doubt by my husband being laid off at the same time). Meanwhile my six year old is mostly delightful, but I really can’t enjoy him when I am busy struggling with middle child, dealing with my health issues, taking care of the baby, etc.
    I am irritable and stressed toward the kids most of the time, and can’t decide whether that’s a cause or symptom of my wellness challenges. I need a free pass for the past four years.
    I’m finding today much more difficult than I’d anticipated (PMS isn’t helping matters). My husband is working late, and I’ve tried reaching out to friends today, but no one has responded. I’m sneaking handfuls of the chocolate chips I bought for a baking project with the kids, and crying, and can’t believe I have to do dinner and bedtime myself. Ugh.

  8. Started the week with a positive pregnancy test. I’m pretty sure that ended today. Our 3 year old also stuck a pea up her nose during dinner (it blew out easily, phew!).It’s not been a good day.

  9. Saw the video of Kate holding the royal baby and burst into tears because she was walking and holding him already – that took me WEEKS. And I know it’s ridiculous to be upset about that, but it’s something I can’t shake, every time I see a super-new mama (e.g. at our pediatrician’s office), they all look so normal and I just have no idea what that’s like, and I wish I did. I had severe 4th degree tearing and zero pain management beyond ice because I’m allergic to every pain med ever, basically. Not being able to lift my baby and walk in those circumstances? Totally normal, I know now. But damn, it was hard, and I just wished everyone I saw back then could know what I was going through because I felt so, so judged by the folks who didn’t understand why this new mama wasn’t glowing with joy and was hobbling so much and not holding her girl, but you can’t just plop your birth story in the head of every stranger who walks by giving you a funny look.She’s 20 months old, 35″ and just shy of 30 pounds, and I carry her around ALL THE TIME now (I’m 5’3 and 100lbs soaking wet, so it’s quite a ridiculous sight), and I know a few weeks of not doing that right at the beginning doesn’t matter. But I still cried seeing Kate, and while I’m delighted for her (really and truly!) that she seems to be not having complications, I’m sad for the example she’s setting, the idea that walking around smiling the day after you gave birth is “normal”.

  10. I’m 6 months pregnant with my third and this pregnancy has been kicking my butt. Probably because I’m chasing a 4 and a 2 year old and working, but also because I’m in my late 30s, I think. We are trying to sell our house to move into something a bit bigger before this one is born and it’s been on the market for a few months and no takers so far, not even a lowball offer. I’m starting to panic about where I’m going to even put this baby and her stuff…I’m short with my kids and my husband and my husband called me out on it tonight and I’ve been a weepy mess ever since, feeling very woe is me.The worst is that I realize how ridiculous all of this is. That I should be grateful to have a house and 2.5 kids and a job and all of that. I never knew being a mom would be so hard, so draining, and that I’d feel so much like I have lost my identify, even though I work and have great friends and a wonderful, supportive family. I feel like someone’s old mom, and I’m just generally sick of being pregnant at this point.

  11. I think Kate Middleton deserves a Free Pass from other mothers’ mean judgments about her postpartum looks and demeanor. No matter what she had done today of course the haters were going to say she’s done it wrong. How predictable.

  12. I am somewhat ambivalent about all these public figure mums out and about in a picture perfect way just hours after birth, as if it were just a wee stroll in the park. It does perpetuate a totally unrealistic image that is nearly impossible to achieve without a big staff of minders, helpers, hair consultants, etc. I had an easy and quick birth in a great hospital but to be that proper and composed the next day- no way to do it without some very serious help…. am I jealous you ask? ‘Hell yeah!

  13. @whitney – I know how you feel. I had 3rd degree tearing and couldn’t sit straight for almost a month. A friend recently told me that his wife planned to go back to school a couple weeks after giving birth and I was like !!!!. But I couldn’t blurt out, dude, I couldn’t even sit up 2 weeks pp. I felt weird about the Kate Middleton photos, although I don’t know why – I feel nothing but sympathy (and happiness) for her. But then I watched the video version and you can see the strain and exhaustion behind her smile. Postpartum difficulties are the #1 thing we never talk about. I remember being so surprised after I had my first baby!@Blanche – I’m so sorry. A bad week indeed.

  14. @whitney and @another anon 2day, I also had a third degree with my first that resulted in a lot of misery, finally resulting in some biofeedback and physical therapy for that area because of lingering issues. I was totally unprepared for anything like that, on top of a baby who never slept and screamed a lot.Reminds me you never know what’s going on with people. I’m sure even though Kate has a lot of help, she’s still going through a lot of the same feelings, emotions, and issues as the rest of us.
    And I will say the birth of my second, while I was terrified to tear again, was only minor and a LOT better.

  15. I also felt sorry for Kate-I’m British but no royalist- I could sense some strain behind the smile and I felt really angry with the ridiculous noisy crowd. I know the baby slept through all that noise but in that new born protective mode it must have been really hard to subject your baby to all that.Also have sympathy for mums who are in pain and can’t hold their baby too obviously.
    Don’t know if you read mumsnet but there is a thread on there called something like “has being a parent affected your mental health?”-big free passes being handed out there at the moment.
    I’d like a free pass for not dealing with my son’s toddler stage at all well (I mean very badly at times). Now he’s 6.5 I can enjoy him so much more and I’m trying to make up for it but, stress, depressed partner, work etc really didn’t help me to be a good parent then and I feel bad about it-for him and for me.

  16. I actually caught myself the other day thinking how I like my daughter more than my son right now. He’s in the tyrannical threes and really testing the very little patience both me and hubby have. Daughter is going through 9 month sleep regression – right after we moved her next to her brother! – but other than that, she’s just a happy, adorable chubs of a child who laughs and sings all day long (I’m not kidding).I’m also very unfulfilled by my work. My contributions to an important project were turned down and I think the final product is worse for it.
    Oh and hubby has my car today so I can’t go anywhere and can’t get any time to myself whatsoever. Blah.

  17. DH has been traveling non-stop this month, and while my two are pretty easy generally, I am just tired of being in charge and need a break. I laid into DS6 last night because the only thing he ate out of his lunch yesterday was pudding. Not the bagel he requested or the applesauce. At least he drank the water. He then proceeded to eat crap at my MIL’s house. I was so angry at him, but angrier at myself that he has such crappy eating habits and that I haven’t really done enough about it. I was pretty mean last night. And, he is 6 going on 16 and has turned into a surly teenager. His screen time needs to be seriously limited, but it affords me time to get stuff done so I haven’t been good about making him do other things. Meanwhile, my normally atrocious DD2 has been an angel lately so I’m favoring her pretty obviously.

  18. I let my 18mo fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth last night because I was too ^&*$%^# tired to stay up and hold him. He has been waking up every two hours again. Oh, and yeah, my 18mo still drinks out of a bottle at night. And I did not take him to see the animals at the county fair, which everyone keeps telling me I *must* do. I would like a free pass and a week’s worth of sleep. And the same for all of you.

  19. I find myself getting so frustrated with my teenage stepson. We have primary custody and he has some cognitive delays. I know he can’t help it and his brain just doesn’t function like mine and yours. But we moved into a new house and his room was really the only one hat NEEDED to be reprinted as it was a hideous Bright mint green. So I spent 2 extremely hot hours yesterday afternoon finishing painting the room gray.I told him it was done. “Oh.” Asked him if he liked it…”yep” but no word of thanks or appreciation.
    I wanted to scream!
    He is a sweet boy and will do anything you ask but has no initiative and it truly never occurs to him to express appreciation without tons of modeling. I feel bad but I am counting the days until he leaves for transplant camp.

  20. Struggling with our crazy summer schedule (even though I’m using a ton of vacation time at work to make it “easier”). Oldest (5.5 boy) has OT and a fine motor camp twice a week (2.5 hours each day), plus an hour drive there and back. Trying to keep a 3.5 year old boy and 5 month old girl busy/happy while older bro is busy. Oldest is mad he’s missing out on the ‘fun’ stuff while at camp (focus on handwriting which he hates!) so we spend the rest of day doing more ‘fun’ stuff (library, park, splash park, etc.) so he is left out. Feel judged by the other moms (i.e. I don’t measure up) in the waiting room (we don’t stay there any longer than necessary – drop off and pick up only) because the boys are fighting or whining and the baby is crying. So tired – it feels like the “mean girls” from high school all over again, only this time it actually bothers me because it involves my kids.

  21. I think I had a pretty good idea how hard parenting a newborn would be but I had NO IDEA how hard the rest of that first year (and beyond) would be. My dd is 14 mos and I think (fingers crossed, knock on wood) we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel sleep wise but man, the nine month and 13 month regressions just about did me in. And she’s not even “that” bad. So HUGE toast to all of us for hanging in there and showing up day after day. Yay us!!

  22. free pass for all the screen time my olders are getting while I nap or just hide with the new baby. getting used to 3 kids is kicking my ass. I’m so tired and overwhelmed!

  23. I have accidentally injured my child twice in two weeks. The first time I didn’t catch her when she tried to “fall” off of a footstool into my arms (head, meet floor), and last night she was learning how to ride on my back and twisted her leg in the dismount. (nothing like a limping 22-month-old…)Both of these were minor, but somehow she NEVER gets hurt on my husband’s watch. It makes me feel like a careless parent.

  24. free pass request for needing to ask another graduate professor for an incomplete in a course. i just can’t seem to focus on the final papers. i know i am capable, i have the time during the day while my child is in camp, but there is something big preventing me (aside from the “i don’t believe in you” voices in my head from childhood). time to get rid of those voice but i’d much rather sleep or watch netflix marathons.

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