Bringing Home Baby: Expectations vs. Reality

newborn baby in mother's arms

By the time I had my first baby, I had 15 years of babysitting experience under my belt. I thought I knew. I didn't.


As all you other parents have also realized, nothing can prepare you for the reality of being an actual adult with a 24/7 child of your own. Here's what I thought having a baby would be like -- and the reality that smacked me in my face.

The Maternity Leave

What I said: “I’m going to get so much done on maternity leave! I can’t wait to fix up the house.”

What happened: Maternity leave feels like 12 weeks of jet lag. With a small, hairless animal stuck to your boob. I vaguely remember a few hundred loads of laundry, cleaning projectile baby poop off the wall, posting 12,397 pictures to Facebook, and some incoherent shouting matches with my (also overtired) husband. And, you know, recovery from childbirth. But home makeovers? Nuh-uh.

The Pictures

What I said: “Why does everyone think their baby is so cute? Babies look like babies. And most of them are kind of squished up and ugly.”

What happened: Did I mention those thousands of Facebook pictures? I know I said I wouldn’t. But my babies are THE MOST ADORABLE THINGS EVER.

More from The Stir: 12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Baby's First Month of Life

The Sleep

What I said: “I’ll just sleep when the baby sleeps.”

What happened: When the baby sleeps, I do things for myself. Like work. And shower. And poop. And watch Netflix while sitting next to a basket of laundry that I’m not really going to fold.

The Stuff

What we said: “The living room is our space. No way will we be those people with kid stuff all over the place.”

What happened: We thought we were doing fine. We chose a swing and baby lounger that blended with our décor and really tried to limit the gear. But then she grew. So did her mounds of kid crap. The bouncy activity-center thingy. The big fake doorway to crawl through. The push toys. The tea sets. The stuffed animals...

By the time the second baby came along, we’d given up all hope of a decent adult living space in any room of our home. Most of our “artwork” now includes glitter and freaky-looking stick figures, and our design theme is “toy-store stockroom hit by a wind storm.”

Tip: When guests are coming, rake the explosion of toys/sippy cups/socks/burp cloths into shopping bags and stuff them in closets and under beds. You’ll get it all back out and organize it neatly tomorrow, right? No way will you leave it there indefinitely to ferment.

More from The Stir: 15 Cute & Clever Ways to 'Store' Kid Clutter

The Lifestyle

What we said: “We won’t center our lives around our kids. Our children will fall in with our plans and lifestyle.”

What happened: We were blessed with a very quiet first baby, and this worked okay for a few months. We took her to trendy restaurants. Bars, even. We drove to the coast. And then she started moving. Fast. And talking. Loudly. About poop.

Before we knew it, she had a brother, who was born a loud kid. Have you ever met a loud kid? I mean one that’s loud EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY? We got one. He also licks nearly every surface he encounters and has a perpetually snotty nose.

So yes, we do “center our lives around them” to some degree. Because you don’t take sticky howling monkeys to a martini bar.

The truth? Becoming a parent changed my life drastically. And maybe I wasn’t as equipped for it as I thought I’d be. But I got some good surprises, too. Because no one could have prepared me for how intensely I’d be loved, or -- despite the hard parts -- how much fun this is. So keep your cocktail parties and your pristine house. I’ve got a date for a tickle war.


Freelance writer Erin van Vuuren has published hundreds of articles about parenting and pregnancy. She is a mother of three, and her hobbies include stain removal, googling pictures of rashes, and thinking about joining a yoga class.


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