Pregnancy is a unique period in which you have time (9 months) to prepare for parenthood. While this is a lovely, relatively long period of time, it is also the only period that you really have to prepare for the next 18- 30 years of this child’s life and your role as a parent. Of course you can read books, talk to other parents, join support groups, once your little one arrives. And you are “parenting” already during pregnancy when you are growing this person inside of you, but as all parents will tell you the time to do just about anything disappears as soon as that baby is delivered.
Once you get pregnant you may begin to read one of the 45,000 books about pregnancy (according to Amazon.com) (e.g., What to Expect When You Are Expecting) or articles from Baby Center to help guide you through the next 9 months of daily changes that are happening to you and your baby. You may take a class or read up on information related to labor and delivery. If you are particularly on top of things you might even take some classes on caring for infants or Infant CPR, or read about life postpartum and life with a newborn. And yes, there are the basic guidebooks for child development indicating when your child should reach certain milestones, like eating solid foods, crawling, walking, etc that you may flip through as you are trying to understand this wild child that has suddenly taken over your home. But what about the discussion about parenting? When do you read those books? Take those classes? When do you think about your new full-time job as a parent and how you are going to approach it?
In the US, there is support and encouragement for parents to prepare themselves for pregnancy and labor but minimal interest in preparing them for the ever-changing and ongoing challenges of parenthood. Im curious when parents start to think about and plan how they will parent. Assuming there are two parents (but many of these ideas are relevant and should be considered if you are single parent), when do you have the conversation about how you will talk to your child, how many books you will read each night, your philosophy about rewards and punishment? Do you just wait and see how it goes and then figure out if you and your partner actually agree about the bath, book, bedtime routine? Do you wait for your toddler to have a complete temper-tantrum, meltdown at the grocery store and then decide which of his demands you are going to give in to or how you are going to respond? What about sleeping arrangements? Are your children going to sleep in their own room or will be they bunking up with you? What about sleep and potty training and when to start and how to do it? What about introducing new foods or exposing your chid to different cultures or customs? What about religion, education, political views? What about rules and expectations for behavior and tone of voice? There are so many things to consider as parents, some big and some small, and many that we won’t even know about yet because they aren’t invented (like the future cell phone/tablet debates whatever they might be), but this is a recommendation to begin to talk about and consider some of these things now regardless of where you are on the parenting spectrum.
Of course, children change everything.You can have these grand plans for how you are going to parent and they could go completely out the window once you meet your little one and see their temperament and behavior. But why not make a game plan in the same way you make a birth plan prior to delivery? Every doctor, nurse, midwife, and friend will tell you that your delivery will never go 100% according to plan, yet we write out an ideal birth plan months in advance of our delivery. My suggestion is that we also do that for parenting, at least to some degree.
Here are a few good parenting reads to get you going:
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood