The Truth of Pregnancy and Parenting
Pregnancy and parenting can be a challenge for even experienced parents. Knowing the truth may ease your mind. If you, or someone you know, needs help managing during pregnancy or while parenting, LFCS may be able to help. We offer crisis pregnancy services, parenting support and more. Contact us today for more information.
Until then, here are a few myths and truths about pregnancy and parenting.
Myth: All women feel happy during pregnancy.
Truth: Research shows that approximately 20 percent of pregnant women experience anxiety or depression. These symptoms during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight.
Myth: Pregnancy lasts nine months.
Truth: The length of your pregnancy can vary by as much as five weeks. When you deliver ultimately depends on your age, your weight, how much you weighed at birth, and a slew of other factors.
Myth: Post-Partum Depression (PPD) occurs within the first few months of childbirth.
Truth: Most women tend to recognize their symptoms after three or four months post-childbirth; however, it can occur any time in the first year postpartum.
Myth: PPD will go away on its own.
Truth: PPD is a serious illness that requires professional help. Treatment is individual, so what works for one woman won’t work for another. Medication and counseling are available options.
Myth: You’ll spoil your baby if you pick him up whenever he cries.
Truth: You can’t spoil a newborn. Period. If your baby calms down when you pick him up, he needed to be picked up. But more important, he has to gain confidence that you will respond to his needs.
Myth: The world is a dangerous and scary place in which children need protection 24/7.
Truth: Overprotectiveness may do more harm than good. The fact is, many tragedies we worry about are either exceedingly rare or eminently preventable. No one knows for certain how many children are abducted each year, but even the leading advocacy group for missing children, the National Center for Missing and Abducted Children, estimates it’s no higher than one per day — hardly a reason to keep an eight year old from playing in the front yard in a safe neighborhood.
Lyme disease, researchers reported just this past spring, is difficult to catch and easy to treat — hardly cause to dress a child in long pants on a sweltering summer day. But what’s the harm, you may ask, in the face of such a horrifying alternative?
“We are living in a society where understanding diversity and having broad experiences is becoming more and more important,” says Maurice Elias. “If our kids are going to be fearful and home-centered, it limits their potential.”
Of course, it pays to be cautious — bike helmets really do reduce the threat of head injury by 80 percent, and checking for tics after a hike in the woods just makes sense. But rather than going overboard, divert your energies towards teaching your children to take care of themselves, and to make their own evaluations of what’s safe and what’s not, says Dr. Elias.
Myth: Children Should Never See Their Parents Argue
Truth: I must have been six or seven when I was lying awake in bed one night and heard, filtering up from downstairs, my parents having an argument. This was the first time I’d ever heard them yell at each other, and I cried myself to sleep, certain they were headed for divorce. (More than 30 years later, my parents are still happily married.)
Even while successfully raising five children, my parents—like all parents—made a few mistakes. By keeping their inevitable arguments behind closed doors in order to shield us from marital conflict, they unwittingly conveyed the message that fighting was somehow abnormal or frightening.
Many of us mistakenly assume that children are irreparably harmed by witnessing their parents’ disagreements.
“We have a fantasy that denial is beneficial, that if kids aren’t exposed to anger or bitterness, they won’t have these qualities themselves,” says Steve Tuber, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology at the Graduate Center/City College, in New York City.
Constant bickering, of course, benefits no one. But children need good models for how to deal with angry feelings.
“Arguing is a healthy part of any relationship,” says Tuber. “By being able to disagree in a loving way and not hiding it from your children, you’re teaching them how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way.”
There are certain caveats: Never allow fights to become emotionally or physically abusive, and never fight about the children in front of them.
“It’s important to present a united front when it comes to raising your child,” explains Heidi Murkoff, a PARENTING contributing editor and coauthor of the best-selling What to Expect books. “If you openly disagree about discipline techniques, your child is going to be confused and won’t know what’s expected of her.”
When the argument blows over, it’s critical that kids see you kiss and make up. This helps them understand that their parents go on loving each other even though they’ve had a fight.
Myth: Always Put Your Kids’ Needs Ahead of Your Own
Truth: Being devoted to your child and being devoted to yourself shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Just as it’s your job to make sure that your child gets proper nutrition, enough sleep, social interaction, and mental stimulation, remember that you need all those things as well. Show your child that other people have rights too by planting the seeds of patience, keeping in mind that it will take plenty of time for those seeds to sprout.
Myth: You Should Treat All Your Children the Same
Truth: Fairness doesn’t always mean sameness. Giving an older child more privileges or responsibilities than a younger one is unequal treatment that’s still fair. As is giving more time to a child who has special difficulty paying attention, learning, or calming down. It’s essential to remember that children—even identical twins—come into a family with different needs and temperaments, and what may work for one may not for another. Getting kids to recognize and revel in their individuality may cut down on sibling rivalry too.
Myth: Children Need “Quality Time”
Truth: Any time you spend with your kids is quality time. Kids need downtime or unscheduled hanging-out time with their parents, as well as “focused time” when parents are really paying attention. And sometimes when you least expect it—while lounging in your pajamas on a Sunday morning or cuddling together on the kids’ beds before sleep—downtime can beget moments of connection, joy, and even intimacy.
Myth: “Losing It” With Your Kids Makes You a Bad Parent
Truth: Children are born with an uncanny ability to periodically transform even the most placid parents into screaming maniacs. Those of us who pride ourselves on being able to calmly and rationally resolve problems at work and with our spouse are horrified to discover that we are often powerless over our emotions when it comes to our kids.
It’s a universal experience for parents to “lose it” from time to time. All of your coping mechanisms evaporate, and you’re left with tremendous frustration and anger. But does this damage the kids? Not as long as a parent can later say, ‘I’m sorry,’ then kids can shrug it off. Parenting is hard enough without buying into the unrealistic and even harmful expectations that often plague us. So go ahead. Bribe. Argue. Be selfish. Lose it once in a while. And know that your child will turn out okay. The only one who may be permanently damaged is the Bad Parent Fairy—and maybe that’s just fine.