Let your imagination flow for a few seconds with this narrative—it is 3am and you are about to enter your fourth sleep cycle. Right then, you are roused by loud screechy noises made by your baby. You wake up to discover that your baby is throwing up in the middle of night, and even before you realise anything, your baby vomits on you.
Just when you clean your baby's body and soothe them back to sleep, your baby starts vomiting again, requiring a repeat of the whole decontamination task at a time when you can think of nothing else other than a pleasant sleep.
After cleaning your baby with lukewarm water, this time you decide to stay half-awake so that you can help your baby if they feel nauseous again. On the one hand, you are feeling extremely drowsy; a feeling of nervous anticipation will produce butterflies in your stomach.
To top it off, you will have to go to work in the morning wearing a confident smile on your face as if nothing happened last night.
This is just one of those innumerable instances when new parents feel that they are on edge and find themselves in a quandary. The intention behind creating this imagery is to give aspiring parents a taste of all those unpredictable situations and emotions that constitute the experience of becoming and growing as parents.
The fact is that we are too eager to see life through rose-tinted glasses. That is why we always look at one side of the coin, and do not flip it and consider every nook and cranny. As we see everyone posting beautiful family pictures on social networking sites, we feel convinced that this is the perfect time to have a child. Of course, a baby is probably the biggest blessing one can have.
But, if I transmute my parenting experiences into words, I can affirm that this is a different kind of responsibility that requires 'sound planning' and 'mental preparation' to deal with situations just like the one above, without feeling trepidation.
Well, as I am sharing my two cents, let me clarify that the purpose behind writing this piece is not to knock the wind out of the to-be fathers' and mothers' sails, rather to help them with the preparations and psychological planning that you must take before embracing parenthood, so that you suddenly don't get the shivers when your bundle of trouble and joy arrives. These points will seem more relevant for those living in nuclear families.
First, you must develop your patience level before planning a baby. Raising a baby requires a very high level of patience, especially when your baby is around two. The time when your child enters a development phase widely known as 'terrible twos' (usually from 18 to 30 months of age), they will start exhibiting aberrant behaviour marked by tantrums, defiant behavior and lots of frustration.
Parents often find it difficult to get along with such behavior, as the child may not be so acquiescent and disregard your instructions. This is a very tricky stage for both the parents and the child. As parents you will need a lot of patience to handle this stage as your child will let loose by breaking things, crying for reasons unknown, circumventing parental control and demanding anything, ranging from small toys to big beautiful cars plying the roads.. If one loses their composure, they will end up scolding the child, and some parents even resort to beating the tiny tot.
Second, you must be prepared to accept the fact that life will never be the same after you become a parent. Once you accept parenthood, you are no more footloose and fancy-free. For instance – remember those nights when you used to go to the roof whenever it rained and got drenched to rejuvenate your soul, or the nights when you and your beloved used to go out in the middle of the night and enjoy a walk down the street. Once you are a parent, forget these things as you cannot leave your kid behind at home alone or you cannot get wet in the rain with your child (if you do so, your child may get sick, inviting additional stress for you).
Third, you will rarely get me-time. Once you become a parent, the concept of having the time of your life will go out the window, at least for the first few years, because your child will constantly need someone to keep an eye on him/her. You can leave your child in someone else's care, but the feeling of restlessness will prevail.
Fourth, if you want to be a good parent, you must be psychologically prepared that your career will go into hibernation – a period when you may have to compromise with your ambitions and career goals. Given the phallocentric viewpoint of our society, this applies for mothers particularly. Your career will either bite the dust or be in the doldrums since parenting comes with lots of duties and activities like taking care of the baby, feeding him/her and other associated tasks.
After spreading yourself thin by managing all those household chores, it becomes really difficult to take care of the baby and your career as well, in full glory. Of course, you cannot compromise the wellbeing of the baby, so naturally your career will bear the brunt. Fathers also have to face it, as responsible ones remain a bit offhand in the workplace (especially when the baby gets sick), hampering their performance.
All this, further compounded by a disturbed sleep cycle, exacerbates the situation for the parents. You may find yourself in a situation when you cannot sleep at a stretch for long hours as the baby, during the initial years, often cries in the middle of night and some babies even wake up at 3 or 4 am. So, your sleep cycle will naturally skew and sleeping for long 7 or 8 hours will turn into a coveted treasure.
Last but not least, it is more often observed that mothers have to face most of the fallout when it comes to experiencing the blowbacks of being a parent. Actually, fathers need to extend not only mental support, but they must lend a hand to the mothers as well. If a father empathises with the new mother, it will take the edge off the mental trauma she has to endure.
These reasons often force parents into a state of depression, widely known as postpartum depression. This may prove to be detrimental for some parents if not addressed and taken care of properly. In most cases, mothers suffer from such depression.
To lay the truth bare, parenting is a life-long responsibility. In particular, the first few years of raising the child is really tough. You must first develop a mindset that you are ready to make all these adjustments in life before trying. If you do so, you will definitely make a good parent. Otherwise, you will neither be able to enjoy parenting nor create happy memories with your baby to be cherished.
When both the father and the mother are ready to share the pains that come with the greatest blessing on earth, it gets easier for the parents to find their feet in this new journey of childrearing.
Md Morshedul Alam Mohabat is a Philomath.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.