Weekend Vibes

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 78: Parenthood Expectations Vs. Reality.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: The Patagonia Retro Pile Fleece.

I had to have this brand-new, darling Patagonia fleece for mini (psssst 15% off if you sign up for emails!) in the opal pink, though I debated purchasing it in the neutral/silver hue instead.  I try not to overbuy in the pale pink category but it’s so hard to do with a little girl!  I tend to force myself to consider reds, navies, etc — not everything needs to be pink!  However, this one did 🙂  I also love this slightly chunkier style, which would have coordinated with this vest for me (in the ash color).  For her dressier fall coat, I went with a red Mayoral toggle style, which will look darling with cableknit tights and her new L’Amour shoes — and maybe a plaid dress like this.

You’re Sooooo Popular: My Favorite Summer Dress.

The most popular items on Le Blog this week:

+My favorite dress of the summer, restocked in limited sizes!  (And the blouse version is on sale!)

+Bobbi Brown extra lip tint.

+A sophisticated, affordable white blouse.

+An elegant baby gate.  (Never thought I’d use those words together.)

+My iPhone case.

+Mini’s favorite water bottle at the moment.  (We recently added the pink tiger print to our collection!  So Gucci extra!)

+New favorite hair tie.

+Golden Goose vibes for your little one.

+Vintage Hermes!

#Turbothot: Is Parenthood Easier or Harder Than You Expected?

Someone recently posed this question in a blog post and I had to think about it for a full afternoon before deciding that the answer is: both and neither.  I say neither because I don’t feel I have struggled in making parenting decisions.  I have made mistakes, of course, and have lamented them with an agony I’d never before felt (I once told her, “bad girl!” after she had, out of typical toddler frustration, hit me in the face, and then I cried quietly in the other room — how could I have talked to her like that?  Like she was a dog?!  Ahhh!).  But for the most part, I feel that I have stayed true to myself and to my aspirations to listen and observe and react rather than impose or direct or assume.  Parenting my daughter feels natural to me, neither harder nor easier than I expected — it just is.  It has been an exertion, but an instinctual one.

At the same time, I say parenting has been easier than expected because the things I thought would be hard — little sleep and lots of poop — have not given me much trouble, possibly because I had heard so much about them while pregnant and had calibrated my expectations appropriately.  Yes, we lost a lot of sleep during those early months (actually, we lost a lot of sleep for twelve months because mini did not sleep through the night until a year), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.  You get into a rhythm and you just do it.  There aren’t any alternatives, I figured, so I might as well accept it and understand that it’s just a season of life.  And the poop/pee/spit-up never phased me either — with the exception of one horrific blowout at a restaurant that involved poop up to mini’s NECK.  To this day, I have no words to explain my confusion and horror at the vision of us in that well-heeled restaurant.  (How was it even physically possible?)  Finally, I have learned over time that things I have dreaded — changing nap routines, transitioning out of the swaddle, taking away her bottle at bedtime — have gone much more smoothly than anticipated.  And so I have learned that sometimes I hype things up in my mind only to find myself pleasantly surprised by mini’s adaptability.

But I say parenting has been harder for two reasons.  First: I truly did not understand how all-consuming a child is and how intense and abrupt it would feel to go from only worrying about myself and Mr. Magpie to being entirely tethered to a child.   When mini was really little and feeding every two hours or so, it felt impossible to do anything outside of the house.  Even trips to the grocery had to be carefully orchestrated.  I’d have to be dressed and ready to leave, and have mini dressed and her bag packed, just so that I could feed her and then immediately scoot out the door to have 30 minutes of frenzied time at the grocery before rushing back to unpack and then get ready for her next feed.  (This was exacerbated by the fact that I had to supplement ever feed with a bottle, so feeding her took close to forty five minutes!  I also never got into a routine with pumping, which I think would have freed me up a bit more.  At the time, I felt that since I had an undersupply, I needed to breastfeed her every single time I could because I knew the bottle was inevitably coming after, and I longed for that connection to her. But you live and learn.  I think I might do things differently if I had the advantage of hindsight.)  Now, too, it often feels like I’m racing against the clock, frenetically trying to accomplish as much as I can while she naps or while I have one hour of time to run errands on my own.  Everything is time-boxed.  There’s little room for spontaneity or last-minute plans or oops-I’m-running-lates.  Honestly, it was a startling awakening, one that still occasionally catches me off-guard, a year and a half in.  I have of course come to accept it; after all, I had thirty-three years to attend to myself and my own desires and plans.  Still, it is life-changing in a deep and profound way that I hadn’t intuited.  In fact, before mini was born, I had the misperception that staying at home with mini would involve playing games, reading books, feeding, bathing, etc — but would also entail loads of downtime to blog, catch up on TV, read.  I anticipated ample free time to get things done and to tend to myself while she was asleep or playing happily by herself.  I thought: “Even if she’s awake, can’t I be simultaneously on the phone?  Or blogging?  Or reading?”  It simply does not work that way.  With time, I have figured out how to get household chores done with her in tow — making the bed, for example, has become a game where I throw all the pillows on the ground and she flops into them, giggling, while I quickly tuck in the sheets and fold the duvet; washing my face and applying my makeup is only doable because she can then play with her bath toys for ten minutes at my feet — which she otherwise does not see until bath-time; folding laundry involves preoccupying her with all of my clean underwear, which she inexplicably enjoys placing around her neck like necklaces; emptying the dishwasher requires ferreting out a couple of bowls and spatulas for to enjoy while fenced inside the kitchen with me behind the dog gate.  Why are all of these diversions necessary, you might wonder?  Because otherwise I am prone to walk out to my child standing on top of the arm of a couch, or shaking a box of matches, or playing with the cord of a lamp.  (These things have all happened.)  If she is out of my sight for more than a few seconds and things are silent, I have to drop everything to check on her.  In short, accomplishing even perfunctory household tasks requires thoughtfulness, craftiness, supervision, and planning.  So forget about trying to write or read–sometimes even dashing into the bathroom to pee can be a dicy proposition!  Of course, much of my day is fun and I cherish her companionship.  I love chatting with her, reading to her, singing to her, taking her on various errands and excursions, watching her toddle around with her dollbabies.  Sometimes I am observing her in a ballet class or marveling at her running — she can run! — around the fountain at Lincoln Center and I have to pinch myself: I am so lucky to have the opportunity to spend half of my week with her by myself.  But make no mistake about it: it is exhausting, physically-demanding, and all-consuming.  My time is never my own.

And the second reason why I say it is much harder than expected: the depth of emotion!  The tenderness!  I can scarcely talk about her without a lump in my throat.  She is my everything — the best part of me, the best part of my day.  When she is sick, I am beside myself with worry.  (Oh, her first fever!)  When she is screaming and wrapping her arms around my legs because she doesn’t want me to leave, I wonder if I should just cancel my plans. When she is wailing from her crib and we have made up our minds to let her cry it out, it drives me insane: I want to go to her, pick her up, soothe her.  It is shockingly painful.  The ferocity and intensity of emotion are unlike anything I’ve ever felt before in my life — and that makes parenthood an emotional minefield.

What about for you?

#Shopaholic: The Sandro Sale.

+Sandro is having an INSANE end of season sale and I am eyeing this elegant navy sweater dress, this ruffled eyelet dress, and this chic belted blush skirt.

+Never too early to snag your New Year’s Eve dress.  (Flapper perfection!)

+Zimmermann lookalike for $22.

+I have such a big crush on this oversized pastel blue coat

+Loving these chinoiserie candlestick holders!

+I don’t know why, but one of my favorite pairs of LR boots EVER (I own them in two colors and still wear them like six or seven seasons after I purchased them) are on sale for as low as $82 (regularly $695) in select colors and sizes here

+Loving the new lilac colorway!  One of my favorite colors.  And, of course, the source of some serious soul-searching..

+These loopy bow earrings are so much fun.  I’d wear them around the holidays!

+Love this striped blouse — forgiving and fashion-forward.

+I like the dimensions of this romper for a bachelorette.  The shorts are a little longer than you might expect and that affords the entire look a bit more elegance!

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13 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 78: Parenthood Expectations Vs. Reality.

  1. I loved this post- I have a 3 month old and this part REALLY resonated with me: “First: I truly did not understand how all-consuming a child is and how intense and abrupt it would feel to go from only worrying about myself and Mr. Magpie to being entirely tethered to a child”. I love my son dearly and I was ready that “being home with a newborn is hard” but was struck by how instantly my whole life changed and how being a parent is actually a 24/7 job without even a minute break (unless my parents are over! even then I’m always thinking about my son). I thought a 12 week maternity leave was crazy long and knew I would be busy but also thought I would continue doing things I enjoy like read books (nope), watch TV (nope), cook fancy dinners (nope). Just now at 3 months I’m starting to do those things again. I never spent any long amounts of time with a baby, just visited friends and admired how cute their babies were as they slept or played happily on the mat and I think people feel the same when they visit me. It’s probably one of those things you just have to experience to get.

    1. Yes, completely! I was on the same wavelength prior to having mini. I had no idea what was about to happen, and I think you’re right: nothing could possibly prepare you! xo

  2. This piece echoes my own experience of motherhood; nicely put. The biggest surprise for me has been how militantly organized and efficient I must be to accomplish the most basic things. And how a single bump in the road or deviation from the routine can throw us into chaos. I’ve come to accept that this season of life calls for scaling back and limiting myself to the basics of existence (home, family, work — exercise when I can). But that was surprising and challenging at first.

    In response to your reader’s question about the Hatch Baby Rest — we have one and love it. It’s unobtrusive sitting on the changing table, and the app is easy to use. I like that I can adjust the noise and light from outside the baby’s room. (So no problem if I forgot to set the noise machine. And instead of fumbling around for a light during a night waking, I can dimly light the room before entering and be in and out as quickly as necessary.)

    1. Thanks for the review of that night light! I’m looking into one as well now 🙂

      And, thanks for sharing your thoughts on motherhood, too. I’m completely in the same boat. I think you’re spot on about accepting a “scaled back” / simplified life these days. I had a friend recently ask why we hadn’t taken more trips or gone out to dinner with a group more often lately — she meant it more from a “let’s do something together!” standpoint, but I had to just shrug and say: “You know, life is different now! We prefer to keep things simple and not overly booked…”

      Thank you so much for writing in 🙂 xoxo

  3. I love how you wrote this! Just beautiful. I have one daughter for whom everything has always been challenging, intense, and difficult to regulate. (From sleep training (she would stand and scream (not cry) at her crib for hours), to several relatively small but challenging physical differences, to obeying her preschool teachers, etc.). Parenting her has been so much harder than I expected – being much like you as you describe yourself (a “good girl” so to speak), I was not prepared for a strong willed, high energy daughter. I had to learn how to parent her. And not to be afraid something was “wrong”’just because she is so spirited. And I have another daughter, who is almost invariably sweet, delicate, easy going, and a total rule-follower. Everything about her has been so easy. She slept 12 hours at night when she was 8 weeks old – on her own! No sleep training! She is snuggly and just adorable. It’s interesting though – those descriptions would probably make someone think she is my “favorite.” But that’s not true – my other daughter changed me, taught me to be more flexible and to be a different parent than I imagined. We’ve been through a lot together – and I love her to the very marrow of my bones. Parenting is an amazing, perplexing, challenging journey.

    1. Hi! I love the way you wrote this — “my other daughter changed me.” It’s so interesting and true how parenthood changes you, challenges you, and — I think — ultimately makes you into a stronger, more resilient, more patient person. Or at least this is how I’m beginning to see myself. It’s also so fascinating to me that your two daughters are so very different. It certainly lends credence to the “nature” side of the nurture v nature debate 🙂


  4. Love both coat picks for Mini! You have some great items in your roundup as well — that prim-in-a-good-way Sandro dress with ruffly edges! LOVE!

    I’ve said this before & I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I love how you write about motherhood!

    P.S. I really want to snap up that SZ Blockprints Kitty dress … trying to decide if a medium will still work for me if I usually take a small in dresses. Hmm!

    1. Thank you, MK! 🙂 Hmm on SZ. I would say the dresses run a little large — intentionally — so that could work in one of two ways: either a medium will look WAY too voluminous or it will look like a slightly more exaggerated version of its already roomy style. I will say the J Crew Kitty I bought fit a little trimmer than the one I bought directly from their website.


  5. Oh, yes to everything you articulated about parenthood – especially the time not being your own anymore! I’ve gotten back into the work game (started a new consulting business, eek!) and until my daughter starts part-time childcare in a couple months, I can only get things done while she sleeps. (When she sees me on the computer, she gets SO excited to bang on the keyboard/play with the mouse, I can’t get anything else done!). But, I feel so fortunate that I get to spend the day with this funny, adorable, clever little baby and it makes it all worth it.

    Of people I know, the ones who had the most problems adjusting to parenthood seem to be the ones who had tons of expectations about what it would be like before having their kid – often idealizing the situation. Then when reality didn’t match expectations (do they ever, though), they didn’t handle it well. I don’t know what the lesson is here – perhaps to go into parenthood knowing that things will never go as planned and to roll with the punches? (That’s probably something good to keep in mind regarding anything, I think) I’m not sure!

    In other topics – what do you use for a nightlight in Mini’s room, if you use one at all? I just ordered a Hatch Baby Rest for ours, since she likes to flip through books in her crib before falling asleep (and when she wakes up, which is lovely as it gives us a bit more time before having to get her), but with blackout curtains etc she can’t actually see anything at night. Thought that it would be nice to program the Hatch so it would give her an extra 15 or so minutes of light before she went to sleep, but don’t know anyone who actually has one! Looking for suggestions!

    1. Totally agree on the expectations vs. reality — and I think that’s more broadly true, too. I’ve had friends who have had very specific visions for their engagements, their weddings, the birth of their children, etc and it’s always much tougher/more emotional when the experience doesn’t live up to the hype. On the flipside, kind of impossible NOT to daydream about how perfect everything will be…

      We have a little Jonathan Adler giraffe nightlight (http://bit.ly/2o8Pqcw) but we have yet to use it. We leave mini’s room pitch black at night and it’s the only way we’ve found to ensure she sleeps soundly until 6:30 a.m. I love the idea of the Hatch nightlight though — that makes complete sense! You might also take a look at “OK to Wake Clocks.” They are meant more for kiddos who are older and who will climb out of bed at all times of the night — the clock changes color when it’s “OK to get out of bed.” But there may be a way to program them so that they turn off after a certain amount of time, too?


    2. The Hatch is also an “ok to wake” clock! She may be too young to understand the concept now, but I’m not above trying. (Though, knock on wood, she has been a great sleeper of late.) And it’s all controllable via an app (so important so I don’t have to go into her room).

      Btw, love the red Mayoral coat. We had a similar one last fall for the baby, and it was SO darling. The ones I chose this year for her are an olive green safari-ish jacket and a bright pink quilted one. I agree it’s hard to not buy all pink, but sometimes I can’t help myself either!

      1. Oooh, love that safari green color! I find that the more sophisticated/less baby-like colors — I have a few dresses/bows in khaki, stone, burnt orange, aubergine, etc — fetch the most compliments. They’re just unusual to see on a baby, and they offset their youthfulness I think. Love that.

        Keep me posted on The Hatch clock if you go with it, and check out the review from a fellow magpie below!!! xo

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