Taboos of Parenting

There is a really great Ted Talk I watched yesterday about 4 Taboos of Parenting. During the Talk Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, the founders of Babble, discuss the expectations of parenting versus the reality of parenting and the taboo things we as parents can’t talk about.

  1. You can’t say you didn’t fall in love with your child in the first moment.

This taboo is especially important, because it is wildly true. In the talk Rufus explains he expected to be hit with a “Mack truck of love” and although he had love for his baby, he was jokingly referred to as “Uncle Rufus” the first few months, as his wife breastfed and there wasn’t much he could do to help. I hear this from a number of dads, that during the first few months, especially if the mom is breastfeeding, that it is difficult to develop a bond, because the baby is so reliant on the mom’s needs, that it is more difficult to develop that relationship. Many dads I know, have experienced this, and yet doesn’t make you a bad parent. There is love there, but maybe just not the get hit by a truck kind.

2. You can’t talk about how lonely it is as a new parent.

Being a new parent is hard; your entire identity is flipped upside down, and you know have this adorable bundle of joy that often makes you feel like a complete and utter failure. The nights are long, the days are long, feedings are long, and diapers are endless. During the Talk, Alisa recalled asking her sister why she didn’t warn her that motherhood would be so lonely, and her sister replied that “it’s just not something you say to a first time mom.” There is this taboo that if you actually give someone a heads up that it’s going to be tough, that someone it will burst their bubble of expectation. I know that I would much rather have all the information ahead of time, to adjust my expectations, than in the moment feel isolated and that something must be wrong with me if I feel lonely. When women have all the information, and understand that it will be hard, and isolation and loneliness happen, than this invites the opportunity for conversation. This also enables women to understand that this is a normal reaction postpartum and that if needed, seeking professional help is not only an option but common.

3. You can’t talk about your miscarriage.

Statistics show that approximately 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage; meaning they occur more frequently than discussed. Although they discuss this as something taboo to be discussed, I think there are a number of reasons that women often don’t discuss miscarriages. Differing from the other taboos discussed, this one involves loss, and unfortunately for some shame. Alisa describes her miscarriage and the feelings of shame for ‘not being able to do what women are physically designed to do.’ This is heartbreaking in so many ways to hear her or any woman say, and this shame and sadness prevents people from reaching out for help during an extremely difficult time.

4. You can’t talk about the average decline of happiness.

Numerous studies have shown that once you have children average happiness decreases compared to those who are married without children. In the Talk they discuss reading about the study in the Daniel Gilbert book, Stumbling on Happiness (which is a great read by the way). However as compared to the studies listed in his book and in the TED Talk, they compare the trade of average happiness for transcendent moments. These are those moments with your kids that just make everything worth it. Shortly after watching the TED Talk, my four-year old had a full-blown meltdown and was put in time-out. She’s the kind of kid that if she gets worked up she has a really difficult time self-soothing and will literally make herself throw up because she is so upset. After listening to her yell and realizing that she wasn’t going to be able to calm herself, I was exacerbated and went in to talk with her. I laid down next to her in her bed, to get her to take some deep breaths and she wrapped her arms around my head and just looked deep into my eyes. In that moment my frustrations melted away, transcendent.

Although this is a pretty accurate list, and I found the Ted Talk interesting and entertaining, I think there are other areas of parenting that we can’t talk about or are uncomfortable talking about. As anyone with children knows, parenting is filled with anxiety; there is constant questioning of whether or not you are doing the right things, and making the right parenting choices. Did you bottle or breast feed? Sleep train or co-sleep? Spank or use positive reinforcement? Natural birth or epidural? I think in many ways these insecurities are what create taboo topics; fear of judgment and that others may view us as a “less than” type of parent. So what else aren’t we talking about, that if we did would help ourselves or others? What are we holding back about because of fear, shame or anxiety? What are some topics that you view as taboo in parenting?

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