Why I'm Tired of the Unsolicited "Just Wait Until" Parenting Tips

What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all?

I’m pregnant. Let the “just wait until” statements begin.

Let me preface this with a few things: I understand that for the most part, people mean well. So usually these “let me warn you” statements are intended to either commiserate slightly over the difficulties that all parents go through, or to give you a friendly bit of advice over what you can come to expect.

Also, while I am an experienced aunt, I’ve only been a mother to a wonderful baby boy for 10 months (my second is scheduled to join us in just three more months) so I understand that I’m no veteran and that perhaps all the things to come in motherhood will sour me a little more. Perhaps, a few years from now, I’ll be more prone to making such statements myself (but if you knew me, you’d agree: that’s not a likely scenario).

Now let me say this, none of those things are enough to convince me that the overwhelming presence of negative rather than positive feedback should be the norm. What ever happened to the old adage that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Why is it that almost everyone’s go-to reaction is one with a negative tone?

Examples of the statements that I’m talking about:

You’re pregnant? Oh, just wait until the mood swings really kick in and you can’t keep it together. Just wait until you’re so big that you have to waddle. Just wait until the very end of your pregnancy when you’re uncomfortable all the time.

You can’t sleep because you’re so pregnant? Oh, just wait until the baby comes and then you’ll see what real lack of sleep is. (This one makes another appearance in round two because, apparently, you don’t know what sleep deprivation is until you have two kids).

You just had a baby? Oh, just wait until he is over the newborn phase and doesn’t sleep all the time. Just wait until she’s teething. Just wait until he’s crawling. Just wait until she’s walking. Just wait until he’s talking. Just wait until the terrible twos. Just wait until it’s impossible to feed her because she refuses everything you give her. Just wait until he’s in school and bringing home all kinds of germs and you’re all miserable from being sick. Just wait until she’s seven or eight and has an attitude already. Just wait until the dreaded teenage years.

Now, let’s agree that parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. You may be a postpartum mom whose hormones have turned you into some crazy version of the person you used to be and you barely recognize yourself while you’re supposed to be overjoyed at the presence of your new little angel. Meanwhile, you’re just impressed with yourself if you got through an entire day without crying.

You worry about this tiny little person from their first cold to the first bump on their head, skinned knee, bite from another child at the park, broken bone, broken heart, the list goes on and on. If I spent all my time dreading the “wait untils” or worrying about the next difficult thing around the corner, when would I have time to enjoy all the wonderful, amazing, incredible things that a child brings to a parent’s life?

That being said, I am under no illusions. I fully understand that no matter how much I love them, my children will test me endlessly and will, on numerous occasions, push me to the brink of my sanity. However, isn’t that part of the process? Often the most worthwhile and rewarding things in life are the most difficult. Life isn’t always easy, so it should come as no surprise that parenting isn’t either.

To those few people who’ve talked pregnancy or parenting with me, and said things such as, “How wonderful for you,” “That’s great,” “Enjoy every moment of it, it’s a really special time,” “My favourite age is x, they’re so fun at that time,” and simply left it at that – thank you. Thank you for the positivity. Thank you for leaving it at that.

These sentiments seem so few and far between that, while people generally give off statements of “I’m happy for you,” it’s typically followed with that incessant “But just wait until” that makes me cringe on the inside. Can’t we just be happy for people and leave it that? No? Maybe? Let’s just try it and see what happens.

You’re pregnant? That’s awesome! What an exciting time, I’m happy for you.

You’re nearing the end of your pregnancy? Great! Best of luck with labor and delivery. I truly hope all goes smoothly for you and I’m excited that your new little bundle will be in your arms shortly.

You just had a baby? Wow! How wonderful! I hope that the whole family is doing well. I am so happy for you during this special time with a new little person to help fill your home with love.

Your little one is now walking? Aww, I love when they reach special new milestones. It’s great to see the little ones walking (or running) around discovering things at their own pace.

You’re pregnant with your second baby? Woohoo! A sibling for your son (or daughter) and another beautiful little person to add to a home just bursting with love! (Third, fourth, or fifth pregnancy? The sentiment carries on, as well as: Good on you, not everyone is brave enough for a big family!)

Personally, I’ve found that those who leave you with a purely positive comment are few and far between, so much so that I’ve truly come to cherish those interactions. I also believe that most don’t even realize the negative tone that they give off in their comments.

We can endeavor to change that. Let’s be more mindful of the things that we say to parents who can (and should) be reveling in the joys that child-rearing brings. For the undeniably tough moments that come with it, hang in there. I can guarantee that you’re not the only one to feel that struggle. Worry not, you can get through it.

What so often works for me when I need to reset is to look into the beautiful, innocent eyes of that tiny little person and let the love just wash over me for a moment. He has so much life yet to come and his possibilities are endless. It’s a wonderful thing to be in the presence of. Life often pushes us to forget that – just don’t let it.

The Pregnancy Post to End All Pregnancy Posts

For the first time in my online adult life, I was experiencing something privately without making a show of it and without needing to know if anyone noticed or liked me experiencing it.

In January of 2016, I decided to stop checking my social media like an insatiable fiend. I’m a performer and storytelling teacher. Social media had always been a simple way of letting people know what I have going on. I’d grown accustomed to waking up every morning to see the who, what, and where of my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr on the hour every hour.

Who liked that Janet Jackson video I posted? How many people favorited that picture of my hair looking weird? How many people are “interested” versus “coming” to my comedy show? Why don’t more people love that Janet Jackson video? After a particularly non-productive but heavily media-filled morning of scrolling, scrolling, clicking, and scrolling some more, I wondered aloud, “What am I looking for?”

I didn’t know the answer, which was a little disconcerting. I decided to approach social media with a healthier sense of self-control and detachment. I moved the app icons from the first page of my iPhone screen. I stopped posting every other thought about Whole Foods, celebrity hairstyles, and inclement weather. I took pictures without the intention of sharing them with anyone. When I was curious about a friend, I texted them. When I did post, I made it as specific and purposeful as possible.

Very soon, I was only posting about haircuts I gave to friends and shows I was performing in. When I waited in line at the post office or supermarket, I waited like we all used to: without checking in with who was online. I started to live my life without posting my life and, needless to say, I felt more present and less busy.

Then I got pregnant. Well, I have to post something, I thought.

Impending motherhood is a big deal, but the rule still applied. If I was going to post a pregnancy post it had to have a purpose. I wanted it to be the best pregnancy post social media had ever seen. I would be loathe to post another “bun in the oven” status or a picture of my husband and I sticking out our respective bellies to tell everyone “the good news!”

Those posts had been posted before. I would not add to the cacophony of joy by doing what had been done. Perhaps I was making too big of a deal of something that I knew was a perfectly ordinary everyday miracle, but I wanted my pregnancy post to be the pregnancy post to end all pregnancy posts. Original, memorable, and hilarious.

The first trimester ended and still I didn’t post anything. I host a weekly storytelling show where I talked about my pregnancy since I was only three weeks in. I wasn’t afraid to share the developing news there, but I couldn’t think of a way to announce my pregnancy online that was groundbreaking enough for my performing ego.

In the second trimester, I thought it might be a good thing I hadn’t posted because, what if the baby died? I was 35 and every doctor and article seemed to relish telling me that I was “at risk” because I had “waited so long.” I did not want to see a bunch of sad yellow faces with tears pop up on Facebook if I posted about a miscarriage. After all, courageous and heartfelt miscarriage posts had been done before. If I was going to post, it had to be with original creative content. I was drawing a blank.

I ran into my friend and fellow writer, Kate, and she completely understood my posting dilemma. She told me that she had stopped Facebooking for a while but wanted to start up again and was unsure how to do it. She joked that maybe she should just wait until she had an engagement, wedding, baby, and a book deal to post about in one big braggy status. It felt good to know that I wasn’t alone in my quest for wow-factor posts.

I batted around a few ideas involving the Summer Olympics as well as Janet Jackson also being pregnant, but no phrasing felt quite unique enough. In desperate moments, I berated myself for even considering posting a selfie in a mirror with no caption so that the picture would speak for itself. I’ve got to be better than that! Where’s the wit? Where’s the originality?

Late in the second trimester, I thought that I should just wait a few more weeks until the third trimester when I planned on having a glass of red wine for the first time in my pregnancy. Then I could post a funny and beautiful picture of myself toasting my belly with a bottle of wine, “Happy Third Trimester!”

Then the third trimester came and not only could I not stomach the idea of having a drink but the idea of toasting my pregnant belly was no longer funny to me. Really, Julia? You wait six months to make an alcohol joke? Maybe you aren’t as funny as you think you are. Maybe pregnancy has made you dumb. Stop crying you unfunny, unoriginal, pregnant dummy.

Then, naturally, I had the baby. It was an incredible experience. A home birth no less. It was so fast the midwife almost missed it and my husband almost had to deliver the baby himself. I birthed a live human being in my dirty bathtub in my apartment in all the glory of womanhood and she was the cutest, most adorable child who looked just like my husband without a beard (who coincidentally looks like the Gerber baby with a beard). Now, surely I will post something!

But I didn’t. As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and all I did was take care of a newborn, part of me wondered if I was scared. Was I unwilling to accept this new role as a mother and so was using the desire to create a meteorically special online baby announcement as an excuse?

I expressed these fears to a friend and she showed me an article about how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did not share her pregnancy because she did not want to “perform” her pregnancy. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to either.

As a performer, social media was not just a way to connect but another way for me to perform. Before I decided to take a step back, every post was curated for optimum attention from an online audience. The more likes, shares, and retweets I got, the more I wanted. It was never enough.

For the first time in my online adult life, I was experiencing something privately without making a show of it and without needing to know if anyone noticed or liked me experiencing it. It took me almost a year to realize that the answer to the question “What am I looking for?” was simply this: attention.

Posting something original was never the problem. The problem was always my inevitable unhealthy reaction to the reaction of the post. My self-worth was wrapped up in my online profile and it was not dependable. I’d inadvertently curbed the need for others’ attention right when my attention was shifting to something entirely outside of myself.

There is nothing inherently wrong with posting your life and your babies on social media, but I am hyper-aware that I have the capability to become a Joan Crawford and use my child to further perform through the internet. I love and like and favorite all of my friends’ baby posts because they are able to post without using their kids for self-involved attention-seeking. Or at least, they make it seem that way.

Friends will post pictures of my baby and sometimes she is visible at the edges of my posts, but she is never the sole subject of a status. I do not want to inadvertently put my needy ego on her. So I wait, patiently anticipating the inevitable day she asks for her own social media to perform her very own ego online. I hope I will have taught her not to need the attention too much.

Babymoon in Cuba, 4-Year-Old Along for the Adventure

My wife was 6 months pregnant with twins, but we wanted to take a babymoon with our four-year-old. So we flew past Florida and took a two-week trip to Cuba.

Back in 2012, my wife Megan was six months pregnant with twin boys. We wanted to take a slightly adventurous “babymoon” with our four-year-old daughter while our family was still a power trio, as the five-piece version seemed like it was going to be resigned to Orlando timeshares with the in-laws for years to come. 

So we flew right on past Florida and took a two-week trip to Cuba. One last hurrah for the three of us before the twin wave arrived with…whatever it was going to bring.

You still have to jump through a few hoops to get to Cuba from the United States. There are permits you can apply for to get there legally for a slew of reasons, but we’re not planners and instead just flew to Cancun and bought three tickets to Havana in cash at the airport.

As the more neurotic partner in my relationship, this leap of faith brought with it a lot of stress. I spent countless hours online researching the worst case scenarios – penalties for being caught, and options for when you run out of cash and your American credit cards won’t work. Was there even an American embassy in Cuba?  

I know six words in Spanish and they are: por favor, no empuje mi pasaporte. I even roll my r’s when I say it.

As it turns out, my wife’s fearless, willfully ignorant, the-universe-will-provide attitude was all we really needed. She told her OBGYN we were hoping to take a trip six months into her pregnancy. When the doctor found out the trip was to Cuba, she said, “Oh, that’s fine, they have great health care.” And we were off. 

babymoon-cuba

Havana

It would have been easy to spend two weeks in Havana alone, jumping from casa to casa. Casas Particulares are homes marked with triangles above their front doors that have government-sanctioned guest rooms for rent. 

The beauty of traveling to Cuba, for me, is staying at the casas, talking to the hosts, learning about the island

When you stay at a casa for about $30 a night, you get a bed, an air conditioner, a blindingly fluorescent light, and a four-course Cuban breakfast made with love before your eyes. A plate of mango and papaya is a great way to start a day. 

The beauty of traveling to Cuba, for me, is staying at the casas, talking to the hosts, learning about the island, and always learning about their friend who has a casa wherever it is you’re going next. The Cuban people are a resourceful team and they help each other out. 

While some people might prefer the privacy and comfort of a proper hotel – and they exist in Havana – to me, much of the reason to make a trip like this is to get to know the locals. Interacting with your host is a perfect way to do this. The internet’s not going to work at that hotel anyway.

The embargo has essentially created a time-warped island where cars are preserved relics from the 50’s, oozing charm and oil. I remember getting into one particular cab that was a perfect Studebaker with checkered red and white leather seats. We were so impressed we immediately told our driver this was our “favorite car yet.”

“Where are you from?” he asked us.

“New York City.”

“What kind of car do you have there?”

“A ’95 Ford Explorer,” I answered.

“Trade you?” he said. 

 It’s good to remember that our little museum is their daily functional struggle.

Havana is broken up into three sections.

Habana Viejo (Old Havana) is where you can gawk at prestigious plazas and streetside mansions. Keep some CUPs (the local currency, not the tourist currency) on hand to pick up pizzas in the street windows. 

Centro Havana, the more bustling and crumbling area in the middle of the city, is where we stumbled upon a restaurant called La Guarida. To reach it you walk up flights of winding stairs, through tenement apartment hallways littered with toys, to a gorgeously renovated room serving upscale food. 

Finally, there is Vedado, where the streets are wider and there’s a more suburban feel. In Vedado we stayed with a wonderful host named Eddie who had a mini outdoor shower draped in vines that our daughter found irresistible. 

Outside Havana

The noise and exhaust of the city eventually caught up with us and we pulled off a pretty rare move – we rented a car in Havana and got out of town. The car rental places aren’t cheap and you must pay up front in cash. It feels super sketchy, and how did a 1982 Toyota Corolla end up here, anyway? The maps are hilariously vague and have nothing to do with the actual roads, but the universe will provide.

There are wonderful destinations throughout the island – beaches, mountains, villages – and the casas are not confined to Havana. It’s best to shop around for a special casa if you can. For an extra $20 you might find yourself eating breakfast on a swanky rooftop or staying in a mansion with an incredible library. The simple pleasures brought us the most joy – like a little pig that ran around the backyard at one casa in Trinidad. 

Outside of the city, the spirit of the Cuban people is easy to experience. As a socialist country, the culture doesn’t compete like Americans do, and there is a more relaxed team spirit that pervades the daily culture. If a car is stuck with a flat tire, the next car along the road pulls over to help. That’s just how it works. 

“Let’s get another!” my daughter would yell every time a hitchhiker got out.

Hitchhiking is a common mode of transport and no one drives past a hitchhiker if they have room (or sometimes if they don’t). Wanting to immerse ourselves in the culture, we started picking up hitchhikers on our route, too. They’d sit in the backseat next to our daughter and would slowly realize they’d been picked up by a bunch of gringo tourists. 

After a little Spanglish conversation about the gemelos Megan was expecting, most would end up playing with our daughter a bit before gesturing to get dropped off. Our daughter loved it. “Let’s get another!” she’d yell every time a hitchhiker got out.

Once, when we pulled into town on the late side – like 9 p.m. – our casa host directed us to the one restaurant there, but it had just closed. Someone from the restaurant then escorted us up a hill to a friend’s modest apartment. The woman answered the door with curlers in her hair but understood the situation. 

We sat at her kitchen table while she prepared us fish, beans, and plantains. She made sure we were satisfied. At the end of the meal she slid us a piece of paper with the number eight on it. We left her ten dollars and a bunch of soap we didn’t need.

As a babymoon, it was the perfect destination to stimulate the three of us.

Everyone in Cuba is hustling a little bit – they need more to live than the government ration provides. It’s good to have your antennae up as some of the people who approach you have ulterior motives and are running low level scams. But much more often we experienced their generosity, humanity, curiosity, and a gratitude that Americans took the time to explore their country. 

As a babymoon, it was the perfect destination to stimulate the three of us. We bonded, had some adventures, learned a lot about a wonderful island, and made some new friends. We left our “Time Out Havana” book on the street in Cuba for someone else to enjoy. When the guy at U.S. Customs asked if we had a good time in Cancun, we said, “Yes… Cancun was sweet.”