You’ll seeeeee: parental fear-mongering predictions that didn’t come true

Posted by
By: IntangibleArtsCC BY 2.0

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “You’ll seeeee” for Offbeat Bride, but half of it was about the fear-mongering around pregnancy and parenthood:

It seems as though, during wedding planning (and, as I’m learning, childbearing — and as I suspect most big life transitions) we tell each other a lot of scary stories.

I mean, of course people want to share their experiences with each other. But all too often this storytelling slips into fear mongering. It’s sort of a pre-emptive commiseration — an anticipatory sing-song of Oh, you’ll seeeee…. It’s our way of telling each other, “I had this experience, and I’m assuming my experience is universal and you’ll have the exact same one. And mine was like this, so yours will be too — and then we can roll our eyes and bond over how awful it was together.” We all love a common enemy, and all too often in pursuit of this shared experience, we project our challenges onto others.

They whisper about cheating and boredom and bed death. And certainly these things can happen if you fall asleep on your life and just start going through the motions. But if you pay attention and go into with a lot of intent and questioning your own assumptions about why you’re supposed to do anything … it just doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m learning this about another phase with the fear mongering around pregnancy, childbearing, and babies. I’ve never heard more sing-songy You’ll seeeeee!s than I have when talking to people about becoming a mother.

The truths of this post snapped into even clearer focus for me when I recently found an old personal blog post I’d written when I was pregnant in 2009. I never finished it, but I think you can see where I was going with the idea…

As the waves of “Oh you’re pregnant!” baby and lifestyle advice start to wash over me, I find myself increasingly fascinated by the tales of woe that many parents have. I’ve dealt with lots of fear-mongering around sleep deprivation, but I’m continuing to get ongoing feedback of terror from lots of people … and I’m trying to figure out what are true generalities vs. what may be true for us.

Example 1: You lose all independence
This is of course in large part true … BUT. There seems to be a huge discrepancy between what people with family in town say vs. what people without family in town say about this one … so much so that I feel like I have to calibrate many “truths” with proximity to extended family.

Example 2: You need a house in the suburbs
There are also a lot of assumptions and presumptions about family and suburbs. People keep asking me about how we’ll manage without a yard, to which I say, “We used to have a yard, but it didn’t have a wading pool, 45 acres of lawn, or a conservatory — all of which our neighborhood park does.”

Example 3: You’ll stop loving your dog
Because evidently, there’s only room in my heart for one small creature.

Example 4: Your house will fill with plastic toys/baby crap
Because somehow, small bunnies who poop plastic toys will sneak into my house and start pooping Legos and Mr. Potato Heads everywhere without my consent.

By: DaveBleasdaleCC BY 2.0

Three years later, looking back at the fear mongering people did with me, I see that much of it really ISN’T true — primarily because I’ve made conscious decisions to avoid them.

  • As I knew it would, of course my independence has shifted to include a strong component of family identity, but you know what? Being a mother still isn’t my most interesting feature. I’ve prioritized living near my extended family so that there’s support there. I chose a partner who was interested in egalitarian parenting. All these choices were made before I had a child, because maintaining my independence was important to me. As a result, I’ve maintained it.
  • Needing a house in the suburbs? Nope.
  • Stop loving my dog? Absolutely 100% not. In fact, the dog’s life has improved, since now someone is almost always at home to hang out with her, there’s a never-ending rainstorm of food scraps falling from the toddler’s plate, and she’s got an additional set of human hands to beg attention from.
  • House filled with plastic crap? Nope. When something comes in, something goes out — our livingroom gets filled with toys, but at the end of the day they all go back in their baskets in the cabinet and (gasp!) it feels like grown-ups live here.

Again, I’m not saying that any of these (or any other number of stereotypical parent things) WON’T happen after you have a child. I’m just saying that it’s up to you to prioritize what changes, and how it changes. Absolutely some things are out of your control, but if something’s important to you before you become a parent, it is completely in your power to retain that priority after you become a parent. Will it be as easy? Will it come naturally? Probably not — but there are no inevitabilities with parenthood.

More importantly, the fear-mongering just doesn’t help. In many of the instances, I didn’t see the inevitable you’ll seeeeees come true. Even in the instances where the you’ll seeeeees are just truth (newborn sleep challenges, for instance) fear mongering simply isn’t useful.

As I said on Offbeat Bride:

It seem that in our effort to find shared experiences, we turn to each other and tell awful stories about how hard it all is. And you know what? Sometimes it IS hard. Sometimes the wedding plans fall apart and relationships fall apart and it feels like our life is falling apart.

But rather than tell the horror stories, why not share the lessons? Learn as much as you can and share the positivity of what you learned, rather than the shared grumping about didn’t work.

The next time you want to warn a pregnant woman that “she’ll seeeeee,” try reframing the conversation as a way to offer helpful tips instead of waggling eyebrows and fear-mongering.

For instance, instead of “Get your sleep while you can — you’ll never sleep again after your baby is born! HA HA HA!” Try something like, “If you guys have issues with sleeping after the baby gets here, totally just let me know. I have some books that were super helpful for us, and I’d be totally happy to swing by and hang out with your kiddo while you take a nap.”

Comments on You’ll seeeeee: parental fear-mongering predictions that didn’t come true

  1. As a step-mom to be, I got a lot of whispered “oh, how are things with their mom?” and implied sympathy for what a Horrible, Difficult, and Awful relationship we must have. Sorry to disappoint, but we are all adults here and you don’t have to be toxic and crazy just because there are more than two parents now.

    I really appreciated the people who asked how the kids were doing and who were encouraging about how good we all were together. I both love and hate that our happy blended family is the exception and not the rule. Celebrate the village, people!! 🙂

  2. I’m loving reading these comments.

    What I find really interesting is that at 22 weeks we haven’t had a SINGLE “you’ll see”.
    I’m thinking it may have something to do with the fact that we’re the first of our friends to have a child, and they all seem to look at us as the experts 😛
    Thankfully family members & workmates haven’t stepped in to fill the gap.

  3. I certainly heard the “you’ll never sleep again” pretty often from friends and acquaintences!

    Though my Sister in Law said to us “Sleep can be tricky, here’s this book that really helped us if you’d like to read it, and remember we are always here if you want us to come hold the baby for an hour while you take a nap”.

    I have a pretty awesome family 🙂

    My friend is currently pregnant and she is the first in her circle of friends so asks me HEAPS of questions. I generally answer everything with “Every baby is different, on average x happens, with our daughter y happened and we found z helped for us.”

  4. I’m due in 7 weeks (holy fuck) and have become absolutely sick of these comments about sleep, life, etc. My partner and I are very mellow, positive folks and prepared to roll with the punches. I got pregnant because I want my life to change, I’m prepared for it to change.

    And I’m very excited to be a mom, however, I am not a baby person. I know I will love my baby, but I’m not a gusher. I can’t wait to have a little guy to explore with. But you can’t imagine the reactions I get when I say I’m not into babies…I’ve been told I’ll never want to go to work, they won’t be surprised when I don’t return to work, I lack maternal instinct, etc…I just want to kick people in the shins sometimes.

    • Wow, that’s a load of junk. I’m a huge baby person, and I do all of these things, and I consider myself the exception to the norm. Parenting doesn’t require constant gushing to prove that you love it. How rude!

  5. We are some of the last to be bless with a child. Our child came to us thru family members not able to care for them. With that said we got TONS of You’ll see’s. Even with no one we know ever having a similar experience.

    The most hurtfully, uanessacry comment we got was “you will want your own children, you can’t imagine the bond between you and a real child. You’ll see.”

    The positive thing that came out of this was my own awareness in how I phrase things to others and vowing (or at least trying my best) to only provide constructive/uplifing things to other regarding parenting,babies and such.

    • My boyfriend was one of those people who really believed that the love he had for his children was because they were HIS. He was a strong believer in genetic bonds and could appreciate but not really understand men who were willing to raise “another man’s child.” And then I had my (and my husband’s) baby who he loves just as much. Because you love your *children,* not their parentage. I understand that people who’ve never been there don’t necessarily understand this, but I wish more of them realized their own ignorance.

  6. my son is almost two and being pregnant again i get a lot of “is it really that awful”-questions from first-time pregnant women at all those courses – yoga etc.
    my usual answer is:
    “there is only one possible right way to be pregnant/ give birth / parent :
    YOUR OWN.
    do what feels right for you- that will be the best for your baby.
    ask for help if needed. thats all.”
    thats my general B to all the various As 🙂

  7. I think I got this the most about my birth plan. People would say “Oh, you want to do it without pain medication? Oh we’ll see how you feel once you’re in labor. Hardy har har!” And you know what? I made it just fine without an epidural and look forward to doing it again with the second baby (due this August).
    People also said it about my choice not to circumcise. My son is four and has not had a problem with his penis yet.
    And my choice to breastfeed came with a lot of evolving you’ll sees. From “Oh, it’s really hard, you might as well just not try.” to “You’ll probably have to quit when you go back to work” to “If you start supplementing your milk will dry up” to “if you keep nursing him much longer you’ll turn him into a pervert”. I nursed him two years and supplemented with formula while I was at work. He’s not a pervert.
    Oh, and bed sharing. “He’ll never leave your bed!” and “He’ll die of SIDS” and “You’ll quit the first time you roll over on him” and “You’ll never get any sleep.” None of those were true, not even remotely. I slept plenty, I never rolled over on him, he’s not dead, and most nights he sleeps in his own room now. I do let him crawl in bed with me if he has a nightmare or something, but otherwise he sleeps alone just fine.
    I think make more positive you’ll see predictions, like “Changing a diaper really isn’t bad when it’s your own kid, you’ll see.” I have a strict ban on scary birth stories too. No matter what kind of birth a woman is planning, she doesn’t need to hear that.

  8. I got this a LOT when I told people I was planning on laboring without medication. I got a million and one “you’ll sees” and “oh just get the epidural” from everyone, including one of the nurses on duty when I was in labor!

    In the end, I did decide to get an epidural after four hours of intense labor (I was induced with a pretty aggressive schedule of pitocin). But I didn’t opt for the epidural because it was SO HORRIBLE, but because I was tired and I wasn’t dilating very quickly. But for the next one I plan on approaching the pain in the exact same way.

    My more-constructive advice is to not hold yourself to any crazy standards, it’s not a competition. If you’re managing the pain, great! If not, don’t let yourself feel like a failure for getting some relief. Knowing that I could say the word and ‘tap out’ of the pain is a big part of how I was able to labor unmedicated as long as I did. It was a great experience and I’m glad I tried it without the epidural, and glad I got one when I needed it.

    • I got a lot of crap from my nurse too when I was in labor with my son. She made it clear she thought I was a moron for not getting pain medication. Fortunately my husband and our doula gave me the support I needed.

      For babies #2 and #3 I walked into the hospital and announced that I was planning on an unmedicated birth, and could I please be assigned a nurse who would enjoy helping and supporting me. It was such a wonderful difference!

  9. Can I reframe the reframing? 🙂 As a mom of (almost) 4 kids, with many friends who are just now beginning their own journeys towards babies, I probably HAVE seen it all. This doesn’t mean I have all the answers, only that I can speak to my personal experience, which may or may not be true for anyone else, but has simply been *my experience*.
    Isn’t this conversation really about how to deal with unsolicited advice? One thing I’d suggest (humbly, of course), is that perhaps the “fear-mongering”, probably well-intentioned “you’ll see”ers are honestly and truthfully trying to help, out of their own experience, which may (or may not) be yours. My response? Thank my interlocutor, and tuck it away into my little arsenal of mom-tools, for the day when I can look through them again as I am faced with a monster problem. Why get offended? It just wastes good energy, which, God knows, parents need! (Or not, ya know…)

    • I disagree. Some are not well intentioned. When we had just got back from our honeymoon we had someone tell us “you’ll see, the honyemoon will be over soon and you’ll start to hate eachother. Just wait until you’re married for 15 years!”. HOW is that full of good intentions. Those comments, though it’s a fine line of good intentions and harmful ones, come from people that are unhappy with the way their lives turned out and need to bring someone else down with them.

    • You’ll seeee/fear-mongering can be quite different from unwanted advice.

      One is “Oh, you’re doing X? It’s going to turn out Y. You’ll seeeeee.”

      The other is “Oh, you’re doing X? Well, first you’re going to need to bla bla. Then you’re going to want to bla bla. And eventually, you’re going to want to Y.”

      Fear mongering is basically alluding to an inevitable, unavoidable truth.

      Unwanted advice can be fear mongering, but it can also just be a shitload of information that you may or may not want.

      For me, as frustrating as unwanted advice is, at least it’s CONSTRUCTIVE. People are sharing information. Fear mongering is almost never constructive.

  10. Ariel, I love how positive and constructive you are. It’s one of my favorite things about all of the offbeat blogs. Allow me to play along. This “you’ll see” comes courtesy of my fellow vegetarian spouse who just needed some reassurance.

    A) “It’s really hard to make sure that vegetarian kids and babies get enough nutrients. You’ll have to feed them meat at some point.”

    B) “That sounds really awesome. Have you done any research on raising vegetarian kids?” OR “People have told me that it’s too hard to give them the right nutrients. So, I really appreciate your enthusiasm. Can you give me some reassurance that we can do this?”

  11. OH thank you thank you thank you!! I am so greatful that you posted this. The “you’ll seeeeee’s” go hand in hand with the “just you wait!”s. The you’ll seeee’s drive me crazy. First it was being engaged, then the wedding, then marriage (um, we won’t fight every day, thanks though), and now that we’re trying to have a baby we are keeping it quiet to keep the you’ll seeeee’s at bay for as long as possible. When my pregnancy is public, I will be sharing this article until everyone that is guity of the you’ll seeeee’s reads it and offers constructive advice instead of fear mongering.

  12. You know what’s worse than the “you’ll see”……the “I told you so.”

  13. Thank you so much for writing this! I’m a week and a half away (hopefully) from delivering my first kiddo and this is basically my husband’s and my philosophy. These things only need to happen if you let them. Especially the toy thing!

    It seems the closer I get to my due date, the less people think I know about raising a child. The next person to tell me to sleep while I can might get slapped in the face. It’s not as if I can bank it for later, right? I get that parenting is going to be a challenge, and that I’m going to face things I didn’t anticipate. But I don’t believe that children have to run my life (well, they probably do at first).

    • Also, “sleep while you can” advice should be given pre-pregnancy, because I was waking up every two hours well before the baby was born.

  14. You know what else makes me sad about “you’ll see” comments? If it turns out they HAVE been right all along, all it does is serve to make the new parents feel even worse about something they’re struggling with. So, uh, congratulations, you get to hurt somebody’s feelings AND be smug at the same time? /sarc

    [I think this also speaks to the difference between “fear mongering” and “unsolicited advice.”]

  15. I want to add a “You’ll seeeee!” that’s not fear-mongering but joy-mongering, if you will.
    A.) “You don’t know LOVE yet. Just wait till you see and smell and kiss your baby for the first time. You’re going to be so in love! You’ll seeee!”
    This came mostly from my mom and I heard it so often that it didn’t occur to me that I would not feel that love immediately. It took me months, in fact, to scratch the surface of this prophetic deep love. Believe me, from day 1 I would’ve jumped in front of a bus to protect him but did I love him?
    B.) Maybe just saying, “You’re going to be so in love! It can take a second, a week, a month but you’re going to be so in love.” would have helped me feel less of a failure and bad mother.

    • Yes!
      I have a friend who took a good six weeks to start feeling a real deep connection with her son. And I think she only made it through because (luckily) she had read that Angelina Jolie had had the same thing. (of course, the gossip mag made out AJ was mentally unstable for daring to SAY such a thing).
      I am so grateful to have this woman as a direct example though, I know if it happens that way for me, I can get through it.
      And also, to me, this you’ll-see cheapens the bond between my husband and I, who I already love deeply. If I dont know true love now with him, why am I married to him and having his baby?

  16. I’m 58 and I’ve found it’s *so* hard to keep my mouth shut. Partly that’s because having kids was super hard but also rewarding, and I managed to avoid a number of problems other people had and really want to share.

    I love to tell my childbirth stories … mostly because I did it completely without medication. I took the Lamaze classes, twice. I found them extremely helpful. I don’t know if it’s my German birthing body (wide hips) or some combination of that and the classes, but I had my last two (I was prepared for them) in record time. The techniques I learned in the classes made a HUGE difference (compared to my first child). I felt like I was in control, I was much more relaxed, and as a result I had my second child 2 hours after arriving at the hospital and my third child only an hour after getting there. That last one really was just a tad too short … I have a funny story about being SO in labor that the nurse pointed to the room (hubby was wheeling me in a wheelchair) and when we got there, there was no bed! I laughed so hard I actually moved the labor along! O_O So I advise laughing during labor. 🙂 They barely got me into a bed and I was being wheeled to the delivery room (all the rooms for natural childbirth were full). That last kid was coming so far she was sideways and coming down sideways, but that’s where the advanced breathing techniques came in handy! They caused her to turn (it was a bizarre experience to see the baby roll over in there) and she practically shot out! Well, that was easy!

    I like to tell the funny stories. Like how the nurses were coming to look at me because I was sitting up in bed cross-legged. Damn, I was only in serious labor for an hour! I wasn’t tired at all.

    I also breast fed those kids and it was the ultimate for a lazy lady like me. No bottles, formula, sterilizing, nipples, warming — just grab the kid and you’re ready. Sure I was tied down for 9 months, but after that they were weaned and I was ready to go back to work.

    I guess I enjoyed the baby years, especially after having that first one and realizing they do a whole lot less backtalk when they’re infants! LOL. My kids didn’t sleep through the night until after they were 2. That wasn’t a lot of fun, but my kids were super healthy, big, sturdy and smart. I figured they just needed the extra food. Since I was breastfeeding, it really wasn’t all that hard.

    Raising kids was hard work. We had challenges but the funny stories vastly outweighed the bad ones.

    My advice? Take the classes, join the LaLeche League, hang out with like-minded mothers, take lots of photos (and MARK them or you’ll have to ID the kids by their clothing and how fat you are in the photo), and store up the funny stories like they are gold coins — those stories will become family favorites. The kids will cringe and wriggle when you tell the stories, but they KNOW you are proud of them and love them and think their lives are most excellent conversation. My kids have learned to be tolerant of the stories (I tell them every chance I get).

    Remember the time … Michelle fell out the 2nd floor window onto the porch roof … Aaron tried to make a sharp turn on his Big Wheel into the park and slammed into the wall — had a black eye for a week … Jessie put a hole in dad’s head with a Tonka truck when she was 9 months old … Chris rolled a tire down the street and it wedged under that mean guy’s van? etc. etc. etc. 🙂

  17. so many times i have thought oh my how would i ever get throught that if that happened to me. the truth is you just do it. i didnt think about the projectile vomit all over me at the reseraunt i just got p and asked for rags and started cleaning up. sorry for the lack of punctuation and capitalizing something is wrong with my phone keyboard

  18. Funnily enough, I’ve been the one doing most of the “I told you so”s with my pregnancy…mostly to my oncologist, who kept warning me my fertility might not come back for over a year (two months!) and it might take over a year to get pregnant (two months again!). ^_^ Haven’t had any “you’ll seeeee”s yet, since my mastectomy&reconstruction left me super flat and nobody can tell, but I have my salt shaker prepared for lots of horror stories. I’m also trollishly looking forward to the lactation fanatics. “Oh, I’d just LOVE to breastfeed! Can you help me regrow my milk ducts?”

    I really hope when the advice comes that it’s *advice* and not scare tactics.

  19. Great post. The one I heard over and over again was that my boy would turn anything and everything into a gun or sword without every having seen one before. Not true. It’s never been true. The first time he saw a play sword he was 7. The boy with whom he was playing turned to the other kids and said, “Um…I don’t think he quite understands the concept.” He didn’t. He does now but still never pretends to turn anything into a gun or sword. He just has no interest… probably because they don’t have engines. Perhaps people might have said, “If your son ever gets into weaponry and wants a playmate, c’mon over. X will play with him.”

  20. Here’s the other side of the coin, and what I think elicits a lot of these “you’ll see” type comments. Many people state their preferences and plans for parenthood in an arrogant, judgmental way. “Of course *I’m* going to breastfeed exclusively for a year” or “I’m doing the Bradley Method – haven’t you watched xyz documentary on the evils of the medical establishment?” And there is an implication that if you couldn’t or didn’t do it the way they plan to, you are at best ignorant and at worst a monster. This carries over into competitive mom mommying, of course. So for those of us whose lives were saved by medical intervention, or who couldn’t breastfeed, etc, and still feel residual guilt about it? It’s galling and painful and tends to make you defensive. And instead of launching into a tirade, there may be a bitter “you’ll see.” Is it the best way to handle this conversation? Definitely not, but I propose that there is usually bad behavior on both sides. There is so much judging of other people’s choices around parenting. Let’s just all. Ey to stop doing that on both sides. There is no call for shaming or gloating or finger-pointing from anyone. Parenting is hard enough on its own wiout all this.

    • Absolutely!
      I know (currently PG), that I try to couch my intentions in modest terms: “We are aiming for xyz” and “I’m going to try abc”.
      Unfortunately, I still get hassled, as some people think that I am selling myself short. Not many thankfully – the most wonderful conversation I had about breastfeeding was with a friend who was still actively doing it: I told her I would try, but that I had active limits as to how far I would push myself. Thankfully, she backed me 100% and offered to help in any way she could.

      Also, saying “I’m aiming to do” means you aren’t judging how anyone else has done it – even if inside you are!

  21. i think i’ve read this thread 400 times since it was first posted and have found it extremely helpful every time. thank you for the article and all the awesome comments.

  22. Thank you for this! My husband and I are about to start trying for kids and I’m currently experiencing some anxiety over all of the fear-mongering. I feel so much better after hearing your stories about how you had the power to make a conscious decision to do things such as maintaining your independence. I know that I will love my kid/s to pieces but I’m also pretty adamant that I do not want to lose either my independence nor make my relationship with my husband revolve solely around our child or children.

  23. I can sooo much relate to this post. I’m currently freshly engaged, kicking off wedding planning. Also at work I’m the youngest in the middle of the office full of 30somethings, mostly women, all of them having preschoolers or toddlers at home… I get ‘you’ll see’ every single day. Dare I disagree or present a different view at my future family life – all hell breaks loose! Apparently not having husband/child of my own makes me a lesser human being without a right to at least aspire to try to live my life my own way. It is all coming from the basic fear that they themselves are failing. Most important thing is remember that nobody else is walking in your shoes. Do not judge yourself by anyone else’s standards. Be comfortable with who you are without seeking validation elsewhere.

  24. I love this so much, as someone trying to get pregnant, but already have a baby who happens to be a fuzzy puppy, I love to hear that you didn’t feel any differently towards your dog. She’s snuggled up to me at the moment, and I can’t deal with the thought of not loving her to pieces.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.