If you find yourself wondering whether your baby will have straight or curly hair, what personality your child will have, or what kind of mom or dad you will be, it means you are well on your way to parenthood.
Researchers have identified several stages of parenting, beginning in pregnancy. The imaginings people have about themselves as parents and their babies are part of the very first stage, called “image-making.” And that’s exactly what parents do during pregnancy: create images of what life might be like once their baby is born.
What Will Your Baby Be Like?
Many expectant parents spend time thinking about who their baby will be once he or she arrives. Will he look like Dad, Uncle Joe, or someone else entirely? Will she have curly hair like Mom, or straight hair like Grandma? Will she have her brother’s habit of waking three times a night, or will she be a good sleeper? These are fun things to think about and imagine. It turns out that these thoughts are also a big part of preparing for parenthood. When you visualize various possibilities, you are beginning the process of connecting with your baby.
What Kind of Parent Will You Be?
It’s common for first-time parents to consider what kind of parents they want be and to imagine all the changes that will arrive along with baby. Couples may wonder how they will maintain their relationship and find time to connect. They might be thinking about how their social lives will change when baby arrives—fewer late nights out, for example! Parents sometimes also find themselves thinking back to their childhoods. You might think about traditions, routines, or parenting practices you enjoyed as a child and want to continue with your baby. You may also have decided that, in some or many areas, you want to be a different kind of parent than your own parents were. These are important things to consider so that you can give your baby strong roots—passing on the best of your family’s past as well as a future that you build together. By considering what kind of mom or dad you want to be, you are doing the important work of starting to find your own parenting style.
When Images Meet Reality
Imagining what baby may be like is a good way to bond before birth. But once baby arrives, it’s important to stay flexible. You may have been so sure that your baby would be easygoing, because his older sister is so intense, but—you may find yourselves parents to a second intense baby. Each child is born with a unique temperament and way of experiencing and exploring the world. A parent’s job is to be open to learning about and getting know whoever this baby turns out to be. What young children need most to grow and thrive is the knowledge they are loved unconditionally—and only you can provide that. So, be prepared to set aside the imagined baby and get ready to meet the real one, because it’s likely—almost guaranteed—that your baby will surprise you!
Galinsky, E. (1981). Between generations: The six stages of parenthood. New York, NY: Berkley Books.