Perhaps like me you have wished, imagined and dreamed about becoming a parent ever since you were young. And then your dreams come true! You get married and have that first little bundle of joy which you have been thinking about for so long… but you may just find that the whole experience of becoming a parent doesn’t turn out quite as you expected! Here are a few of the things I wished I had known before becoming a parent:
1. Parenthood starts with pregnancy
Once you find out that you are pregnant everything starts to change. Not only does your body suddenly begin to “do its own thing” but your thinking is now suddenly no longer about us-two but about us-as-a-family. The pregnancy itself can be quite a rough ride, from morning/all day sickness, to leg cramps and indigestion…. But it helps if you are expecting these things and you know that it is normal.
2. The first few months can be terrifying
Nothing can prepare you for that first moment when you see your precious little baby and you realize – this is my child! And then you find yourself back at home with this tiny little person who is now taking over your whole life in every way. Just the slightest movement or sound and you are on full alert. And when all is quiet you still check that the breathing is normal. The onslaught of emotions can be overwhelming – both positive and negative. If I had known how normal it was to feel so “abnormal” I might have been able to relax a bit more and enjoy the ride.
3. Sleep becomes a rare commodity
After becoming a parent you probably realise for the first time how much you have taken a peaceful sleep for granted. Between breast feeding or bottle feeding and changing diapers, you are lucky if you get two hours of uninterrupted sleep. You may just find that your entire sleep pattern is changed forever – from being one of the “night owl” types, you may become a “sleep whenever you can” type. A good tip is to sleep when baby is sleeping, even during the day, especially in those first few months.
4. Cut back on the baby clothes and toys
Before the baby arrives and you are getting the nursery ready and preparing everything, the tendency is to think you are going to need loads of stuff. In reality, baby will grow so quickly that some of those cute little outfits are only worn once or twice before they are too small. And as for all the toys, you may discover that your baby becomes fascinated by some random household object and completely ignores all the fancy and expensive toys you have bought or been gifted.
5. There are hidden costs
Having said that, you may also find that there are a lot of hidden costs to parenting which you had not anticipated. You can never underestimate the number of diapers you are going to need. Disposable rather than cloth is highly recommended but of course more costly. And then there is babysitting or daycare if you intend going back to the workplace. Over the years as baby grows so do the expenses which may come as a surprise at times.
6. Working from home may or may not work
You may find that your “dream job” working from home becomes a bit of a nightmare with a little one demanding your attention. Depending on what kind of work you do, it may be necessary to get some childcare help for a few hours per day.
7. Don’t worry if you don’t have a textbook child
It’s quite easy to become stressed when reading all the textbooks, especially with regard to developmental milestones. If your child is not sitting up, crawling, walking and talking according to the “normal” schedule, try to remember that every baby is unique and will develop in their own good time and way. Parenting forums and groups can be reassuring as you share your experiences with others and discover that they also have similar struggles and joys.
8. Have fun with the photos
Whatever you do, don’t forget to take lots of photos of precious moments with your little one. If I had known how quickly the months and years would pass, I would probably have taken more pictures and videos, as those years can never be recreated or relived.
9. Going out will become a major undertaking
One of the effects of becoming a parent is that you find you can no longer grab your keys and make a quick trip to the shops. With a little one in tow, careful planning is essential, as you pack your big baby bag with all the things you might need from wipes to diapers to bottles and more.
10. Your life will be changed forever
Of all the ten things I wish I had known before becoming a parent, perhaps the overarching one is that my life would be changed forever. Although this article may have mentioned mostly the difficult and challenging aspects of parenthood, let it be said that loving and raising a child is by far one of the most rewarding things in the world. As someone has wisely said, having a child is like having your heart forever walking around outside your body.