There are a lot of things that we don’t quite understand before we become parents. It’s through our own experience that we learn to appreciate old gems of wisdom – it’s really something you have to go through to fully understand, and each parent will have some uniquely interesting and bizarre moments to share. It’s no use trying to explain it to your friends who haven’t yet made the final leap of faith, but the more experienced parents will just smile knowingly and nod when you tell them about your little joys and your worries. Here are some of the things that only new parents will truly understand.
1. You never knew such a strange mixture of fear and joy was even possible
Our bodies can be washed over by tons of different chemicals, which cause a wide plethora of emotions that can greatly vary in intensity and the effects they have on our psyche. In specific circumstances you can get some potent mixtures of incredibly strong emotions, and being a parent for the first time is one hell of an emotional grenade. You feel worried and scared, but at the same time overjoyed and protective, and you are lost for words when it comes to describing how you feel.
2. You might have thought that you were a night owl, but now you know better
A lot of people these days tend to be more active at night, especially those in their twenties. Most of us will happily identify with the night owl status, but once the little bundle of joy comes into your life, and you have to get up several times a night, it becomes apparent that our bodies weren’t built to function on a mere 3-5 hours of sleep for any extended period of time. You’ll become clumsy, forgetful and your mind will struggle with even the most basic problem-solving tasks – essentially, you turn into a giant toddler.
3. You are fairly stressed out and edgy most of the time
Yes, having a baby is a magical experience, but it is also quite physically and mentally taxing, particularly during the first few months when you are still getting a hang of it. Lack of sleep, coupled with the extra stress of caring for the baby, while balancing your work and other obligations, can have many adverse effects on your health, but the biggest problem is that both partners will tend to be highly irritable. Having a very short fuse might get you into some unpleasant situations, but things get easier once you learn how to function better under stress.
4. You buy them tons of clothes, but they just keep outgrowing them
Who doesn’t like shopping? Buying new stuff just makes us feel happy, and it’s a good excuse to leave the house and stretch your legs. However, you’ll want to buy tons of cool baby clothes at first, only to realize that the little guy will outgrow them within weeks. This teaches you to start thinking about the future, and it’s from then on out that you start buying your kids clothes that they will grow into.
5. You have to go over an extensive checklist before leaving the house
The simple act of grabbing your wallet, keys and jacket, and running out of the house quickly turns into a drawn out session of strategic planning once you have a baby. You need the diapers, some spare clothes in case the baby gets all messy, the bag with all the different creams and ointments, baby food, the pacifier; and the list goes on.
6. You are much more patient with your parents, as you need all the help you can get
It used to be that you would shut down any of your parent’s attempts at running your life for you or nagging you about an issue, but then the tides turn. You need their help if you want to have even a smidgen of free time, so you learn to zone out and let them talk. Some of the baby-related advice actually comes in handy, if you can survive all the critique they are more than willing to dish out.
7. You become a health and safety fanatic
Even if you were once the five-second-rule-type, you will become a stickler for hygiene. Everything needs to be properly washed and disinfected, and the whole house thoroughly baby-proofed. You don’t want to risk the baby getting ill or hurt, even it if it means becoming annoyingly careful about everything.
8. You suddenly start referring to each other as mommy and daddy
Most couples go through a few cutesy-wootsy nicknames for each other, from simple ones like honey or baby to nauseatingly loving ones like hunny bear or cuddle cakes, but nothing even comes close to calling each other mommy and daddy. It kind of kills the sexual tension, but it makes you feel all mature and responsible.
9. You have to choose between sex and sleep in those precious few quiet moments
Apart from the lucky few whose babies start sleeping through most of the night early on, parents tend to have a real problem with finding a few moments of peace and quiet. Being that you will both be exhausted and cranky, you’ll often find yourselves pondering whether to give sex a shot or to just slam your faces into the pillows and get some rest.
10. You often end up trapped underneath a sleeping baby
Babies are incredibly sweet, but when they get sleepy they are just the cutest things in the world. This is why parents like to spend some of their time holding their baby on their chest and letting them fall asleep. However, this is a double-edged sword, as you’ll lose a perfectly good opportunity to get other things done and might even have to hold you pee in for a couple of hours because you don’t want to wake the baby up.
11. You get into a strange battle to get the baby say “mommy” or “daddy” first
When it comes to first words, there is always a sort of competition going on behind the scenes between mommy and daddy, over who the baby will call out to first. You’ll find yourself trying to get the baby to say daddy for several minutes while mommy is in the bathroom, and she will do the same as soon as you go to get some more diapers. Same-sex couples don’t have to worry about this one, but there is still a chance that the baby might go with “nana” if there is a persistent grandma around the house.
12. You sometimes miss a major milestone like first words or first steps and it drives you crazy
Let’s face it, you can’t be around the baby all the time, because of work and other social obligations. Even if you are the dedicated stay-at-home parent, there will be times when you leave the baby with someone else to go get groceries or to have a relaxing bath, and you just might miss an important milestone in the baby’s life. The fact that your partner was there for the baby’s first smile or first words might drive you a little crazy at first, but you quickly realize that there are a whole lot of “firsts” that you can look forward to.
13. You keep looking for any hint of meaning when your baby lets out a sound
It takes the average baby a while to get the hang of this whole language business, and to utter his or her first actual words. From about month four, you’ll be trying hard to find any semblance of coherent speech every time the baby starts babbling – “Oh my God, did she just say onomatopoeia? Quick, call Mensa”.
14. You become weary of people offering unsolicited parenting advice
While you may be used to going over all kinds of topics with your close friends, as you’ve been through both the good and the bad together over the years, as soon as the topic of raising a child comes up, you will start cutting off anyone who doesn’t have a child and still wants to offer you some advice. ”Yes, I have access to the same internet as you do, so stop quoting studies at me. We’ll talk when you’ve got a kid of your own” – you’ll think to yourself while listening to someone, before politely changing the subject.
15. You need to give your friends time to adjust to the fact that you are a parent now
It can be difficult for friends, particularly single ones, to get used to the fact that you are a parent now. They simply won’t know how to approach you. Some will keep calling you to go out drinking, while others might consciously exclude you from social activities thinking that you will be too busy.
You have to be open with your friends and discuss just how having a child will affect your friendship – yes, there will be less drunken binges and you won’t always be available, but every now and then you’ll want to spend a lazy afternoon reminiscing about old times over a few drinks. Oh, and when you have them over, they’ll have to hold the baby and play with it while you spend a suspiciously long amount of time making coffee.
When it comes to parenting, there is a lot of little details that you won’t find in any book or hear from other parents, simply because there are too many variables involved and everyone’s situation will be a bit different. These are just some of the perks and struggles of being a new parent, and I’m sure everyone reading will have a thing or two to add to the list.