There are, ooh, about a billion things you need to know before you become a parent. You need to know things about baby care, about diapers, breastfeeding and colic. This is not a list of those things.
These are the 6 life lessons to learn before you decide to produce offspring. They’ll all benefit you as a parent, but they’ll make you a better human, too.
1. Control is an Illusion
You might like to think you and your partner will be the ideal parents: wise, firm, yet gentle. That assumes you get a choice in what’s going on! Before you have children, come to terms with the fact that you can’t control them. You can’t decide when they’ll be born, when they’ll poop, or when they’ll ask for their first motorcycle. (My daughter was 2. Your mileage may vary.)
The zen of parenting comes from acceptance. There will be mess. There will be tantrums. There will be accidents and tears. There will also be moments of bliss and a lifetime of pride in your offspring. Let go and enjoy them, because nothing else is more important for your family.
2. Memories Matter
Before becoming a parent, your life’s full of events you want to remember. Deep conversations, fun days out, romantic nights in and those moments when you feel on top of the world. Start creating a support system for those happy memories to stick with you by keeping scrapbooks, photo albums, or journals of your favourite moments. Take the time now to create even more good memories with your friends and your partner before you start a family.
Once you’ve got kids, you’ll sometimes feel so scattered you need a list of instructions just to get out of bed and make breakfast. If you keep records of what needs doing, as well as of what you’ve done, that’ll make life a lot easier on those days too.
3. Get Over Your Fantasies
Being a parent is a very long term commitment. Once you’ve started, you can never stop. So let’s make sure you’re living in the real world when you decide to go ahead and make babies! There are some popular fantasies about parenthood that, frankly, will bite you in the rear end if you fall into their trap. The most dangerous are:
- “Becoming a parent is a fresh start.” Nope, it just takes the life you already have and puts a baby into it. Any fresh starts are entirely your own responsibility.
- “Becoming a parent is my legacy.” Nope, being you is your legacy. Being a parent simply means you’ve added another person to the world. What they do next is your child’s legacy, and they may not want to build on yours, so don’t pin your hopes on feeling fulfilled in life just because you’ve got kids.
4. Sleep is Sacred
Babies feed every 2 to 3 hours. All day, all night. Your opportunity for sleep once you’re a parent will be limited, possibly for years, so if you’ve got any existing sleep problems, work on them now while you still can.
Once your baby’s born, people will suggest that you “sleep when the baby sleeps”. They say this because they don’t realise (or have forgotten) that when the baby sleeps is the only time you get all day to do anything else. For future reference, there’s only one sane response to this: ask them if they’d mind keeping an eye on the baby for you while you take a bath, grab something to eat and do all the other stuff you need to do before you can sleep.
5. Nothing is Normal
Especially after you have kids. Beforehand, you might worry about things like this:
- “Is our relationship normal?”
- “Am I normal?”
- “Do I want to be normal?”
But trust me, once you’ve got a tiny human to take care of and a thousand different people telling you to do that in different ways, you’ll be thinking more like this:
- “Is crawling backwards normal at this age?”
- “Is worrying about developmental milestones normal?”
- “Oh dear, is eating spiders normal?”
Get your head straight. Life isn’t meant to be normal, and neither are people. Instead, ask yourself, “Am I happy with this?” If you are, then your job done.
6. Do Less, Be More
Parents aren’t meant to be perfect. They’re meant to be present. Every time you stress over the little problems of parenthood like laundry or mealtimes, you deprive yourself of a chance to be fully present in the moment with your child.
Relax your standards, even just a little, and your life will be richer for it. Most parents set themselves impossibly high expectations and waste time worrying about their perceived failure. You know better, so enjoy every moment and do the laundry later!