Raising a child is not as easy as you may think. No matter how many books, parenting forums, and Dr Sears articles you read, nothing can completely prepare you for becoming a parent.
Below are some of the things you need to be aware of before getting into parenthood.
1) Making a Baby is Not Easy as it is Thought
Some people are able to reproduce as easily as bunnies, but for others, that’s not always the case. Before I got pregnant, I naively thought that whenever I would want to have a child, my husband and I would just have sex every day for a month and bam, that would be it. The human body doesn’t really work that way.
So if you’re thinking of having a child someday and want to plan the pregnancy for a certain time period, consider giving yourself some extra time and try not to stress out about the whole thing.
A great book on this subject is Taking Charge of Your Fertility. (It’s also awesome even if you’re not thinking of getting pregnant but just want to know more about the female body.)
2) The First Few Months Are Pure Torture
I sometimes think babies’ cries are so grating, their sleep so erratic, and breastfeeding so painful just to harden up parents. If you can survive the first few months of Baby Boot Camp without losing your mind, you can survive anything—you’re like a superhero. Because, really, the first few months are hell if you enjoy sleeping, showering, and functioning well.
Others told me it was hard. But it’s impossible to truly convey just what it’s like to wake up at night every two hours for several months. Or try to calm a baby who’s screaming inconsolably.
Or deal with your body now being three sizes bigger than it used to be (graciously, this happens to dads as well as moms). Or struggle with not feeling like yourself for not just months but maybe even years.
The other thing to know, though, is that as bad as it gets, you’ll get through it. (Just don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you suffer from post-partum depression.)
There are blissful, amazing moments during that period too, and, after enough time passes, you might even think back wistfully on this period and even be crazy enough to go through that torture again.
3) You Will Lose and Sorely Miss Sleep
Even past the infant and toddler stages, you might have sleep issues. Middle-of-the-night nightmares, kids sleeping between you and your significant other, difficulty getting them up in time for school, and so on.
I think it gets better (my daughter is seven and still climbs into our bed at night). I’ve asked fellow Lifehacker editor and parent Walter Glenn for reassurance, but he’s keeping awfully mum on the subject.
A word to the wise: Don’t start a sleep or nighttime habit (like letting your kid into your bed in the middle of the night) you don’t want to continue until your child is in college.
4) Children Come With a Lot of Surprise Cost
There is one thing you will need a lot of in the first few years: Diapers. A whole lot of diapers. You know that already, but you’re probably still underestimating how many diapers you’ll end up buying (or washing, if you go the cloth route).
5) You Can Work From Home But Only Up to a Point
There are two periods of your children’s lives when working from home with them is a breeze: Before they’re walking (e.g., when they can entertain themselves by discovering their toes) and after they’re old enough to understand that when you’re working from home, you’re really not available.
If your kid is good at entertaining him/herself, working from home is easy, but it might still give you pangs of guilt when your attention is divided. It’s hard for parents to say “No, I’m busy now” several times a day.
So even if you’re lucky enough to get to work from home, you should plan on getting childcare help once your child is old enough to demand your complete and undivided attention.