“Having a child is the most rewarding experience of your life. ”
That statement is guaranteed to immediately divide the room. On one side, there are the people nodding emphatically — some of them with wry expressions of joy mingled with exhaustion, others with the sagely peace of people whose children have grown up and left home — and on the other side are the people who don’t have children, looking either bored or sceptical.
Before my children were born, I was one of those bored, cynical people. I listened to people talk about motherhood and, I’m ashamed to admit, often thought they were a little soft in the head. “My daughter is amazing. She only sleeps for two hours at a time and she spits up constantly, but when she looks at me and smiles, my heart just melts.”
Really? This baby stops you sleeping and vomits on you, and you think that’s good? You’re clearly insane. Besides, I’ve had plenty of rewarding experiences in my life. I’ve travelled, I’ve had a job that I love, I’ve had pets who depend on me and love me unconditionally. How much different can a child possibly be?
All the parents in the room can stop sniggering now.
The fact is that having a child changes your life, your mindset, your priorities, and (in the case of a child-bearing and/or breastfeeding mother) even your physiology. When my first son was born and placed on my chest, he opened his eyes and looked into mine. In that moment, it wasn’t just my life that was changed — it was me. I distinctly remember leaving the hospital three days later, baby in my arms, and looking at the road I had to cross to get to the car park. “How am I going to get over there?” I thought to myself. “How can I possibly cross the road, dodging these terrifying projectiles hurtling past me at extreme speeds? Why have I never noticed before how dangerous the world truly is?”
But enough of that. There was no way that anyone could have explained those feelings to me before my boys were born, no matter how eloquent they were. The thing is, that feeling is what so many people focus on when they talk about parenthood. They talk about the feelings that come with holding your newborn, or the way the world changes, or the way the hard stuff fades into insignificance in comparison to the good stuff. (I’m also guilty of doing this.)
But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
You see, while the good stuff is amazing, that doesn’t mean you don’t feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and generally unprepared for all the hard stuff. People will tell you that there’s no way to truly prepare yourself for the way your life will change. But I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong.
I give you: Five Ways to Prepare for Parenthood
- Find an alarm clock. Set the alarm to go off every two and a half hours, day and night. Every time the alarm goes off, immediately stop whatever you’re doing, jump to your feet, and spend five minutes running backwards and forwards around the house — really get that adrenalin flowing. Then return to what you were doing, and try to pretend there was no interruption. Do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next three years. If you intend to have more than one child, add an extra two years per child.
- Every time you cook yourself a meal, leave it sitting on the table untouched until it’s cold. For bonus preparation points, forget about it entirely and find it still sitting there the following day, then eat it rather than cook something fresh.
- Ask a friend to spray you with a mix of sour milk and water at random, unexpected intervals throughout the day. Don’t wash or change your clothes afterwards.
- Fixate on poo. Spend your free time reading about it, looking at pictures of it, and discussing what it means when poo is different colours or consistencies. Insert at least one statement about poo into every conversation you have.
- Find the most annoying noise in world. (I would suggest either a baby crying or a toddler whining?) Play this sound for sixteen hours of every day. At high volume. For bonus preparation points, have the sound start and stop at random, uncontrollable intervals throughout the day and night. Continue this for two years and then change from crying/whingeing to children’s music.
Do any other parents have preparation tips they’d like to share?