10 Things To Know Before You Become A Parent
Hello from the other side. The other side of parenthood that is. Seven years ago I went from the pregnant side to the parent side. There were so many things flung in our direction, it took time to process it all…except for one thing- there really wasn’t any time to actually process it. Mostly we were reactive. Before entering this land of Mother-dom, I was totally clueless. As a result of my cluelessness, I feel the need to give some helpful hints to my fellow clueless kin. Hopefully this will somewhat ease your transition…
Childcare is the same cost as a mortgage. People often say, “Make sure you save for college.” But what they should really tell you is, “take your wedding gift money and sock it away for daycare!” Everyone pretty much dies the first time they get a quote from a daycare center. It feels much like walking onto a car lot and facing sticker shock with not only disbelief, but a feeling of how will we find this extra money? You will assume you and your spouse have just picked the most expensive place and surely the second or third place you call will be hundreds less a week. After you’ve called the fifth place, reality will set in and suddenly you will realize that saving for your child’s college is a hilarious joke, just not that hilarious. On the bright side, the costs for childcare lightens up once they get to elementary school. In all realness you can start saving for college when they are 5. This is of course unless you decide to have more than one child or own a home simultaneously. Good news! There’s always the lottery though!
You’ll be wiping butts long after they’re potty trained. Both of my kids potty trained surprisingly fast. I say surprisingly because word on the street is that boys take longer than girls in this department. That said once they are trained, depending on the pre-schools they attend and laws for safety, staff really can’t help them out if you know what I mean. This means rash city. It also means you have to check frequently after they go to make sure it’s not a mess. This can go on for a few years after they are potty trained. My advice is to always have wet wipes and butt cream around. We should all buy stock in wet wipes-for real.
If you breastfeed, ask a friend to show you how to use the breast pump before you have your baby. For some of you this may seem like a bashful deed. Truly though if you’re a woman, odds are you have breasts and your friend who has bared it all in the name of birth will gladly show you how to use a pump. Imagine no one showing you and you are in dire straits with your milk situation-literally busting at the seams in pain and hard milk blockages the size of candy bars just dying to be set free. You go to grab your pump and oh CRAP! How does it stay on? You think to yourself –I thought this thing was supposed to be hands-free but the only way to use it is to hold it with both hands. This is even more confusing because how do you press the on/off button and increase/decrease suction when both hands are holding up the pump? This, my friends, is why it pays to have a friend show you how to work the breast pump before you have your baby. There are special pumping bras you have to buy that HOLD the pump onto your chest. This is what actually allows the thing to be “hands free”. Yes! So add those very important bras to your registry too. For the women that are over producers of milk (ie: engorged often, unleashing a fire hose on your nursing baby, prone to clots and/or clogged ducts) the pump will truly be your best friend.
Pre-schools, child care centers, and even in home day cares have waiting lists. You should call to reserve a spot about a year in advance if you can. I called 21 pre-schools across 3 different nearby towns to try to find ones that were open Monday through Friday and that offered full time hours from 8-5:30. Out of those 21 there were 5 that did in the 3 towns that I called. One asked me when my baby was due. My baby was already a 2 year old! The other 4 were good options but 2 of the 4 closed at 5:30 which was tight and of the remaining 2, one was out of our budget. This left 1 option and thankfully, we were very happy with it. We were completely naive to this! So as a fellow member of the Mom Club, I am letting you know to start your search while pregnant about six months in advance and for pre-school one year to a year and a half in prior. It will save you so much stress.
You will learn to get ready in under 10 minutes. This is a good thing. Are you one of those people that preens for a long time before heading out? After you have a child, it’s all about respecting their nap and feeding schedule. This means when there is a window of opportunity to get an errand done, you have to get out of the house as fast as possible. This may mean taking a shower or brushing your teeth is suddenly optional. And as for make up…honestly…nothing some eyeliner and lip gloss can’t solve. Better yet…giant sunglasses and a hat. No one really needs much more than that in my opinion. If someone is judging the way you look as a new mom, they are not even worth your time! Cut them loose.
Grandma’s house needs to be baby proofed too. People’s homes with little trinkets of décor on tables and counter tops are death traps for your child. Can’t wait to go to over the river and through the woods right? Those adorable, little, glittery doo-dads on the coffee table are a needle to the throat of your babe. How about those decorative marbles that go in the base of a floating candle votive? Choking hazard 101. For us, both our moms are really into getting festive in their cute abodes and both have lots of chatzkes. Who doesn’t love going to Grandma’s? It’s just not when it’s an obstacle course of death for your busy tot. Prep yourself for the conversation if you already feel nervous about making the request. Or just prepare to get the exercise of your life helicoptering the crap out of your child while at your parent’s digs. We pretty much sweated it out every time while our parents repeatedly said, “Oh, it’ll be fine. Relax. Pour the wine.” Um, OK Mom. Sure.
Restaurants are not your friend. Unless you have perfect angels or maybe a little girl that sits still and colors., restaurants are the devil’s work. I know that these unicorn children exist somewhere, and these parents are lucky bastards. We have two boys and to this day, restaurants are tough. They can sit still for about 10 minutes tops. If you love a Mexican scrambled omelet like myself and delicious pancakes, then you might dare to try and adventure out. We have found diners are the best-you’re in and out and there are crayons for the in-between. You may get indigestion from eating so fast though…just sayin’. Bottom line: sometimes mamma needs her Mexican scrambled omelet!
You forget what life was like before kids. It’s hard to imagine you were once eating a crepe together in St. Germain de Pres, or in a movie theater binging on buttery popcorn and slurping a soda the size of your head in no rush to go anywhere next. Perhaps you once took your sweet time getting ready to go to that Bush concert hoping Gavin Rossdale might take notice of you and not the other 10,000 screaming girls, but I digress. It is the busiest you will ever be so things feel a little nutty a lot of the time, this is when you forget what it was like not to be this busy. But you got this. You will become a rock star at it. Even if you’re half-assing it: you’re a rock star in my book. It’s hard work trying to raise good people while also trying to keep them from death.
You change instantly. You are no longer the old you the moment that babe is placed into your arms. This will make you view every other person in the world differently as well. You’ll start asking your friends, colleagues, and random children if they’ve had enough to eat today, how they’re feeling, and if they’re OK. Suddenly your concern for others is magnified. Ever heard of the term “She mommed me?” That’s what I’m referring to. You just have a whole lot more concern for others. You are no longer the center of your own universe. Motherhood equals selflessness. It’s a natural occurrence for you to want to love, protect, and give all of yourself to this being. And for some of us, other changes happen that aren’t always glorious and happy. Some women face post-partum depression, breastfeeding issues, sadness around losing your identity as you know it, anxiety about being a good mom, and sleep deprivation that causes you and your spouse to really dislike one another for a moment or two or three. THIS is parenthood. It’s messy and beautiful all at once and I am a firm believer in change being a good thing. When you become a parent- you change. End of story.
During the first three years of parenthood you’ll fight with your spouse (probably a lot) and that’s NORMAL. Don’t beat yourself up if you and your husband seem to be making up more than anything. You’re both new to the world of being a parent; you are on little sleep, little food sometimes, and low energy. In fact you’ve both given all your energy to the baby, your jobs, your pets, and then what inevitably ends up getting pushed aside is your couple time. As the mother, I’m guessing you want spend any free second you have sleeping, taking a hot shower, trotting down the aisles of Target, or indulging in the latest Netflix series. You want to do anything to give your body a break from being a food source (baby), an emotional source (baby), and a mental source (baby & work), while ignoring the clock to the best of your ability since you know it’s ticking down to the next time you have to feed the babe. Meanwhile your husband wants to do…other stuff… wink wink. I don’t have the magic solution to this timeless tale, but all I can say is try hard to communicate. It’s freaking hard work all around and it will feel really difficult sometimes- but don’t give up. The 0-3 years phase is the trickiest and once you get over that hump, you’ll feel like you won the war together. It’s incredibly rewarding.
So there you go. Do you feel informed? Hopefully this helped you to glean some insight on one topic or another that you hadn’t thought of yet during your pregnancy. It takes a village not only to help with baby but to help guide Mom and Dad too. Cheers to the next phase of learning and whatever shenanigans it brings.