Can you remember the time before you became a parent? Before Baby came into your life and changed it irrevocably, forever? What would you tell the you then, about parenting now?
If only I could turn back time… back to the days BEFORE I became a parent. Then I would make sure that I had all the information I needed in order to embrace parenthood in all its beauty, splendour and craziness. Here are 15 things I wish I knew before welcoming my babies.
1) Say R.I.P. to Rest
Rest will be a thing of the past, at least for the first couple of months. I recall the first few weeks was like a never-ending frenzy of feeding the baby, fretting (over breastmilk no-enough: see 10 ways to boost your breast milk supply), and trying to get Baby to sleep. Even when the baby is sleeping well, a mother’s mind often gets no rest from thinking about the million and one things that need to be done.
2) This, Too, Shall Pass
Things will get better, but don’t expect a linear progression. Things usually turn once your baby settles into a routine and everyone in the family adjusts to the new normal. But due to each child’s developmental stages, some weeks/months will be harder than others. For example, after having peaceful nights for two months, baby’s sleep may turn haywire again. Don’t start thinking something is wrong, it’s pretty normal for the first one to two years to go up and down like a ping-pong ball.
3) Me-time Equals Pee-time
Forget about curling with a book on the sofa, or going for a relaxing brunch with the girls, at least for the first six months. “Me-time” now means being able to have two minutes on the throne in private. And take my word for it, even that is a real luxury.
4) There IS a Reset Button
It usually happens at night. No matter how bad the day may have gone, a smile and a gurgle from your baby will help put everything back to normal again. Which is why you’ll enjoy gazing at your child as he/she sleeps. (Even if you’re so tired, you only manage to gaze for a minute before crashing yourself.)
5) Unwanted Advice WILL come from Everywhere
An unlimited number of unasked for advice will be flung at you from every corner of the earth. From number of naps to diaper brand to choice of kindergarten, you will be at the receiving end of endless parental advice. But relax, most of it is harmless and you don’t need to take them seriously. Just smile, and nod a ‘thank you’, and keep your inner zen in check.
6) The Queue starts Here
You have to start “pre-registering” for that popular kindergarten or child care centre from the day your baby pops out, pretty much. Sounds crazy I know, but there are a handful of such popular kindergartens or childcare centres around, so if you’re aiming for those, you can start making enquiries now.
7) Show Me the Money, Baby
Childcare costs will cost you an arm and a leg. It is the one of the most big-ticket expense in raising children, ranking beside enrichment expenses, and tertiary education. So start saving up now or looking for alternative forms of care.
(See also: Save $4,500 in Baby’s First Year)
8) Kiss Date-nights Goodbye
“Date-night” now takes on a very different form, usually comprising a trip to the supermarket to get more baby wipes and if you’re lucky, some quick gulps from a tub of chocolate ice-cream just before the baby’s next feed.
9) Work and Baby will ever Divide you
I remember when it was nearing the end of my maternity leave thinking I can’t wait to get back to work to utilise my brains again. Then once I was back at work, I missed the baby so much I started contemplating a part-time work arrangement. Yes… the irony. Just remember this: There is no perfect balance, only the one you are able to forge for yourself.
(See also: The Best Time for Mums to Get Back To Work)
10) Everyone loses it, You’re Not Alone
You will lose it on some days, and that’s okay. Everyone hits the roof once in a while, and don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you they never lose their cool. You’re on a steep learning curve so cut yourself some slack; pick up some stress management techniques, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from loved ones. Focus on getting better over time.
11) Children Grow at their Own Pace, Compare if you Dare
After having three kids of my own, I can safely say each child grows at his own pace, from learning to speak to walking to throwing a ball. It’s like they have their own unique internal clock. Comparing them to other kids doesn’t do any good and is likely to stir up anxiety.
12) Let it go, Swallow Pride, and be Grateful for Help
When you have baby-sitting help in the form of a grandparent or nanny, don’t be a control freak. Just ENJOY it and be grateful. I remember giving my mum a run-down of all my rules and routines before I went back to work. She tried to follow them, but in the end, went by her own instincts on certain things. So trust me when I say, you need to let it go, and by that, I mean NOW.
13) What did You say again?
Your faultless memory will soon be a thing of the past. Part of it is post-baby syndrome, the other part is the sheer amount of ridiculously random tasks you’ve got to do. I’ve left my groceries (after paying for them) at the supermarket countless times. And you know how embarrassing it is to have NTUC staff with your grocery bags, chasing you… don’t you?
14) Real Labour Never Ends
You spent the entire last trimester waiting for the fateful hour, and finally labour begins and you can’t wait to have baby in your arms. Well, the not-so-good news is that the labour never ends. I thought it would get easier as the kids get to school-age, but then I look at friends with older kids and they’re still as busy and harried as before. (More white hair too.) Plus, we’ve all heard of stories where grown-ups leave their laundry and other dirty work to their parents, haven’t we?
15) Love Conquers All, almost
No matter how exhausted and worn out you are, you will never regret the day you became a parent. Until of course, the terrible twos or teenage angst hit you. P.S. These days, nine is the new “teen.” Don’t say you haven’t been warned…