Oh, to be expecting. A magical time, really. Nine months of mystery in which parenthood is a locked door and you spend most of your time imagining what it’s like on the other side.
Having now lived nine months on the other side, I have some insider information.
Because there’s a certain compulsion a parent feels when a friend or relative tells you they’re expecting. You feel as if they’re looking to you for answers, which they most likely aren’t, and you either say something like “it’s the best thing that’ll ever happen to you” or joke about enjoying sleep while you can. Rarely do you give any thorough information. In our defense, there’s really no way to explain it. The proportional shift in your life and lifestyle can only be experienced, and every parent knows that. So, why bother?
Well, I’m going to attempt to bother. Perhaps in vein. But here are 7 things I wish someone told me when we were expecting.
Your relationship will change.
A comedian said that after kids, his marriage felt like being partners in a non-profit organization. And it’s true (somewhat). Parents share a common goal — keeping your kid alive and happy — and you spend most of your time figuring it all out. It leaves little room for, well, anything. Out of necessity, you end up paying less attention to one another. Any time alone, let alone a date, is a tactically orchestrated event.
My biggest suggestion to expecting couples is to simply do stuff. A lot of stuff. Go to the movies. Go to dinner. Take a day trip. If your schedule and budget allows, go on a babymoon. The nine months you spend waiting for your baby will be some of the most memorable times in your life. I’m on the other side now and telling you, take advantage. Seriously.
You need less than you think.
All good parents want to be prepared. Inevitably you read and research, soon overwhelmed with the mountain of stuff it seems is required to raise a child. Truthfully, you don’t need a whole lot. Or at least not at first. Plus, family and friends will likely give you more clothes and toys than you’ll ever need. One thing I wish I’d done better is having an organization plan. All that stuff piles up fast. If you’re not prepared, your entire house will look like Chucky Cheese.
Parenting can be boring.
This one may seem contradicting. Seemingly everything you hear about parenthood is how crazy and chaotic it is. And that’s true. Sometimes. Other times, you’re sitting on the floor just watching your kid be a kid. Playing with a box or chewing on a toy. For hours. It can get boring.
Pro-tip: reading aloud a book – any book – helps with both passing the time and developing your child’s brain. To give you an idea of how much time you’ll have, my wife read aloud the entire Harry Potter series in six months. Be prepared and stock up on an epic novel or two (or three or four).
Bonding takes time.
Nine months is a long time when you’re waiting for your life to change. Anticipation builds and expectations skyrocket to unachievable heights. During labor and in the hours afterward, I remember asking myself, “should I be feeling more?” I felt joy, but it was mixed with fear and confusion and a bunch of other stuff. I didn’t feel an overwhelmingly strong and immediate emotional connection to our child. I’m putting that out there because I’ve since spoke to others that felt the same way. Labor is intense, and your senses are maxed out. If you don’t feel that instantaneous, life-changing rush of emotion that it seems everyone talks about, it’s ok. It’ll come. It builds each time you hold your child. Each time they look at you in wonder. When they start to smile and laugh. You’ll soon feel a type of love that redefines the word and your world completely.
Parenting may not come naturally.
If you’re a guy, you may begin to feel women are instinctually superior. You will look at them in near envy while they breastfeed, wholly consumed, and it will appear natural and effortless. You may feel like they seem to always know what to do and that a lot of the time you’re on the sidelines.
Take it from me, this probably isn’t the case. To you it may appear effortless, but know that mom is probably stressed. I can’t say for sure, but I think many moms feel pressure to hold it all together, that any sign of weakness will be perceived as being a bad mother. Looking back, I know I could’ve done a better job asking questions or taking the lead on certain things. Instead, because it seemed like my wife was better equipped instinctually, I too often took a backseat, assuming she would take care of things. In fact, it’s something I’m still working on to this day.
You’ll hate everything sometimes. Even your kid.
Ok, maybe hate isn’t the right word. But in the spirit of keeping it real, you’re going to feel exhaustion and frustration like never before. Everything is new and at times you’ll feel helpless. And as much as you read and prepare, there are certain things you just have to experience. Ironically, it’s extra frustrating when you find out something you read doesn’t work for you. I don’t think there’s anything one could write to avoid these feelings, but it might help to know they’re coming and that other people experience them, too. We don’t typically share such things on Facebook, but trust me, for every cute photo there’s a horror story.
Parenting is awesome.
Yep. I’m going to end on the timeless cliche: having a child is the best thing that’ll happen to you. I’m sorry, but it’s true. However daunting it seems, however scary and life-altering, the rewards are truly unparalleled. Enjoy the time you have now, but get excited to have a family. It’s pretty awesome.