We all do it. We all make plans for having a family, don’t we? The white picket fence pairs perfectly with the ideal spouse that we have so meticulously engineered in our minds. Some of us are extraordinary planners. Some of us know exactly how many children we even want. We know the amount of years we want in between in each one. And, God bless us, we naively determine what sex they are going to be ahead of time. Perfect. Right?
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Pardon my bluntness. I certainly don’t mean to be the fly in your soup bowl. But, most of the time, these “plans” go horrendously awry. If I have learned anything about navigating the rough waters of parenthood for the last 9 years, it is this little nugget: assume nothing. Oh, and expect Murphy’s Law in most situations. You know, that little morsel of superstition where if something can go wrong, it will. This is the nature of parenthood. Tread carefully, my friends. There is much to consider before you decide to take the plunge.
1. How important is your sleep? Especially with an infant, sleep turns into that light at the end of the tunnel. It will be a very long time before you once again have the pleasure of receiving a full night’s sleep. I say “receiving” because sleep becomes more like a gift than a necessity. Babies have their own internal clocks. And, trust me, they don’t care two hoots about yours. Prepare yourself to spend many a night walking the floor or rocking in a chair. That’s not to say that these quiet evening times are not precious. They truly are. But the undergird of the experience is lined with exhaustion.
2. How OCD are you on housekeeping? You know the cute little memes all over social media about stepping on Legos? Yes, well, this is reality. Prepare yourself for clutter and disarray. If you are the type of person who colour codes your cookware, I want you to know something. Most of my son’s toddler years were spent strewing spatulas and other kitchen utensils all over the house. Wave goodbye to Martha Stewart mode. You won’t be able to keep up anymore. Some days you have to look around and accept that it is what it is.
3. How selfish are you still? Nothing is sacred anymore, my friend. Having children translates into losing a bit of your own identity in order to ensure a strong foundation for theirs. If you’re still the type of person that needs to shop and travel and fine dine mostly for your own pleasures, you might consider waiting. You will not be ready to hand over all of that sacred time.
4. Intimacy with your spouse. I’m just saying. It gets neglected for a while. Again, baby waits for no one. You feel me?
5. How strong is your relationship? This is a follow up question based on number four. Children can be both a test and a testament to a marriage. Consider that heavily. If you don’t feel sturdily grounded in your relationship and cannot lean on one another in the difficult moments, having children makes it that much more strained at times.
6. How do you feel about having little privacy? Trust me. They will find you. There are moments when, after a long day at work, I just want to be alone. I just need a bag of Doritos or some other horrible junk food and a quiet room. Most of the time you will not be allowed this type of privacy. Somebody small and adorable needs you, all the time.
7. Have you seen the world yet? This one here makes me an absolute hypocrite. But, I add it to the list because I now see its importance. Hindsight is always 20/20. Have you taken all the exotic vacations and seen all the beautiful places you want to see for a while? Because, here’s the deal. The next ten years of your life is going to consist of theme parks and strictly kid-friendly places. They shouldn’t even call them “get aways”. Vacations will no longer be relaxing. You assume the role of referee in addition to parent during long car and plane rides. Bring your whistle.
8. Are you in shape enough to dive bomb across the room at a moment’s notice? Everybody jokes about the ‘Dad bod’ Do not be fooled. Parents of young children have to sharpen their ninja like quickness. Babies are quick to put themselves in danger sometimes. Future Mums and Dads, you have to be quicker. How fast are your cat-like reflexes?
9. Are you ready to fess up to your own mother that she was right about A LOT? Seriously. It’s the dreaded “you were right” conversation. It all comes to a head as you are now the parent in the driver’s seat. Your own mother is just waiting with her arms crossed and a sly grin on her face. I have to force my eyes to not roll to the back of my head just thinking about it.
10. Are you ready for the word “Mum”? Or “Dad”. Are you ready for all that encompasses. The above highlights are just that – highlights. Parenting a tiny human being and ensuring their safety, happiness, and success for presumably the rest of your life is HUGE. Are you ready?
I’m not here to tell you that it’s not worth it, because it most certainly is. I am just here to tell you to prepare yourself. This is not a goldfish or a puppy. This is a human being. There are no do-overs. You very quickly learn to see the world through a different lens. Do the things. Be the wild rose. Open your eyes as wide as you can before you take the plunge. Not because having a baby isn’t worth it, but because the way you raise that baby is so important in this great big world. It’s a huge, soulful journey that will be more fulfilling than you can imagine. That is, if you are truly ready.