Having kids is a process full of joy and wonder. How do their little brains work? How did I grow a central nervous system? Why is there a spatula in my shower?
There are so many things to learn and so much knowledge that seems to be embedded in your bones when caring for children. Some skills and approach to child-rearing comes from a visceral instinct and there are thousands of books and social media accounts that offer advice and doctrines about how to do it right.
Everyone warns you about the sleep deprivation, responsibility and the costs; however, no one seems to mention the fun, the stuff your kids will do every day that makes you laugh out loud and the ecstasy of being the preferred parent.
But there are a few things that I wish someone had pulled me aside and told me. So let me try and share my hard-earned wisdom.
Here are a few things I wish I had known before I became a parent:
1 ) There is no pregnancy glow. If you’re lucky enough to get a short-lived period of dewy skin, nobody will see it because you will be in bed by 7.30pm. Pregnancy is a period of haemorrhoids, dry toast and shit clothes that turn your pelvic floor to jelly. If you didn’t get a real life human being at the end it would be outlawed. To whoever designed this process: 0/10.
2 ) They let you simply walk out of the hospital with a baby and nobody tries to stop you.
3 ) If you’re someone who likes moving freely about, becoming a parent will put this to an end. Leaving the house with kids is a workout and brainteaser. You have to carry mountains of stuff, steer a pram and every cluster of two or more stairs – every escalator, every old building – is suddenly completely inaccessible to you. If you have a pram and are out in public … where are you supposed to wee? This is a serious question. Huge respect to disability activists who fought for buildings that are possible to navigate once you’re on wheels.
4 ) The amount of laundry now required of you is staggering.
5 ) Perpetual terror sets in. I started visualising unlikely gruesome deaths of my kid days after they were born. Going overboard on a cruise ship. A rogue pram accident and a semitrailer. Garotting by mobile phone charger. When I spoke to other parents, they all shared the same thing – a perpetual terror that something terrible would happen to their kids. When you love someone that much and are in charge of protecting them, maybe your brain can’t help but hypothesise all of the gory scenarios. As the years have gone by, I find the terror is easier to live with, but it’s still there.
6 ) Brands see fit to start addressing you as “mama”. I’m begging them to stop.
7 ) Weaning a baby off breastfeeding is the hormonal equivalent to swallowing a year’s worth of the pill. The emotional storm is at full force when you make the call to stop breastfeeding – denying your baby the comfort they want is near impossible. If you stick with it, your body has to transition you back from being a milk truck to a regular civilian. It was such an intense experience for me, I had pain, wild mood swings and even trouble breathing at one point. It’s like every bad period symptom dialled up to 11. Once I pieced it together, I realised the internet was full of women who had experienced outrageous and, in most cases, completely unexpected symptoms from weaning. I didn’t think I could be surprised by bodily functions after growing and delivering a child, but I truly was.
8 ) Once your baby is a toddler, a notable percentage of your earnings will be spent on blueberries. Parents of toddlers follow the price of blueberries like they are listed on the stock exchange.
9 ) Reason and logic do not apply to having kids. There is no satisfactory answer to why some pregnancies stick and some don’t. Why some kids get sick and some don’t. I changed from a deeply rational person to clutching rosary beads and making signs of the cross over random kids’ heads.
10 ) There will come a time when you will be faced with eating your kids’ disgusting half-eaten leftovers; an easier option than cleaning them away. What you do in that moment is between you and God.