Being a parent is one of the most rewarding, phenomenal, life affirming experiences that it’s possible to experience, but it’s also one of things that constantly takes you by surprise.
To help dampen the shock of these surprises, we asked a series of seasoned dads and mums what they wish someone had told them pre-parenthood.
This one isn’t so much of a secret. Parents are tired! Everyone knows that. Just look at all of those sleepy eyes! But it still hits you in the face like a runaway, juggernaut truck when your sleeping patterns are obliterated by a tiny little human, refusing to let you catch up on your precious forty winks. So, take this sage advice. Sleep now as much as you can. Stock up your sleep storeroom and get your fill, because once baby comes along, you’re going to realise how much you long for it. It’s going to be a shock to the system, although when you wake up and find a peaceful, precious little thing sleeping next to your bed, you’ll realise that it’s all worth it.
Every individual experience seems to be vastly different, so it's hard to fully prepare. What I would say is that you’ll never experience anything else like it. It’s a nerve-racking, awe-inspiring, emotional experience that will remain vividly in your memory for the rest of your life in glorious technicolour. If your partner is giving birth, you'll come out with the newfound respect for how brave and incredible she is! Read labour stories from a partner’s perspective.
You think you’re busy? You are not busy. Until you have a tiny person sucking every spare second out of your day, you are not busy. Honestly, it’s insane. Even the most mundane tasks like clipping your toenails, become nigh on impossible to squeeze into your incredibly jam-packed schedule. So, cherish the moments that you currently have where you can just read a book, or sit and do nothing but waste time, as pretty soon they will become extinct.
4. The first 2 weeks are going to be…interesting
Most first time parents will spend the first couple of weeks of parenthood trapped at home, blurry eyed and with unkempt hair all over the place, wondering what exactly is going on. It’s an extraordinary, sleep deprived, whirlwind of an experience, but rest assured that it doesn’t last. You’ll soon find your feet and your rhythm and start to kick back into the swing of things.
5. You’ll be covered in various forms of mucus for the next few years
For the foreseeable future you will be coated, to varying degrees, in snot and other forms of mucus and for the most part you won’t care. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to work with a snot stain on one shoulder, a smudge of vomit on the other, maybe the remnants of some pee on a trouser leg and milk on my back. I knew about it, but it just becomes normalised. So, embrace the mucus. Wear it like a badge of honour.
6. You’ll be checking that they’re still breathing for the next 6 months
Naturally you’ll be a little bit paranoid, as they seem so fragile and precious and so check that they’re still breathing every two minutes, we all do it.
7. Poopy nappies – never a joy
I’ve heard people saying that changing a poopy nappy becomes normalised after a while and no longer a chore. Don’t believe them. Changing a poppy nappy is never a pleasurable experience, and when it arrives you secretly long for it to be your partner’s turn. But you’ve got to do it for at least the next couple of years so just buckle up and get stuck in sunshine.
8. Secretly, there’s nothing as painful as stepping on toys
If the government want to use an effective and maverick deterrent from crime, make naughty criminals walk across toys. The country would be crime free in no time.
9. Children are irrational
We were in our car, pointed in the direction of London, our one year old in the back in utter despair because we wouldn’t let her drive us all home on the M4. The point is, children are irrational. They will have tantrums over the oddest things and what works one day will not work the next.
10. The little freedoms you have now, enjoy them while you can
Rainy day cuddled up with your partner binge-watching your latest TV show of choice? Impromptu trip to a local restaurant? Last minute weekend break to Prague? Nope. Any 'spur of the moment' impulses and pleasures that you fancy doing now, do them.
11. Peppa Pig
You’ll know each and every episode inside out. You might even have the pleasure of listening to the soundtrack on repeat with every family car journey. It is your new theme tune. Run with it.
12. You wouldn’t change it for the world
When their little face lights up when they see you and they run towards you, arms outstretched for a cuddle, everything else is forgotten. It’s the most wonderful and enriching experience than you can ever possibly imagine.
Father of 2
Living in Budapest with his wife and two children, Gareth is a freelance writer, creative strategist, film maker and author of the ‘The Budanest’, a book about his experience of fatherhood. He gives us insight into parenthood from a partner's perspective: all views and opinions given are his own, taken from his personal experiences.