Everybody has their own idea of what being a parent will be like before they have kids. Like most things in life, what we perceive to be our reality and what it actually is are two completely different things. This is especially true in parenting as many new parents find themselves shell shocked at how much this experience goes from being a beautiful fantasy in their heads to a dramatic story of survival. While everyones experiences are different, these 10 things are ones that most parents will agree you can't possibly realize until after you've had kids.
What tired really means – After having a baby, you will laugh at your former proclamations of being tired. Before I had kids, I used to hate when I would tell people with kids that I was tired and to watch their reaction. It was always a laugh with a comment along the lines of “you have no idea what tired is.” While I still think that they were a little jerky for minimizing my fatigue at the time, it wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood what they meant. I now wish I was as tired as I thought I was before I had a kid.
The weekdays aren’t so stressful after all – It used to be that Friday was the day to look forward to. After a long and stressful week, I counted down to that weekend wind down. That was because the weekends meant doing absolutely nothing, unless I wanted to. As a parent, it is the exact opposite. The weekends become crazy, hectic and filled with activities. After having kids, you find yourself actually looking forward to the calm of Monday mornings.
Your friends that you thought sounded mean before are actually not – Before I had my daughter, I would judge parents that sounded mean or harsh. This is because I didn’t know that kids will spend all day trying to drain every ounce of patience and strength that you have from you. As much as I try to remain calm and collected with my daughter, even when she’s done something that I don’t approve of, I have moments that are not my finest moments and I now understand that we all deserve those, without judgments.
Your parents were saints – It was so easy to criticize my parents and their parenting practices both growing up and as a young adult. As I reflected on my childhood, what they could’ve, would’ve and should’ve done became a favorite topic of mine. What I’ve learned after having a child is that it is hard as hell. With only one child, I have days where I can barely keep it together and they had 6. That’s not to say that they couldn’t have done anything better, but we all have things that we can do better. Parenting is a daily learning experience and no one really knows what they’re doing. We all kind of make it up as we go which means that mistakes will be made.
That you can experience 1,000 different emotions all in the same day – I remember feeling this for the first time in the hospital after delivering. This early feeling may have been influenced by hormones but I felt blessed, overwhelmed, filled with a type of love I couldn’t verbally describe and scared all at the same time. This range of emotions can be very confusing, especially in the early days, but they are completely normal.
Your relationship with your partner will change – This is an undeniable fact. Your whole life is different now which means that both of you will evolve and change as will your relationship. This doesn’t mean that it has to change for the worst, just that it will change and you’ll have to make sure that you’re aware of this change, acknowledge it and work towards making sure that this change brings you closer together instead of further apart.
Planning doesn’t really work when you have kids - I was an extremely planned person before giving birth. In some instances, my days would be planned hour by hour. Life with a child of any age is so unpredictable that I’ve had to learn to let go of my stringent planning nature and become more flexible. With a baby, there was no telling if your day would be thrown off by a missed nap or a last minute poop and with an older child, that schedule might be thrown off by sickness or a tantrum.
What really matters most – When you have kids, it really has a way of putting things into perspective. Partly because you don’t have time to think about unimportant things and partly because stuff that used to bother you really doesn’t bother you anymore. You have too much other stuff to worry about to focus on anything petty.
Your interests will change – Its not so much that your interests will change as it is that your energy for doing certain things will change dramatically because your life has changed dramatically. The thought of doing something like going out for night of drinks will probably excite and exhaust you at the same time and you may fear that going out to a routine movie night will result in you falling asleep mid movie in a dark movie theatre. This change in interests will be hard at first because you won’t feel like yourself and that loss of self may follow you until you learn what your new hobbies are.
How good of a multitasker you really are – Being a parent means that you don’t really get the luxury of doing one thing at a time anymore. If you’re going to come even remotely close to getting all of the things that you need to get done in a day, you need to be able to juggle many tasks at the same time.