Nobody is ever really prepared to become a parent.
There, I said it. I mean, if you were anything like me, you might have read all the parenting books and blogs in the world — yet they will never truly prepare you for real-life parenting. Having a baby is a beautiful time, but let’s be honest: it’s not all coos and cuddles. Most of the time, having a baby just means spit-ups and soiled clothes (and this little thing called “tantrums“).
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love parenthood and mothering, but there are a lot of surprises when you become a parent for the first time. Let’s start with…
17. You will forget about your appearance (at least for a while).
Even if you wanted to, you’ll barely have time to brush your teeth – let alone comb your hair – during the first few weeks of your bubba’s existence. Some bounce back from this period relatively quickly (I know some who are back to their polished mum selves after two months), while some take comfort in being “low-maintenance” almost permanently.
16. You will run on 2-4 hours of sleep.
You pulled all-nighters at uni, but nothing — nothing — will prepare you for the ungodly hours of dancing your baby to sleep. You will worry about waking the neighbours up and you will get frustrated over how your husband stays asleep through all the crying and screaming. But your real concern is tomorrow — will you be able to function like a normal human being tomorrow (or later)? To your surprise, you will manage.
15. Bodily fluids and “excretions” won’t faze you.
Before being a parent, you might have been the easiest person to gross out. You might have gotten disgusted over a few floaties in a drink or someone’s sweat (I know someone who gets grossed out by sweat). But when you become a parent, you will simply get over it. Like a veteran nurse, you will just accept spit, snot, urine, and faecal matter as a natural part of life (and they are).
14. You will rely heavily on technology.
I sometimes wonder how mothers from the older generations were able to cope. I only got my first smartphone when my son was already around 8 months old, and I regretted not buying one earlier. How else are you going to get pieces of advice from other mums? How else will you know if your babe is latching on to your nipple correctly? How on earth are you going to stay awake during the witching hours? Unless you have someone at your beck and call to answer your questions and stay awake with you, you need a smartphone.
13. You will form an unseen bond with other mums.
Your circle of friends will tighten as you grow older, but when you become a mother, you will find spots in your circle being filled by fellow mums. Sometimes, you don’t even need to be close friends. You will find yourself bonding with another mum at the checkout line just because your children are both 3 months old and colicky. You will bond even if the only thing you have in common is the nickname, “mum.”
12. You will let go of some friends.
Unfortunately, letting go of friends will be as easy as making new ones. You can’t help it. Unless they are willing to compromise and understand that your schedule and priorities are now different, some of your friends who are not yet parents may find it tiresome to keep up with you. But don’t feel bad. There are a lot of people who do compromise without having to ask them, so you don’t have to say goodbye to all of your single friends.
11. You will be super proud of your baby’s milestones.
If you are someone who gets annoyed each time a friend posts her daughter’s milestones on social media, please keep your mouth shut. For one, she’s free to post those pictures, and second, chances are, you might just eat your words. Read my lips: you will be proud of whatever your baby manages to accomplish. Go ahead and post that video of your son rolling over.
10. You will be hangin’ for naptime and bedtime.
People say mothering is the hardest job because a mum doesn’t ever get day-offs — you get to be a mum 24/7, forever. But there are coffee breaks, naptime and bedtime. My son is already 3, but I still look forward to those moments as if they’re all-expenses paid holidays in the Bahamas. I’ll leave you this valuable gem of advice: use naptimes and bedtimes wisely.
9. Being a fierce, protective lioness will become second nature.
I don’t think mums who don’t allow unvaccinated people to visit their newborn child are overacting. After all, she has every right to be protective. Even if you are the most easy-going person, when you become a mum, vigilance will become your second nature. You will cover your newborn child lightning-quick when someone sneezes, as if you were the female version of The Flash.
8. The doctor’s surgery will be your second home in the first months.
I knew we were going to see the doctor regularly during the first few months, but I never expected it to be so often. In our case, we saw the doctor almost every week, and my son wasn’t even sick. Not all experiences will be the same, but if you ever find yourself seeing your doctor more often than you see your own best friend, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
7. Your phone’s camera will be your third hand.
You will need to capture every single moment. Trust me, you can’t even argue against this or I guarantee you will eat your words. I also feel like it’s my duty to tell you that sometimes, a dedicated camera will not suffice. If it’s not within your reach at all times, you will need to rely on your phone’s camera to capture your little one’s first toothless smile. As early as now, invest in a phone with a decent camera.
6. Health and fitness will take on another meaning.
When you were still single or not yet a mother, fitness is important for many reasons: strength, agility, flexibility, endurance and a higher self-esteem. But when you become a mum, health and fitness take on a different meaning: survival. You’re now aware that a younger being is counting on you to be alive and be alive for as long as you can. Sure, it sounds morbid but wait until you read the next number.
5. You will become hyper-aware of life and mortality.
Your new awareness of life doesn’t stop at being at peak health. When you become a parent, you will sometimes find yourself thinking about death. In fact, you may not be fazed by disgusting things anymore, but things that barely used to scared you will make you nervous now. Cases in point: driving, being at sea, flying, sicknesses, epidemics, travelling, and even crossing the street.
4. You will stop caring about what other people think.
During your first days of motherhood, you will find yourself in the middle of a million pieces of advice. Yes, they will be annoying. Yes, some will be helpful. Yes, some will be snarky and judgmental. But sooner or later, you will learn to follow your instinct, your gut-feel as a mother. Then you will be able to distinguish the voices that you trust from the voices that are not worth a minute of your day.
3. You will be perfectly content to spend every waking minute with your child.
Motherhood sounds boring. I’m not going to lie to you; it’s nothing like your days (or, more aptly, nights) of drinking and partying. No, it’s nothing like it at all. But when you become a mother, meaningless partying becomes just like that: meaningless. You will find yourself perfectly enjoying the hours you spend at home with your child. When you go back to work, you will find yourself missing your baby every single minute of the day and longing to do boring stuff with them.
2. You will always, always worry.
And speaking of working, when you find yourself away from your baby – even just for a couple of days, even just for a couple of hours – you will never ever stop worrying. That’s you becoming a mother, experiencing motherhood at its very primal core. You will never ever be at ease, and this won’t stop at infancy. You’re going to worry about them forever (or at least until they’re 18). But you can choose to kiss your worries goodbye, too.
1. You will discover how much love you never knew you were capable of giving.
Until you become a parent, you will never know how much you can love someone, let alone someone who can’t even talk to you or reciprocate your actions. When you become a mum, you will discover the true capacity of your arms (how you can carry a little human for just about 20 hours or more and still be available for unlimited hugs and cuddles), the true capacity of your legs (dancing and swaying and walking and still be available for playing), the true capacity of your mind (staying awake for just about 20 hours or more and still be willing to read board books) and the true capacity of your heart.
What did you discover when you became a mum?