Parenting guides (not that I read many before I gave birth) will talk about bonding, how to change a diaper, breastfeeding, and even getting your love life back on track. However, they probably won’t mention the following things that you need to do before becoming a mother:
1. Practice feeling like a failure. At some point, you are going to feel like you’re failing as a mum. Chances are, you’re probably not, but it’ll feel like it. Do you know what first made me feel like a failure? Listening to my (then) pediatrician. We are no longer on speaking terms.
2. Get help, help and more help – and whatever you think you need, double it if you’re having twins. If can afford paid help, don’t be shy about it. If there is any time that you will need help in your life, it is when you become a mother. It will not make a you a bad mum if someone else does the laundry or watches baby. However…
3. Get ready to fire the help if it isn’t working out. If you work in HR you might have a head start on this. You’ve been a star and set up help. Maybe you have a maternity nurse. Maybe grandma is on regular babysitting duty. Maybe you’ve hired a cleaner. And then, you get home with baby and boom! it’s not working. Your helper is driving you crazy. You flinch every time s/he touches the baby. At this point, quick and clean is the way to go. Fire the help (but not before you’ve made alternative arrangements).
4. Realize that doing all-nighters at work (or play!) is not the same as chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation goes on for months. Those all nighters you pulled, even if there were several, is nothing compared to months of getting up with a baby. There is no clocking off or duvet days with a baby.
5. Get ready to grieve for your old, awesome life. No matter how ready you are for children, there will be times when think wistfully (and guiltily) about ‘how much easier things were without children’. Whether it’s a big thing like getting on a plane, or a small thing like getting in the car, at some point the grief will hit you. And that’s ok. Your old life has gone. It takes time to say goodbye.
6. Set up email and Facebook on your smartphone. Logging into a computer is about to take up too much time. And it is so useful during long feeding sessions (whatever anyone tells you, you will not want to gaze lovingly into your baby’s eyes all the time.)
7. Make your peace with the fact that you will be one of those people who struggle to bond with their non-parent friends unless they are having a crisis / birthday or genuinely enjoy entertaining your child(ren). It’s normal. It might take a while, but once your child is mobile it will happen.
8. Say hello to early bedtimes. You may have been the person who could never sleep before 2am. You might have been the night owl to someone else’s lark. But when you have children, you days will start a lot earlier. And you will be longing for your bed much earlier too.
Becoming a parent is a huge adjustment. But it does fall into place eventually. And when it does, when you’ve accepted your new child-centered life, it feels great!