parent opinion

'People told me I'd 'never be ready' for motherhood. Actually, they were wrong.'

The photo you can see above was taken the day I got home from the hospital, a week after giving birth to my son. 

I look tired. I look happy. I look a bit dopey, (I was on a lot of painkillers.) 

What you can't see in that photo is the shock. 

I found the first six to eight weeks of parenthood to be quite shocking. I'd done all the research, and I write about parenting and birth as part of my job. But being thrust into the brand new role of 'mum' seconds after going through the biggest physical experience of my life, was way more intense than I ever imagined. 

I'm now 10 months in, and I am so glad I didn't do this any earlier. What I mean is; I am so glad I waited until I was financially, emotionally, physically and romantically in a good place, before diving into this experience. 

I've grown up hearing the phrase 'you can never be ready to become a parent' and that there's no 'right time.' Now that I'm a mum, I strongly, vehemently disagree. 

Questions you have when you don't have kids: Sleep edition.

Video via Mamamia

I get the sentiment that babies and children are chaos and they change your life in ways you didn't even imagine. You can never be prepared for that, no matter how much you read up on it. 


But. I believe, (if you have the privilege of being able to choose when you become a parent), you can be 'ready' and there are times that are more 'right' than others. We're doing a disservice to potential new parents by being so flippant to suggest otherwise.

Ideally, you should have a number of things either ticked off or lined up before you start trying for a baby. 

1. Make sure your relationship is watertight. 

If you're doing this with a partner, your relationship should and can be 'ready' for a baby. For instance, you shouldn't be diving into procreating as a 'fix' for any relationship issues. 

In 2019, a UK study found that a fifth of parents break up in the year after having a baby. Now this might just be an inevitability in some couplings; but throwing a baby into the mix is quite literally like hurling a bomb at your relationship. It can and will highlight any little issues that've been bubbling away under the surface. 

READ: 'Before the baby, we were equal.' Why so many couples break up in the year after having a baby.

Before having a kid together you should be in a strong, supportive place with your significant other. You ideally have worked out each other's communication style and have learned what the other person needs to feel safe, secure and loved. You should have had all the important conversations about mental load, division of household responsibilities and parenting style. You've ideally prepared each other's expectations for less 'time' together for a little while until you've found your groove. 

If my fiance and I had our son in the early years of our relationship, I'm not sure we would have been emotionally ready for it to rock the foundations of our partnership, (because it does change and challenge things, it just does). 


2. Have a strong support system in place.

In hindsight, I think I probably should have warned my parents and in-laws that we were planning to have a baby. Because their support this year and willingness to drop their lives and come to our sides at a moments' notice has been invaluable. 

We weren't meant to parent alone, especially in the early baby years. It's too big and too hard for one person to shoulder. Ideally, you want to make sure you have a support system within driving distance from you, (outside your partner, if you're in a couple). 

Friends, siblings, parents, paid professionals - know who your village is going to be, and if you don't have one ready-made, create one before your baby arrives so you have people to lean on. You're going to need it.

3. Have a financial plan.

The sentiment of 'babies don't cost a lot, they don't need much' is another misleading trope. It's not swaddles and nappies that are going to cripple you, it's potentially having to rely on one income for a time...

Financially, having a baby can really disrupt things and it's important to work out what your plans A, B and C are before expanding your family. What happens if you want or need to take more time off work than you originally planned? What if your child is unwell and needs a lot of medical support? Have you considered how daycare costs are going to factor into your weekly budget if both parents plan on returning to work? 

I am not saying you have to be rich, but it helps to be financially secure enough to have wriggle room.


4. Get your fill of 'selfish' years.

Holidays, weekends and evenings out with either your friends or your partner just aren't the same once you have kids. It's important to have your 'selfish' years; travel, party, take spontaneous day trips up the coast, laze around the house all weekend reading and eating and having sex. 

Once you have kids, you won't miss it all as much if you've spent plenty of time really living it up. 

With your travel bug sufficiently fulfilled or your nightclubbing era exhausted, you'll find you can lean into this new life stage of time restraints, forced early mornings and weekends full of playgrounds and nap-time much more willingly. 

5. Prepare your back....

I say this one with a bit of jest, but babies are physically hard work! Both in pregnancy and once they start leaping up that growth chart. 

My baby spent the first six months of his life preferring to be carried while he slept, and still now - at 10 months and 10kg - he prefers to be rocked, standing, to sleep. 

Not to mention all the lifting and carrying you do day-to-day. 

I happened to be quite physically strong when I fell pregnant and I do think it's helped me immensely. This is not achievable or desirable for everyone, but just a warning - babies are tough on the old back. So if you have the time and ability - you can be more physically 'ready' to tackle parenthood. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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