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'What if you make the wrong decision?' The 5 common questions my child-free friends ask me.

When I first became a mum over five years ago, I started getting questions from my friends about what it’s really like. 

From sleep to expenses, these are the five common questions my child-free friends ask me.

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And, of course, I share my honest answers.

1. How much sleep do you really get?

After giving birth, those first few months are what I call the "zombie days" because I don’t remember sleeping. All I remember are hourly feeds, colicky madness, and constantly being woken up by a crying baby. It was pure survival.

But over time, their sleep patterns improved. My kids are five and two. Nowadays, 99 per cent of the time, they sleep through the night.

On average, I get about seven to eight hours of sleep. But once or twice a month, I’ll have a night when I barely get four hours. However, this isn’t usually because my kids are waking me up. It’s due to my over-analytical mind that is riddled with anxious thoughts.

The house would be quiet and everyone is asleep but I’m lying awake in bed, ruminating over my last article, calculating whether I have enough time tomorrow to accomplish everything, and lastly, worrying about whether I’m doing a good job as a mum.

So yes, my sleep has been affected since becoming a parent. But when they wake up in the morning and run up to me with their smiling faces, it makes it all worth it.

2. How do you keep the house clean with all that kid junk?

Short answer: I don’t.

Whether it’s spills, accidents, sticky little fingers, or toys overflowing in the hallway, kids and messes go hand-in-hand.

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The clutter still bugs me and the laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs will continually haunt me. But I don’t expect my house to be clean all the time. I’ve learned to let go of what my home used to look like before kids and stopped caring about what other people think.

In terms of junk... yes, there is a lot of stuff that comes with parenting but mainly it’s when the kids are young.

I no longer have my nursing set up (bottles, pillows, pump and chair).

And in a year, we’ll be saying goodbye to our playmats and welcoming back our beautiful hardwood floors.

Once our son can walk long distances, we will be selling or donating our strollers. Plus, he’s already getting too big for his high chair.

All that stuff eventually disappears and cleaning gets easier.

3. Isn’t it expensive? How can you afford to raise kids?

I’m not denying that kids cost money.

My husband and I are fortunate to be in a situation where we can provide for our children. We’re not broke or in massive debt. We have a roof over our heads and we’re not struggling to put food on the table.

However, I’m not a millionaire. I don’t have a trust fund. My parents aren’t business moguls. I haven’t won the lottery yet.

We don’t overspend; our lifestyle is relatively simple so that we can afford to raise kids.

We don’t live in a house with five bedrooms and a bazillion bathrooms. We live near family so they help out with childcare. We don’t own a mini-van with sliding doors. We cook most of our meals at home.

Our kids don’t go to private school or participate in all extracurricular activities.

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Most of their clothes are hand-me-downs from gracious family and friends. We don’t go on extravagant vacations, go all out for birthday parties, or buy everything our kids want.

We chose to have children because we felt we were financially ready. However, in terms of whether they are expensive, I can’t say they are because they are part of my life. I’m responsible for ensuring they have what they need to grow and develop. Their costs are embedded into our family’s budget. Expensive is as expensive does.

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4. What if you make the wrong decision and it ruins them for life?

Time machines don’t exist so I don’t know what is going to happen in the next minute or the next decade. Maybe in the future, research will show that everything I’m doing now is wrong, and I raised a couple of rotten eggs. But by then, it’s not like I could go back in time and change it.

Every decision I make as a parent is to the best of my knowledge and mental capacity at the moment. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had to shed idealistic expectations of myself and others and accept that there’s no such thing as a "super mum". I’m a flawed human being raising flawed human beings.

Do I regret making some decisions? For instance, do I feel bad when I yell at my kids, bribe them with candy, or give them the iPad so I can have alone time? 

Yes, and no. As long as I align my big parenting decisions with my values and beliefs, I believe my kids will turn out alright.

5. Aren’t you worried about your children entering our messed-up world?

First of all, the world isn’t completely messed up. From revolutionary life-saving medical treatments and new greenhouse gas-reducing technologies to the everyday heroes who work tirelessly to keep us safe, there is a lot of good in it.

But I’m not naïve; I’ve worked in healthcare for almost 15 years so I’ve seen some of the worst parts of human behaviour. From trafficking, drug addiction, murders, shootings, wars, corruption, and pedophiles to all the nasty stuff on social media, the world is not made of rainbows and fairy floss.

So of course, I worry about my kids being exposed to all that and I’m going to do everything I can to protect them from harm.

But protecting them doesn’t mean hiding from those issues. It means having open and honest conversations about those topics so they feel confident in asserting themselves and making the right decisions. I hope that teaching them about the world’s problems will empower them to be part of the solution when they grow up.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her  Website or Podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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