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There are so many unknowns when you become a parent that it can be hard to decipher just how you’re “supposed” to do it. Parenting can be exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure, and nobody gives you a handbook on exactly what you’re supposed to do at any given stage, so you’re essentially flying blind. With that said, there are things you can learn prior to becoming a parent that will help you immensely when it comes to having a child. Here are 10 things you should know about being a parent.
It’s going to cost you
Between birth and the age of around 18, the cost of raising a child is a rather staggering $151,000 if you’re lucky enough to have a partner. If you’re not, that cost rises to around $185,000, so it’s fair to say parenting is an expensive business indeed. However, there is financial help available. You can potentially claim child benefits if you fulfil certain conditions, and even 500 loans can help you in a pinch if you just need to buy food for the week or clothing for your child. Make sure you’re not suffering in silence.
There’s no “right way” to do it
Any parenting book or manual that you buy will probably tell you about “secrets” or “hacks” to becoming a parent. The truth is that there aren’t actually any secrets, hacks, or right ways to go about it. Being a parent is an intensely personal, individual experience; every parent understands their child differently. The tips imparted by any particular book or show might not apply to you, and conversely, you may discover something that works for you which isn’t in anyone’s parenting lexicon.
Being tired is normal
Sometimes, as a parent, you may find yourself completely and utterly exhausted. Subsequently, you might wonder if feeling this way means there’s something wrong with you. After all, every other parent is basking in the glow of their new family, right? Well, not exactly. Parental fatigue is an extremely common phenomenon. It can happen at any point during the process of parenting (which is lifelong), and everyone experiences it differently. In short, you’re not weird for being tired while you’re parenting your child.
Your childless friends are still valid
While you’re in the first flush of giddy, excited parenthood, you might wonder why your childless friends have chosen to forgo this life in favor of something you consider to be less fulfilling. Try to remember that your childless friends’ choices are just as valid as yours are. If they don’t feel up to hanging out with you because they can’t handle children at that moment, respect their decision and understand that it’s not because they don’t like you (or your child!).
Your free time will be precious
We know this is a fairly obvious one, but parenting is going to take up a lot of what used to be your free time. Suddenly, activities you used to pursue with clockwork regularity aren’t going to be so available anymore; you won’t be able to find time in the day for them. As such, it’s going to become much more difficult to parcel out and prioritize time for you and your partner. Make sure to make some space in the diary for leisure activities, or you’ll burn yourself out.
Your child is a human being
This might sound a little strange, but it’s important to remember that your child is a human being, not a problem to be solved. Showing empathy when your child is having a difficult time, rather than simply reproaching them or feeling annoyed, will have a great effect on their own emotional development. It’s normal to be a bit irritated if your child does something annoying, but remember that they don’t yet know why they shouldn’t do it, and it’s your job to teach them rather than simply admonishing them.
Your partner has feelings too
If you have a partner, then it’s important to maintain communication throughout the entire process of parenting. Make sure to ask them how they’re doing at regular intervals. You might be exhausted, irritable, and almost at the end of your tether, but the chances are they’re going through something similar. Talking won’t just help your partner; it could also help you. When both of you are dealing with the same emotional hurdles together, you’ll feel all the stronger for it.
Spend lots of time with your kids
There will be times when your kids feel like they’re getting in the way. Again, this is completely normal and not something you should be ashamed of. Still, it’s important to make sure you spend time actively playing with your kids and talking to them rather than just passively interacting with them. Playing will help your kids develop an understanding of the world around them and will encourage an inquisitive, intelligent mind.
Praise kids when they’re good, explain when they’re bad
Simply telling off your child when they do something bad won’t help them understand why it’s bad, nor will it stop them from doing it next time. Explaining why what they’re doing isn’t desirable behavior may not be easy all the time, but it’s certainly a better way to discipline than simply to shout at them. Similarly, make sure to praise your child when they’re good. This will help them to develop a clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.
You can make it up as you go along
A lot of parenting comes through instinct. Of course, there will be times when you’re not sure what your child wants from you, but that’s completely normal. Largely speaking, many parents simply make it up as they go along, responding to situations as they happen. You don’t need an extensive plan, and you certainly don’t need to worry about what other parents are doing. Just focus on making yourself, your child, and your family happy, and you’ll do fine.