Being a parent is a wondrous journey, with every minute of every day filled with pretty much unbridled joy. It’s like walking through a flower-filled field, in basking sunshine, with cute deer and fluffy bunnies hopping alongside you.
It’s that good.
However, back in the real world, it can also be a bit of a shitshow. Looking back at those early days with Joshua through nostalgic, slightly out-of-focus glasses, it feels like it was pretty great. But when you’re there, in the moment, it can be a massive, emotionally-rollercoasting ballache at times.
Sometimes. Parenting. Is. Difficult.
Like proper MENSA level shit. The type of ‘difficult’ where there are no right answers. There’s definitely a multitude of wrong answers to stumble your way through but, Jesus wept, if you manage to get parenting right 100% of the time then you deserve a medal. Or a slap.
But what if you could pop back a few years in a jaunty little time machine and talk to your pre-parent self? What would you say?! What gems of wisdom would you impart, to help guide you through the wibbly-wobbly world of parenting when it arrived?
Let’s have a gander…
10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Children
Jeeeeez. Where to begin?! How about:
Tiredness Is Relative
Before we had children, I had experienced tiredness. Some of it was self-inflicted, following nights out, staying up late watching films, trawling the internet or watching American sporting events on TV.
Some of it was due to numerous years of shift-working, be it working through the night or waking up at the crack of dawn for early shifts. This tiredness felt like a big deal. Only getting 6 hours of continuous sleep felt awful. Having to have a lie-in until midday felt like hard work.
But, pre-parent James, you will crave that level of tiredness when you have a child. You will almost sell a kidney for 6 hours continuous sleep. And as for recovering from a big night out with a midday lie-in, you’ll be more likely to successfully ride bareback on a monkey around Peru than you will be able to secure a post-6am wake up.
So for now, enjoy your nights out and your lie-ins and stop whining about being tired.
Tidy House = Tidy Mind
Keeping a tidy house is achievable before children. Yes, laziness may dictate that there will be days / weeks when standards slip a little but, on the face of it, it’s achievable.
However, pre-parent James, if you can’t keep things immaculate now, you’ve got bugger all chance of doing it once you start a family.
Don’t get me wrong, if you choose to spend the entirety of every evening mucking out, then you may well have a clean and tidy house for a few hours each day. But once your little one wakes up the next day it will take him approximately 17 minutes to trash the gaff. Within 30 minutes you won’t see the floor for plastic crap. Within an hour you’ll no longer be able to access certain rooms.
So if you choose dedicate 18 hours of your day, each day, to housework then you too can have a clean and tidy house. Albeit only for the 2-4 hours when you’re asleep.
What Goes In Must Come Out
Before kids, the thought of being pissed and shit on by another human is the stuff of nightmares. In fact, it would probably be enough to sever even the most secure of friendships.
However, dear James, when you begin the magical journey of parenthood there will be very few days when you aren’t up to your elbows in excrement.
Or left mopping piss off the floor / walls / ceiling. Or catching vomit in your hands. Or finding creative ways to remove a completely excrement-laden babygrow without splattering it across the room, Trainspotting style.
The pinnacle of this will come after your little one has been on some Ranitidine to help with his colic and reflux. As you remove his nappy for a 3am change a flume of poo will shoot out towards you like the chocolate waterfall at Willy Wonka’s gaff. That incident will change you for life.
But after a few months it’ll become second nature. You’ll no longer flinch when you’re sitting in a cafe and realise your lap in smothered in shit. Or when you catch a wayward stream of piss in your face when changing a nappy. Or when you’re smearing nappy rash cream around your little one’s bumhole for the 15th time that day.
Shit happens. Literally.
Show Me The Money
It’s frustrating before you have children that you can’t afford everything you want. You’ve splashed out on a couple of all-inclusive holidays, bought a new car and eaten out 114 times so far this year, but that diamond-encrusted toilet seat just remains out of your financial reach. It’s a tough life, but you battle through.
Think of how life will be after your magical seed helps create an actual human, James.
You may need to adjust your aspirations a tad once you’ve spunked your wages on a car seat, cot bed, travel system and 48 billion nappies. Suddenly the concept of treating yourself will involve splashing out on a branded can of baked beans. Or using bread that’s less than a week out-of-date. Or having the hot water AND the heating on at the same time.
So make the most of your money while you still have some control over it. Or maybe even invest it rather than buying 20 different pairs of Puma trainers…
Sun, Sea & Sangria
Holidays are always something to look forward to before you have children. Sitting by the pool or on a beach, sipping cocktails, eating as much food as you can ram in your cakehole, whilst trying to block out the irritating sounds of feral children in the background.
But James, after you’ve successfully played a part in creating ACTUAL LIFE, this will all change. You see, those feral children that you successfully managed to block out for so many years will now belong to you. You will actually need to do something rather than laying there watching the world go by.
You can perhaps have a cocktail or two, but you’ll still need to be able to successfully parent afterwards, so no overdoing it. Put those goldfish bowls full of sugary alcohol with those massive bendy straws out of your mind.
Oh, and those relaxing all-you-can-stuff-in-your-face buffets will now become ram-something-in-your-face-before-your-child-runs-off-at-high-speed buffets. And the entertainment / animation team that you used to avoid like the plague will become your best friends, as you dance around with your kid like a bell-end enjoying 30 minutes of The Widgets.
And to think, you paid double for this as it’s the pissing school holidays…
So, for now, grab another Strawberry Daquiri, pop your headphones in to block out those bloody kids and make the most of your relaxation time.
Oh My Days
Days out before you have children are an exciting blend of relaxation and discovery. Visiting new places, strolling along the beach, finding some new restaurants, exploring historic sites etc. Drive around a bit, spot a brown sign and head off on a journey of wonder.
With this in mind, Jimbo, you’ll be somewhat surprised to find that a lot of days out after you become a parent will involve clambering over plastic-covered foam blocks in piss-sodden socks trying to locate your little one.
Or engaging in increasingly desperate attempts to stop your child falling to his death from great heights on badly-maintained adventure playground equipment in the wind and rain.
Or spending school holidays queuing up for bang average, overpriced food at National Trust venues, so you can then stand up to eat it outside whilst repeatedly twatting wasps away with your bare hands. Or perhaps having a jacket potato or cheese sandwich in Dunelm as that’s your child’s idea of a fun day out. Pom Bears for the win…
You may not discover many exciting new historical places, but you will become an expert in baby-changing rooms, public toilet locations and queues.
So for now, go and visit as many exciting places as you can. And make sure to go there in term-time when it’s nice and quiet and cheap and isn’t full of whining children.
The Never Ending Story
During your pre-parent life you have some degree of say in what your days consist of. You can choose to pop out to the shops, what to have for lunch, when and what to watch on TV and even to take a shower.
However, Jimmy Boy, this will all change once you’ve done your little bit to populate the planet. Because once you have a child your life will revolve around their wants and needs – and it can be pretty relentless!
For the first few months it’s all about feeding and nappy changing and trying to stop them screaming. But then it moves on to playing games, supervising crafting, arguing about how many snacks they can have, pretending to be a shopkeeper and building things out of colourful blocks. Your time is their time and the one thing they never seem to choose to do with their time is relax!
The only chance you’ll get for a few minutes rest is if you pick a particularly good hiding place during hide and seek, because your kid will be pretty rubbish at it for a few years!
The only time of day that the power of choice returns to your own hands is after they’ve gone to sleep. Even then your main choice is whether to head up to bed early so you feel less rough when you get woken up again in the morning at stupid o’clock, or to enjoy your adult time before hearing to bed.
Just so you know, you will hardly ever make the choice to get an early night, instead deciding to watch crap TV or trawl through the internet like some bulging-eyed zombie and then feel like death the next day.
So for now, cherish those long showers, read that magazine and make the most of your time spent not crawling around on the floor pretending to race plastic cars.
Activate Stealth Mode
As a child-free man of the world you can eat what you like, when you like. Fancy a biscuit or piece of cake? Go for it. Bag of crisps take your liking? Well crack on and open one up. The world is your oyster.
Fast forward a few years, Big Jimmy, and things will be very different. It simply won’t be possible to enjoy a snack in peace, without your little one catching sight and demanding his share. So you’d better get used to hiding behind fridge doors, eating chocolate bars on the toilet, and sucking crisps so as not to make a crunching sound.
For now it’s probably worth grabbing a family-sized bag of Doritos and a 3-pack of Yorkies and savouring every glorious moment in peace.
Where’s The Proof?!
Before you have children you can be fairly confident that neither you, nor your partner, will attempt to jam metallic objects into a plug socket or play with sharp knives from your cutlery drawer.
That being said, once you hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet that will all change. Suddenly, there will be a need to child-proof your home to the extent that opening kitchen drawers will be a massive ballache for years to come!
Need to use a plug socket? No problem – but you’ll need to claw at the child-proof plastic cap you’ve jammed in there first.
Need to get some washing tablets to pop in the machine? That’s fine – but you’ll need to wedge your finger in the tiny crack of the door, wiggle it around a bit and take the skin off your knuckle in the process!
Need to head upstairs? Okey dokey – but you’ll need to either vault the stair gate or fiddle around for five minutes trying to get the catch open without pulling the bastard thing off of the wall.
For now, wander around your house, open doors, climb stairs and use electricity like the king that you are…
Disengage Your Brain
Watching TV as an adult before children is a pretty exciting affair. Whether you’re into comedies, US crime dramas, sport, documentaries or current affairs there are literally hundreds of channels to meet your need to learn and be entertained.
After you’ve procreated things will be a bit different, J-Dog. Yes, there’ll still be hundreds of channels waiting to be explored – but the only ones you’ll get to watch are CBeebies, Nick Jr and the Disney Channel.
And some of the stuff you’ll have to sit through will make you want to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon.
Don’t get me started on that demonic cow-eyed dickhead Dora who stares at you with such intensity that you can feel your soul being ripped out as you watch her.
Unfortunately it won’t be enough to just sit there and drift away – you’ll need to remember every little detail so that you can satisfactorily answer all of your child’s queries a few days later.
At the very least you’ll need to know the names of all the Paw Patrol pups, every monster truck in Blaze and the Monster Machines and every stupid character in the mind-number shitshow that is In The Night Garden.
However, it’s not all misery and despair. You’ll actually learn to enjoy watching Ben & Holly and Hey Duggee, and will discover a strange attraction to Do You Know? and Catie’s Amazing Machines. Those 4 shows alone are worth having kids for…
So there we have it. The top ten things I think I’d tell myself before I embarked on this wonderful parenting journey.
But would I still embark on that same journey with all this useful knowledge imparted upon me? Of course I would, because most of the time it’s pretty awesome, and as they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
This post was part of the increasingly epic Write Club that we host every few weeks. There are lots of other awesome writers that have tackled this very same topic, so here are a few of them for you to check out:
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