By Mike Goddard
No one ever complained that they were too well-informed about raising a child! Deciding whether to have children is perhaps the most important decision anyone ever makes. How will your life change? Can you afford it? Isn’t the world already overcrowded? As you chew it over, keep the following in mind.
1) You must be sure you want them. This seems so obvious it is hardly worth including, yet surprising numbers of people have children for entirely the wrong reasons. Examine your motives. Are you having children because you want them, or because your partner does? Do you believe having a child will repair your faltering relationship? Some people have children just to please their parents; others do not want to be left behind by their friends.
2) The child will be its own person. Do not form an idealized image of what your child will be like. Some parents speak as if they had ordered something online. Fathers will say things like “I can’t wait to take him on his first fishing trip. When he gets older, we’ll be like pals- go fishing through the night, drink a few beers, that sort of thing”. Of course, their son may well inherit this love for beer and all-night fishing. But perhaps such things will bore him to death. To put it crudely, you never know what you are going to get. Look at any large family, and you will be struck by the differences between the siblings. More than one parent has found that, though they love their child, they don’t particularly enjoy their company.
3) The child will put a strain on your relationship. Of course, children do not doom every marriage, but even the strongest bond will be tested by sleepless nights and dirty diapers. Your sex life will be the first thing to come under pressure, for the simple reason that you will both be so tired. And the smell of vomit, disinfectant and diapers is no aphrodisiac! Resentments quickly build as well, leading to arguments over how much of the burden each is carrying. Then, of course, there is the lack of time. Men in particular often complain that after the birth of their child, their partner no longer seemed interested in them, that she wished only to be at home with the baby, and that he came to feel like nothing more than an assistant.
4) Raising children can be boring. No matter how lovable they are, no matter how grateful you may be to have them, children are rarely scintillating conversationalists. And parenthood can be grindingly repetitive. Some stay-at-home mothers, especially well-educated ones, complain that they are being treated like a domesticated cow by neighbors, in-laws, and friends as if their only function was to reproduce and nurture. You may yearn to talk about politics, or climate change, or some new film, yet find that people assume babies are now your sole interest.
5) You will be frightened. New parents often live with a deep, unspoken fear: news stories about child abuse or child abduction may give you nightmares. Fathers often dread their daughter’s teenage years, knowing they will find it hard to deal with her going to parties, then to college and so on. Fear is a major part of being a parent, and you will have to learn to cope.
6) Your old life will be gone forever. Perhaps you had a demanding career, enjoyed partying and expensive vacations. Or perhaps you live in a smart, modern apartment and enjoy throwing little cocktail parties where you discuss art and books. Children do not quietly slot into your life; they turn it on its head.
Most new parents say that they were unprepared for the realities of raising children. And most will admit that they should have listened more to the advice of others. The above six points are the very least a prospective mother and father should know.