There are a couple of things that you know you’re in for when you are planning a baby. You can be fairly sure you’ll suffer from sleep deprivation. You know you’ll lie awake some nights worrying about the wellbeing of a new little person that you’ve brought into this world. And you probably have some sense of the fact that things are going to get expensive. But there are some things that come as a big surprise to the parents of babies and small children – and it doesn’t stop there, the surprises just keep coming.
Everything will be sticky foreverYou have no idea, until you have children, how conscious adults are of containing their own mess. Dirty fingers? Head straight to the kitchen or bathroom to wash your hands. Messy mouth? Pick up a napkin and delicately dab away the spaghetti sauce. Children have no such mess-containment strategy and see the world as their hankie. Your life with children will include unidentified smears, puddles and patches all over your house and mysterious stains on your clothes, until you have got it through their (darling) little skulls that their mess is not for spreading.
Top tip: Have a wet cloth with you at every meal time or play time and never let a dirty or paint-covered hand out of your sight.
Children can survive on a diet of crackers and cucumber with no ill effects The authors of every article you will ever read about what you should be feeding your kids are secretly laughing at you as you attempt to get your kids to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables. Despite everything that you’ve been told about what children need to eat for their growing bodies and brains, they seem to develop perfectly well when they refuse to eat anything other than fruit yoghurt or crackers or carrot slices. The big news is that you can’t actually force a child to eat the right food if they don’t want to.
Top tip: You can live with their preferences or you can try our list of helpful hints to get your kids eating their veggies.
Their entire wardrobe will be planned around how easy is it to get on and offSweet little buckles, precious little bows, dinky little mother of pearl buttons… if these items were part of your imagined wardrobe for your children, you’ll soon rethink your plan. Children don’t sit still for buckle doing or ribbon tying. And just when you’ve spent 20 minutes wrestling them into a complicated button-up crocheted jersey, bloomers and patent leather buckled shoes, they will rip something off, spill something down, or need a nappy change. Vintage fasteners will become a thing of the past and “convenience” will become the watch word of all your sartorial choices for your child.
Top Tip: Velcro, zippers and press-studs. That is all.
Sleep deprivation is the new normal – and you can’t believe how awful it is You’ve probably heard from gleeful parents of older children that you will be exhausted. You’d be crazy not to be a little bit scared (even though you secretly hope that your baby will be one of those magical sleeping-through ones). So, you know you’ll be a bit tired. What you don’t know – what it’s hard to comprehend until you’ve been there – is the extent to which sleep deprivation affects every aspect of your life. Your relationships will suffer from complete apathy. Your work will suffer from confusion. You should probably avoid driving for at least three years. Seriously.
Top tip: Be kind to yourself and your partner. And if you’re really not coping, ask for help. You’d be surprised how many friends are willing to come and hold your baby for an hour while you sleep.
You won’t be able to talk about anything else Until you’ve had your own children, it’s hard to comprehend how endlessly fascinating they are to you. Not only are they pretty much the only thing you’ll be doing all day, but the joys and challenges of keeping someone else alive are pretty mentally all-consuming. You’ll lose interest in the news, in gossip, in current events and new restaurants and instead be fully engaged by feeding and eating schedules and the achievement of each incredible milestone. Your childless friends might not be quite so fascinated.
Top tip: Make friends with children the same age. You can talk endlessly about children together. Right now, you need people who are in the thick of it and equally obsessed with nappy brands, steamed veggies and teething remedies.
You’ll love them so much that nothing else will matter OK, you’ve probably been told this one. A parent’s love conquers all. The jammy walls, fights about meals, wiggly dressing times, lack of mental prowess all fade into insignificance when you look down on the wonderful little person that you created and raised (you’ll probably feel this more strongly when they are asleep than awake, but the point is that you’ll feel it).
Top tip: It passes all too quickly. Enjoy it.