Having a child is probably the biggest life change you will ever experience, it’s an enormous, 24-hour responsibility and a life-long commitment. So, before you throw away that pack of pills, here are just some of the ways you can expect your life to change once you become a parent.
- Career – Unless you’re adopting or using a surrogate mother, having a child will necessarily impact on the mother’s career, after all, someone has to carry him and give birth! At the very minimum the pregnancy will involve some amount of compromise and negotiation at work and all mums need some time off to give birth and physically recover, no matter how important their job. After birth the effect children will have on both your careers depends very much on whether you use childcare, and how much, how you split responsibilities between yourselves as a couple, whether you are self-employed or work from home and what support you have from family and close friends. But however committed you are to your job, once you’re a parent sometimes your job will have to come second to your responsibilities at home.
- Finances – At the same time as finding yourself with less time to work you also find that having a child is very expensive. If one person works while the other is at home it’s easy for the person working to feel trapped in their job by the weight of responsibility, and it’s easy for the person looking after baby to feel frustrated at the loss of their own earning power. If you both work then you’ll have to pay for childcare, which doesn’t come cheap.
- Sleep, or lack thereof – You can kiss those weekend lie-ins goodbye, at least for a few years. More likely than not your child will wake you early in the morning, late at night and in the early hours; when baby needs feeding (or changing, or holding) the time of day is irrelevant. In the first few months before your child is sleeping through the night (and might seem to be trying to cry through the night instead) you’ll have to get used to getting by on far less sleep and grabbing shut-eye whenever you can.
- Lifestyle – Perhaps it’s nature’s way of helping you adjust your leisure spending to your new budget, but once you have a child you’ll probably find yourself going out in the evenings with your friends a lot less and organising your social life more around your own or your friends’ homes. You’ll have to take your baby with you everywhere you go, or find someone responsible enough to look after him.
- Separation anxiety –Even if you do make it out of the house leaving baby at home, don’t expect to be able to relax automatically and enjoy a bit of free time without worrying how your child is doing without you, particularly in the early months.
- Relationship changes & sex – As two becomes three the relationship you both have with each other is complicated by the relationships you both have with your child. Add to that the possibility that giving birth and the demands of parenting might leave you tired, irritable or disinterested in sex and there’s more reason than ever to communicate well with your other half.
- Emotions – From the moment you become pregnant your body is flooded with hormones that can send your emotions haywire and you may find yourself crying far more readily than before. Once baby is born the emotional roller coaster doesn’t necessarily stop: many new parents feel anxious about their parenting ability and all will worry about their children to some degree.
- Time – Your concepts of how long it takes to get ready and go places will change drastically when you have a child. Take the amount of time it takes you to get ready to leave the house in the morning and then double it or triple it for getting yourself AND a small child ready to leave the house. And of course when you’re finally heading out of the door with your bulging changing bag of tricks, chances are the little one will need changing. Again. A car journey of a couple of hours will need punctuating with feeding and changing stops and a weekend away will turn into an organisational feat of military proportions.
So we haven’t put you off then? Great! There’s no element of your life that won’t be affected by your decision to have a child, but it’s a decision that few parents regret making. As a new parent you may find yourself wandering round in a sleep-starved craze trying to find the one bottle your baby is prepared to drink from while removing bits of baby vomit from your jumper, but the next minute a single smile can make you feel like the luckiest person alive.