If you or you and your partner are thinking of starting a family, there is a lot to think about before making a commitment of this kind of magnitude. While having or adopting a child is one of the most exciting things that can happen in a lifetime, there are some things that are good to know when preparing to take the plunge into parenthood.
Breaking It to Your Dog
Up until now, your main concern besides dealing with your own problems and tribulations might have been picking up dry dog food for your “first child”. Your dog or cat is about to get knocked down a few pegs, so to speak. If you have a dog that is a biter, or a cat who enjoys sleeping on your face occasionally, you might have some other big decisions to make before you go into parenthood.
It is essential to have a safe, stable living environment before making this choice. Having a stable home and an income that can support another little person is the very first thing that most people want to have covered before bringing a person who will rely 100% on you into your life.
Infancy can be nerve-wracking for many new parents. While the strange days of physically morphing into a vessel that is incubating a fetus can be beyond strange for the uninitiated, dealing with a brand new infant can be equally terrifying. While pregnant, you might have cruised through all of the typical pitfalls, like swollen ankles, the inability to hold urine for more than 20 minutes, or an appetite like a lumberjack, with flying colors.
While some might have been an anxious ball of nerves during pregnancy, others sat around knitting baby beanies and ordering supplies from Love Sew or Michaels to lovingly hand-stitch a baby blanket. When the baby arrives, however, the proverbial playing field usually levels out, and stuff gets real, really fast.
Most brand new parents of a newborn walk around in a kind of suspended reality. As the rest of the world spins around them, their one and only priority is to make sure that they do not accidentally kill their helpless offspring by some tragic lapse in knowledge or in a freak accident.
All of the copies of Dr. Spock in the world will not take away the anxiety of handing your newborn to your alcoholic sister-in-law, while you are steeped in the burning fear that she will drop the center of your universe on the concrete looming below. Keeping your baby safe is your only job.
Once you are past what is arguably the most fragile stage of life, just as you begin to relax a little bit, that little fella will pick up an amazing new trick: he or she will learn how to walk. While in the past, you have been reliant upon the sturdy straps of baby strollers or car seats to keep your child exactly where you left him, the crafty little bugger begins to learn escape tricks faster than you can say “Harry Houdini”. Staying on your toes is a must, no matter how tired you might be at this juncture.
If your child is happily running about, cheeks flushed and giggling with glee as they disassemble or break every single piece of the numerous clever nick nacks you (and your partner) have carefully acquired in your pre-child travels, then you have probably done a great job in keeping your baby well-nourished and well cared for.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done: this destructive little whirlwind has exclusively been made possible by your careful parenting, love, and nurturing.
You might find you have less and less time for your own health, happiness, and hygiene during this very trying stage of life. Not to worry: the eight hours per day respite that the grade school years provide is just around the corner (unless you plan to return to work on a full-time basis, that is).
The Grade School Years
The first day of kindergarten is usually a day full of emotional ups and downs for many parents. This proverbial “cutting of the cord” is a major trial for many mothers, who flood the news feeds of the world with tearful farewells to their babies, decked out in all new school clothes.
Once the trauma of parting with your baby has subsided, parenting becomes more of a community effort and the need to keep your eyes and ears open as your fragile child begins to navigate that big world out there is the newest challenge in parenting.
This is the point when many mothers (and/or dads) feel comfortable enough with the safety of their child to go back to working outside of the home. The modern world has made it much easier for parents to work full time while raising a family.
With the help of services like daycare, after-school activities, food delivery for kids, and other service industries based around children and families, it’s a lot easier to pull off raising a family while building a career than it used to be.
Some parents choose to go a different direction in parenting their school-aged children by home-schooling. Homeschooling seems to be gaining popularity in the United States, as many parents have become disillusioned with various aspects of the public school system.
Either way, it becomes more challenging to make sure your child is eating healthy food, staying away from potentially damaging influences, and focusing their attention on positive activities. The intrusions into everyday life from smartphones, TVs, and computers can be very difficult to monitor and control, and it takes a lot more effort than it used to for a parent to make sure their child is safe from predatory ideas or people.
On a happier note, the grade school years are often the times in life that adults look back on fondly as the best times of their lives. The increasing pressures of academics and other responsibilities as children grow into adolescence can take the fun out of childhood far too soon for many.
These are the times in a child’s life when parents are able to have a lot of fun with their kids. Family vacations, weekend trips, and generally just spending lots of time together is something that can be looked back on by both the parent and the child as a cherished time.
As children start to reach sexual maturity, they are bombarded with lots of ideas and feelings that are foreign and confusing. Parents often struggle to hold on to the relationship they once had with a child who is struggling to break free from the confines of parental rules and become their own person.
Conflicts erupt as children become teenagers and rebel in various ways against the rules that their parents have laid out to try to keep them safe and deliver them into adulthood in one piece, both physically and emotionally.
Trying to find a balance between the child’s need to be independent and the parent’s need to protect their child, even as they become an adult, is often a minefield of raw emotions on both sides of the fence.
While some teenagers are ok with strict boundaries and lots of structure, others struggle and refuse to conform. Either way, as the teenage child starts to form strong peer circles that do not include their middle-aged parents, the parent also faces emotionally trying times as they find themselves with more free personal time than they have had in many years.
Even if the parents immerse themselves into the increasingly colorful personal lives of their kids, it’s important that they also begin to enter into healthy social lives once again after focusing so heavily on parenting for the better part of two decades.
A Rewarding Experience
There is a lot to think about with weighing out the options of starting a family. Not everyone is cut out for parenthood, but for millions of people, it is the most amazing experience of their lives that they would never choose to miss out on.