20 things you should know before you become a parent

Ahh, motherhood… the chance to relive your youth vicariously through your offspring. But when it comes to the moment that baby is placed in your arms, nothing is as expected, writes Amanda Cassidy 


When I have children I’ll speak to them in my French, I decided, aged 17. I’ll marry someone with brown eyes – a gift to my future progeny and I’ll never let them eat in the car.

It is impossible to imagine what it is like to have a child until you have one. But that doesn’t stop the naivety when it comes to what we think it might be like.

Here’s our wake-up call. 20 things you need to know before taking the leap into motherhood:

  1. No amount of gymnastics or judo classes is going to turn your little one into a future Olympian if they are not sporty. Project your own failed ambitions elsewhere. If all else fails, art might be 'their thing'.
  2. When children roar crying on a plane, it usually isn’t because of the parent doing something ‘wrong’ or ignoring their precious baby. It is most likely excruciating pain in their little ears and that parent is catatonic with embarrassment or worry. A sympathetic nod goes a long way.
  3. Pretty much nowhere is off-limits when it comes to changing a nappy. Start campaigning now for changing tables in the men’s bathrooms too!
  4. Children may not ever ‘sleep through the night’. Our youngest is five and we were up with her last night from 4 am with nightmares.
  5. You see that child spinning in circles or climbing on a barrier at the supermarket? Often they are simply lost in a world of imagination or even sensory seeking. Hold your judgment and don’t assume all un-adultlike behaviour in public is automatically naughty behaviour.
  6. As detailed as your plan in life is for your little one, don’t forget that they won’t always cooperate. Somewhere along the way, they start to have their own minds, and it is important to follow their lead when it comes to what might suit their personality best.
  7. Playdates are an unnecessary evil invented by villains designed to heap guilt on exhausted parents at the most tiring time of the week.
  8. Babies will cry… a lot. Just don’t take it personally.
  9. Empty baby wipe packets and stickers make the best toys in the world for wiggly toddlers.
  10. Avoid carpets anywhere in your house for the first seven years of their lives.
  11. Grow a thick skin when it comes to people telling you how to do your job as a parent. Our public health nurse was aghast when I described doing a ‘dream feed’ for my daughter at 11 pm before we both slept. I might as well have said I feed her slugs.
  12. Start your child in school as late an age as possible. They might be bored for the first six months, but you will be grateful for their added maturity when they are almost 19 heading off on that Leaving Cert holiday.
  13. Every toilet trip is accompanied by a curious small person asking painfully intimate questions. You also learn to hold it in for hours because you simply don’t have time to respond immediately when nature calls.
  14. You become a basic packhorse for your children with your giant mummy bag holding everything from nappies and wipes to bits of a scooter, Dunnes vouchers, energy bars, spare LEGO pieces, at least 10 Pokemon or Match Attax cards and spare change for every novelty charity box they see. Embrace your inner bag-woman and dream about tiny clutches in your distant future.
  15. When you enter a room/venue/event, you are no longer subtle or discreet. You are now the ringmaster of a tiny three-ring circus with bulky prams to navigate narrow spaces, shouty 4-year-old’s calling elderly clients 'that old man over there'. You are a walking squeaky toy with a neverending chorus of 'waaaaaa’s' to contend with. Get comfortable with loud.
  16. Hell hath no fury like a mother whose child has been wronged. Be it teacher, child or fellow parent. This mama cat's got claws.
  17. Toddlers are the least reasonable, most dramatic, confusing and adorable creatures in the entire universe. Fact.
  18. You become co-dependent on Peppa Pig in a weird love-hate relationship where you want to kill her and kiss her in equal measures depending on your attentive parenting style of the day.
  19. ALWAYS bring the spare Babygro/pants/nappy/baby wipes/extra bottle. Being caught short is the difference between your child coming home in a nice fresh outfit or... a cluster of restaurant napkins around their cute butts.
  20. Write everything down. Set up an email account with all the cute videos. Make the scrapbooks, record those squeaky little voices, print the photos. Capture the sweetness and innocence of your mini-me and cherish every tiny moment. Before you know it, they will be too grown up to kiss you in the schoolyard or rolling their eyes at your lack of Vikings-facts. They are long days but sadly, very short years.
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