Despite mountains of baby books that suggest otherwise, it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect when you have a kid. Parenthood comes with all sorts of surprises no one thinks to warn you about—until now.
1. YOU HAVE A NEW APPRECIATION FOR YOUR OWN PARENTS.
Nothing changes how you view the people who raised you like having a kid of your own. The home-cooked meals, late-night bedtime stories, and supply of clean laundry you took for granted as a child will suddenly seem like impressive achievements as a new parent. Expect to call your mom and dad during those first weeks with lots of belated thank yous—and pleas for advice. You should be comforted to hear that they weren’t always as confident as you thought.
2. YOUR SOCIAL LIFE SUFFERS.
After the baby arrives, your social life is one of the first things to fall to the bottom of your priorities list. Caring for a child leaves little room to schedule a night out, and when new parents do get a moment to themselves it's usually reserved for rest and relaxation. If you’re insistent on maintaining your social butterfly status post-baby, be aware that making time for fun won’t come as easily as it once did.
3. THE SLEEP DEPRIVATION CAN BE DANGEROUS.
You don’t have to be a parent to know that having a baby in the house—or the apartment next door—makes it hard to get some shut-eye. But until you experience it firsthand, it’s hard to understand just how serious sleep deprivation can be. One study found that new moms registered medically significant levels of tiredness even 18 weeks after giving birth. Running on insufficient sleep for such a long period turns everyday tasks like driving into health hazards.
4. YOU’LL BECOME AN EXPERT ON CHILDREN’S TV.
You may have missed an entire season of that critically acclaimed drama you used to love, but you’ll have every word of your kid’s favorite program memorized. Just don’t be surprised when your friends aren’t interested in discussing the latest plot twist in a show aimed at toddlers.
5. YOUR PETS GET LESS ATTENTION.
Without a kid to take care of, pet owners have plenty of energy to devote to their four-legged companions. Fido may be unhappy to hear that having a human baby around changes that dynamic. The free time you once spent walking and playing with your dog suddenly vanishes after becoming a new parent. Dogs still need exercise, though, or you’ll have a set of new behavior problems on your hands, so you may need to enlist a walker to help relieve you of these duties.
6. OWNING NICE THINGS BECOMES A CHALLENGE.
One way to become less attached to your material possessions is to have a baby. Cherished sweaters become magnets for stains; white walls become art projects. New parents quickly learn to live with objects that show evidence of wear-and-tear.
7. BABIES GROW FASTER THAN YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH.
Don’t make the mistake of splurging on more newborn clothes than you need. Infants grow so quickly that they may not have a chance to cycle through a complete wardrobe before their next growth spurt. When shopping for garments, keep in mind that you’ll get more use out of 3-to-6-month or 6-to-9-month sized clothes than outfits made for newborns.
8. BABY TALK SLIPS INTO ADULT SPEECH.
When the person you spend most of your time with is less than a year old, expect it to come through in your grown-up conversations. Stomachs become “tummies,” blankets becomes “blankies,” and the five minutes you find to rest your head in the middle of the day is “naptime.”
9. ALL YOUR PREPARATION GOES OUT THE WINDOW.
You can spend months planning out exactly what kind of parent you’ll be, but everything changes once the day finally arrives. There’s one important piece of advice that’s more valuable than anything you’ll learn from a parenting class or read in a baby book: Be prepared to be flexible.