23

I don’t have any immediate plans for a child. At the earliest (probably), I’ll become father in 3 years.

I can imagine that the time will become stressful as soon as the child is on the way, not to mention the time when the child is finally born. I guess there are so many things to consider/decide/plan that you’ll hardly have enough time for all that.

I like to be prepared. Is there anything useful I could do now? Parents, in retrospective, is there anything you would have liked to do (or learn, or think about, …) beforehand?

So far I read about picture-books and add good/valuable ones to a list. Not sure how useful this is, but anyway, there has to be more.

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    Take first aid/CPR and start saving for college :) – L.B. Oct 27 '16 at 15:31
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    Whatever you do, do it together with your partner. It helps to be on the same page about parenting philosophies, most if not all times. I'm on the same boat as you and I've been reading (actually, hogging) up a lot of Parenting S.E posts, and it's being an immense help in getting me to be "ready". You have come to the right place, my friend! – learner101 Jun 15 '17 at 7:12
  • Not a full answer, but something I saw in EVERY young parent I know: Even if you are a neat-freak, accept that with children in the household, the place will occasionally be messy. Also, prepare to not stress too much about being late because of the kids. As my cousin put it: "I will be late anyway now. I can at least be late and relaxed instead of late and stressed out" – Layna Jun 15 '17 at 8:28
  • About all the mess.. please somebody tell me it is not so! :( – learner101 Jun 15 '17 at 9:04
  • @learner101 - it really depends on you as a parent and how you teach your children. I think it also depends on how MANY toys they have. We have some friends who always have kids' stuff strewn around and we have some friends who do a 2 minute tidy when the kids are in bed and then have a pretty damn clean house. I have no kids so can't say anything from experience though ;) – BunnyKnitter Jun 22 '17 at 21:20

12 Answers 12

25

Learning about the mechanics of parenting and looking after a baby is not that hard. You have almost a year to learn about a newborn, then a year after that to learn about a toddler, then another year to learn about two year olds and so on.

There are some skills you can learn now that will help you tremendously when you become a parent even though they are not technically parenting skills:

  • learn to cook.
  • learn how to do the banking or make a car appointment or do the laundry or buy the groceries or whatever else your spouse normally does.
  • teach your spouse the things you normally do
  • learn to bank online and other techniques for not having to be at place X by time Y in order to meet deadlines like paying bills or the rent
  • learn to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep, if necessary by acquiring accessories like eyeshades or CDs of soothing music
  • learn a stress relief technique like yoga or meditation or brainwave feedback
  • develop an exercise habit and acquire what you need to do it at home (yoga mat, weight set, exercise DVD, ...)

If you do all those things, you and your spouse will be interchangeable and can spell each other off doing urgent things when there just isn't enough time in the day. You'll be able to fight off sleep deprivation and remain calm when things are hard. You'll need that because they will be hard at times. They will also be wonderful too.

  • learn how to take good pictures. I know folks who've taken courses on it and they're way better at it than I am, and you won't have time after the baby is born to learn how to do it, but you'll want to be good at it.

For extra preparation, get right with money:

  • make a budget
  • understand what aspects of it you can and cannot change
  • get all your credit cards paid off to zero and get up to date on student loans, car loans etc so that bankers love you and want to lend you money, and so your interest payments are as low as can be
  • start saving now so that you have an emergency fund
  • know your credit rating
  • get a line of credit but don't use it

In other words, make yourself financially stable. Not having the money for emergency car repairs and having to take the bus for a week until you get paid is the kind of thing that makes your life so much harder when you have a small child or when you're pregnant.

19

1) Save money.

2) Wear loose shorts! and consider your nutrition.

3) Collect books and toys.

4) Prepare the home - babies crawl and need safe places to be changed; toddlers walk and need stair gates and all tvs to be bolted to walls; small children get everywhere! Getting some of this stuff done now is good because you'll be busy later on.

5) Prepare areas for sleeping during the daytime.

6) Investigate support mechanisms. Having children can be disruptive, sometimes destructive. You'll need friends to help you with parenting and with destressing.

7) Practice politely ignoring half of the unsolicited advice you get.

7

There's only so much preparation you can do realistically, books are good but nothing prepares you for the real thing.

One of the things you should think about is good childcare and schools, if you don't have these things in your area then move to an area where you will. Moving before having a baby is much easier than moving after!

Look into building a support network, this could be family, but also fellow parents near you who will be having children at the same time. Being able to compare notes, borrow this or that when you're short of something, and just being able to talk to someone who understands what you are going through makes such a difference. In the UK there is a group called the NCT, they have classes for expecting parents which are useful, but even more handy is that you meet other people in your neighborhood so it is an instant support group. In the US or other places there are probably groups that organize that sort of thing regularly.

If you are an impatient person try to learn patience, you'll need it.

7

You could try reading this book on infant sleep, that book on baby care, and the other book on solid feedings, but if you are anything like me half the important stuff will fly out the window in the midst of sleep deprivation anyway. I found out after my daughter hit one year that I had helpfully saved information on newborn growth spurts on my computer somewhere when I was pregnant and promptly forgot about them. I rediscovered growth spurts at 3 weeks post-partum when I experienced my daughter's second and most epic spurt and I will now never forget them. Book learning has nothing on experiential learning.

Instead of trying to learn about babies now, I recommend trying to figure out what type of person you want to raise. Get the big picture in mind - what person to you compromises a good citizen and good moral human being? Then strive to be that person. Why? Modeling is the most important thing in training children. Under the pressure of parenting the morals you have will be more tested than in many circumstances, so you want them down pat now. Second you want to figure out how, exactly, you guide a little human being who begins life not even being able to control his or her limbs into a good moral person. Get that big picture in mind. That would help.

I'd also underscore the financial element of Chrys's answer. Children are expensive and you will appreciate being fiscally prepared.

Finally things that I wish I'd done before pregnancy and did not do:

1) Sleep - everyone tells pregnant moms and their husbands to sleep. By then it's too late. Do it before pregnancy. Sleep like you're a college kid on winter break. Sleep enough that you have about a 2 years' supply of extra sleep. OK, you can't really do that, but it sure would be nice.

2) Take that blow-out vacation you always wanted because it's not going to be so simple again for decades. We only did one of our dream vacations and I wish we'd done more.

6

I'm going to make the assumption that you're a fully functioning adult in a respectful relationship; as such, I'm not going to tell you to get your finances in order or learn to feed yourself. I'm also going to refer to you and your partner as "you", because this is a team endeavour.

  • Hang out with children. You might want to confirm you really really want to have kids - they're super-annoying. After you have kids, you won't look at the nanny accused of shaking her child to death with such judgemental eyes. The government is totally against people putting kids up for adoption and will try to talk you out of it if you decide after the fact that this isn't actually for you; you'll be stuck with kids that aren't like the cute ones on TV. Be aware, children are on their best behaviour around strangers (that's basically anyone who's not their parents).
  • Babies are photogenic, especially when they start smiling at around four weeks of age. Get yourself a digital camera and somewhere to store the thousands (no, really!) of photos you'll have by the time they hit their first birthday. Put in place a backup régime - for example, to the cloud - that means after your hard drive crashes the little youngster's 21st birthday isn't missing any periods of their life. Your hard drive will crash. Get the camera many months before child arrives, and practice lots. Make sure it does indoor non-flash photography well (imagine what flash photography does to a newborn baby).
  • Finish any projects you were hoping to get done in the next five to ten years. Seriously. My partner has been working on an 8 inch by 12 inch embroidery for the last eight years. Our ceiling is still not painted. We've been missing a kitchen cabinet door for the last six years.
  • Resign yourself to never seeing your friends again, unless they too have kids. Then you'll see them twice a year, once at your child's birthday party and once at theirs. Face it: people with kids are boring. Your friends will never actively seek you out again.
  • Buy a couple of dozen squares of cloth nappies (diapers) in terry toweling or flannelette - in addition to any you're going to use for diapering. Babies are messy, and get worse and worse until they're about three or so. Having some of these suckers around is great - wipe up the mess and toss in the wash. You'll be using these for the rest of your life.
  • Work up a plan for respite care. Technically baby-sitting, the reason you need this is to concentrate on keeping your relationship with your partner functional. Being a single parent is many times harder than a double parent, so you need time away from the unceasing demands of your offspring. This might take the form of a "date night", but having just one night where you get to sleep through will make the world of difference to your outlook. Grandparents are great for this.
  • Not so urgent, but check out any Toy Libraries in your vicinity. Kids love new. They're also flighty, so you can get away with two boxes of toys, rotated: wheel out the old box of toys and hide the current one, and it will be just like Christmas day for the kiddies. Repeat weekly.
  • Buy an Infrared thermometer; parents of newborns are perpetually convinced that their child is ill, and being able to provide a temperature history to your medical specialist will make you seem less insane when you claim your child is crying because it's sick.
  • Make up a kit that's always in the car, containing a change of clothes in the child's current size, one or two of the cloth nappies you've bought, a diaper or two, two plastic bags (one for dirty diapers, one for dirty clothes), a thin change mat and a small pack of baby wipes. This is your emergancy kit. Your normal baby bag will have all of this stuff; this is for when you forget the baby bag (it will happen), or the baby bag hasn't been reset, or you exhaust the baby bag's resources because you've stayed out to long or there's a case of explosive diarrhea. Our kit was a foot by six inches by an inch or so.
  • You can't "bank sleep", so please don't try. But be aware, there's a good chance that you're going to experience sleep debt for a number of years. The only ways I know of dealing with this is either tag-teaming the child, or having one parent (typically the father) doing every last scrap of non-child-facing work, and additionally picking up some slack in the child-facing work.
  • Join your local Breastfeeding organisation. Being able to call someone at 3am who understands cracked nipples is priceless, and you'll be supporting an organisation that advocates for parent's rights.
  • Find someone who's got a child about a year older than yours and is willing to hand-on clothing. Go shopping at your local op-shop and lay in a supply of 0000 (good for a week or two) 000 (good for 2-4 weeks) 00 (good for 1-3 months) and perhaps size 0 (good for as much as 6 months) clothing. You're not going to be able to make it out to buy clothes once baby's born. Children don't need shoes until they're about two.
  • Get a safety switch installed. Don't bother with those plastic socket-filling doodads. Use painter's tape to keep the switches on your power points switched on; discovering your TIVO was off the one night that show's on will drive you bonkers.
  • I like this. Very down to earth and realistic. – haylem Sep 5 '13 at 10:49
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    Whoah - no need to be so pessimistic. Many people with kids see their friends (with kids and without) on a regular basis even if it is less often than before and many people with kids are not boring unless you define boring as no longer going clubbing every Friday and Saturday night. Also while other people's kids are great birth control your own tend to be a little different. My aunt was a nanny who never wanted kids, until she adopted and very much loved one of her own. – justkt Sep 5 '13 at 10:50
  • I know several people who have been completing projects with newborns, though it does go more slowly. I have friends who just finished getting a banister in. We organized our entire basement after our daughter turned 1. Sure it's more of a pain to do things during naptime on weekends or with your toddler in a backpack, but it's doable especially if one partner is a stay-at-home parent (which is in many ways the point of a stay-at-home parent, to have someone responsible for not only caregiving but for house care). – justkt Sep 5 '13 at 10:53
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    As for clothes for kids, if you live in a country where baby showers are a common tradition, don't do it. Many people find that the baby shower outfits the kid at least through size 0-3 months (what you listed as 0) if not through the first year or even two. Infrared thermometers are not acceptable for most US pediatricians for children under 4 months - they require a rectal temperature because it is more accurate. – justkt Sep 5 '13 at 10:53
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    There's a lot of good info in here, but a couple of your points were a little... melodramatic :) Your social life and recreational activities don't automatically die a bloody death the moment you have a kid (okay, maybe for the first few months, but definitely permanently, or even for years). – user420 Sep 5 '13 at 12:21
6

Start going to the gym. If I'd realised before I had my first child how quickly she'd increase in size and weight, and if I'd realised that my sedentary lifestyle was not equipping me for picking up and carrying around babies, I might have made more effort to get stronger beforehand.

I'm not suggesting you need to be an Olympic weightlifter in order to happily wrangle your child, but you want a strong, flexible back for when you need to lean over and pick your child up, and good strong legs if you need to bounce your child to sleep. Sadly (at least in my case) it turned out the ability to run marathons didn't correlate well with the ability to bounce up and down for twenty minutes while holding a 6 kilogram weight.

  • My 1st was very colicky & the only way to soothe him often was to bounce. My husband & I still tease that he was absolutely the best thigh workout ever invented. We used a birth ball though. We would sit on that & bounce & just rotate who was bouncing & some nights it was literally the only way to keep him from screaming. – threetimes Jun 14 '17 at 20:50
4

Of all the things I did before parenting that was the most useful once parenting started, it has to be learning to meditate. I mean that sincerely. Even when I was with a brand new colicky baby & so sleep deprived, it was so key to maintaining my sense of calm.

Children are intense. They require a lot of stamina, patience, and troubleshooting. I really believe the reason I was able to weather the early years without nearly the stress my friends & other parents have posted about is regular mediation.

Meditation reminds me that it is okay that my child is upset. I can breathe through that & just accept that this is what is happening now. It reminds me to stay present in right now, not worrying about what is to come, now is now. It helps me to realize my child is having their own experiences while I am having mine & they are not personally trying to make life hard. Life is hard when you are so small & so much of life is decided for you whether you like it or not, so I am better able to remember that my job is to help them navigate their feelings, not be upset that they are having & feelings & sharing them with me.

It also helps me when people want to offer advice on parenting you don't want, or criticize what you do. I can remind myself in meditation that people do what they do for their own reasons and I don't have to take it personally or even be angered. I can simply stand in my own space & do what I do & let them feel however they are going to feel about that.

I find it comical now though. My kids are getting older & they are not at all bad kids. In fact they are quote sweet. I chuckle now because so many people are actually threatened by a calm parent they will tell you that your kid is going to be all wrong from your kind & patient demeanor all the time. It couldn't be more wrong. They simply feel threatened that someone else doesn't get all angry & they want you to feel how they feel when their kid does those things. They are projecting onto you a need to feel validated for loosing their temper with their own. You can guide children, correct them, intervene, and redirect them, all without ever getting angry. In fact, if you can do so without getting angry you will enjoy your parenting journey so much more for that.

I have really looked forward to being a mom. I did. And like you I wanted to prepare. I had no idea learning to meditate was a preparation for it. It was for entirely different reasons. But I can say meditation has been such a gift to me, because it has made nearly every day of mothering a blessing to me & something I completely enjoy. My kids are kids. They get noisy, climb on things, run off, just like all toddlers do, the difference is in how it makes me feel when they do it. I find that meditation helps me stay in right thinking, and to look at my children from a more proactive stance that keeps their age appropriate development in mind, versus a reactive stance that is focusing on my frustration or how tired I am, or responding to them like their behavior is an intentional affront to me personally.

What I can also tell you is that you can for sure spank 2yr olds for acting 2. You can give them time outs for acting 2, or you can redirect, protect & intervene when they are acting 2 & they all will eventually not be 2 & will stop climbing everything, running into danger, taking off in public places, etc. All of my kids acted 2 when they were 2. All of them outgrew it. I never punished them for being 2. I just turned up my intensity for paying attention & being vigilent & kept reminding them what is dangerous, what they need to do & trying to never ask them to tolerate more than is reasonable (like taking them to a nice restaurant when they are tired, stir crazy, overly hungry, etc)

I am sure, whatever the case, if you are thinking about what it will be like to be a father before a pregnancy is even happening, chances are you will do well with it. It would be lovely if all babies & their parents had that kind of time before pregnancy happens to reflect on what you want in place before that.

3

Read about parenting. All of the practical techniques are relatively easy to pick up, but techniques for raising a decent, well-adjusted human being are often unintuitive.

Some books I'd recommend are:

  • It's OK not to share by Heather Shumaker
  • Teach your children well by Madeline Levine
  • How to talk so kids will listen and listen so that kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • The happiest toddler on the block by Harvey Karp

These books are actually aimed at parents of children from various different age groups, so they won't be appropriate for dealing with a baby. That said, a child is a baby for only a small fraction of its life.

If it hasn't already been said, you probably want to find your position on "the cry it out method" and other approaches to getting a baby to sleep through the night. Some sound brutally primitive and cruel, whereas others take 2 years of not sleeping well.

3

Talk with your significant other about things that involve the child. Will she breastfeed or use formula? Cloth or disposable diapers? How much paternity and maternity leave will you both take? Will she go back to work at all? Will you find out the sex of the baby while she's pregnant? Those are things you can do now that will help work you towards the rest.

Working out those particulars will help you prepare for the rest. The stuff is easy. Hopefully you're a little bit adaptive. Every child is different. Sure, there are generalizations that can be made but children develop at different rates and in different ways. You'll have to learn to roll with the punches as they come.

Hope this helps. Good luck and future congrats!

3

There are a million books on parenting out there and reading them can be really worthwhile, not just for raising kids but for thinking about emotional and social landscapes. More than that, though, it's never too early to start really thinking about parenting philosophies and approaches. You won't be able to prepare for your kid, but you can start to form opinions on which approaches sound good to you and which don't. By the way, that absolutely includes approaches that sound effective but just not like something you can implement, for whatever reason. One thing I've learned is that parenting tactics aren't going to be effective if they're not genuine, and that's one reason that so many parenting philosophies exist and claim to be successful. In reading about this sort of thing, you'll learn a couple things.

First, you'll get familiar with some of the most common topics you'll run across--particularly cry-it-out and other sleep training techniques, discipline, communication, handling tantrums and other big emotions, &c.

Second, you'll find yourself really starting to think about your own experiences and about a lot of your relationships--how you talk to them, how they talk to you, and how you handle conflict, among other things. (You also get to start noticing how many adults have tantrums and what kind of crap excuses we all use to pretend we don't!)

Finally, you'll hopefully start to notice some themes running through all of them and that will help you identify some rare "parenting truths" while putting together a toolbox incorporating suggestions from lots of different areas. Once you have a kid, you'll likely be surprised at which sections you find yourself digging into, and you'll very possibly change your mind completely on the stuff you settle on beforehand, but that's constantly true as your kid grows, anyway.

Two other pieces of advice: 1. Read up on medical issues surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing. Not, like, go deep into all the scary stuff, but the less you're surprised by the topics and decisions you'll come across, the more confident you'll feel making those decisions. 2. Try to keep your eye on the prize--remember that you're parenting a child. The reason we talk about owning a dog versus raising a child is because the dog will continue to be a dog and you can train it but it's always going to depend on you, basically unchanging, for its whole life. With a child, the important thing is the adult you're raising the child to be, not the measure of the child at the moment against an ideal of adult behavior. So, for instance, sure, be considerate of other people (regarding crying in restaurants and tantrums and running wild and all that), but resist disciplining your child based on what the other people around you at the time would like your child to do or not do. Sometimes you gotta get groceries with a miserable kid. Make sure your interactions are based on what the kid needs to become the person you want them to be, not what someone else wants because they don't feel like hearing the crying or they don't approve of the decisions you're making. I try, as one of my highest goals, to make sure my kids know they come first for me, and if they're feeling vulnerable or scared or otherwise awful, I will be late or leave the restaurant before our food gets there if that's what it takes to give them the assurance they need to make their way in the world. I will be firm on rules but I won't tell them what they're doing is wrong without a reason, and if I can't think of a reason, I'll reconsider whether what they're doing is fine, because I want them to grow into capable adults who are not easily swayed and who can think critically. It's never too early to practice contextualizing how you plan to parent in terms of the effect it will have on their ability to understand and predict how the world works, and on their ability to make and trust their own decisions, and on their sense of how to take care of themselves and interact with people with confidence. Corollary to 2: It feels like a lot of people buy into "advice" like "Sleep train your baby or they'll never stop sleeping in your bed/Take away the pacifier before 1 or they won't be able to soothe themselves without it," but are perfectly willing to tell their kids, "Because I said so." For me, parenting is mostly about emotional guidance so my kids aren't buffeted by every wind, and the rest is logistics. So, no, they're not going to sleep in my bed in college or go to bed in their first apartment with a milk bottle. I don't really care when those things happen and generally try to take the path of least resistance--is the weaning or potty training making us all miserable? It can wait. Can I not bear to search for one single more bottle nipple? Then out they go. But kids can grow into adults that throw tantrums, refuse to share, think they don't deserve to get what they need or won't get it unless they just take it, and don't know how to determine whether what someone's telling them to do is right or wrong. Those are the crucial things.

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    Hi and welcome! Your answers are valuable, but the "wall of text" can make reading them more difficult. Formatting them so that they are more easily digestible would help. Thanks for your contributions, and again, welcome. :) – anongoodnurse Oct 26 '16 at 21:32
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    Thanks! I talk way too much, so that's always something I have to watch out for. I didn't even look at this one last time before I posted, so I didn't realize what an enormous paragraph it was! – kmc Oct 26 '16 at 21:37
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    I do that too! We're happy for your contributions, though; that's the most important thing. I would not want your answer to get bypassed because it looked intimidating to read. :) – anongoodnurse Oct 26 '16 at 21:46
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    I wonder if the OP has had a child by now? as it has been the 3 years he mentioned. (not a critique, late answers are still good as people will find them later). – gtwebb Oct 26 '16 at 23:51
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    Indeed -- questions aren't necessarily only for the OP, but hold value for others in future. So thanks for answering, even a bit late :) – Acire Oct 27 '16 at 19:40
3

My biggest advise has nothing to do with actually raising a child.

I suggest you think of all the things you want to do in life and do them now. Everything is infinitely more difficult once you have kids and the older they get, the more faded these goals become. Not in a bad way. You'll love your kids and being with them supersedes whatever you may have wanted to do. But the first few years of parenthood felt a lot like being on house arrest for me. And when all your time and funds are tied up in the standard things everyone else is talking about - basic care, preschools, etc - the possibility to do something pretty basic like maybe go hiking or rock climbing shrinks and shrinks until you get the feeling that you can't even find the time to take a shower anymore, nevermind actually go out and do something. That kind of thing can depress you and in my opinion is the kind of thing that leads to mid life crisis.

I'm not talking about goals like move to Paris or join the Whale Wars crew or anything. I just mean things like - suppose you always wanted to cruise across the country, or learn to cook Szechuan food, or restore a muscle car, or build yourself up to run a marathon, or try to start your own business, or go on any real vacation - maybe just visit paris. It's the little things that slip by that can fester and leave this feeling of want for activity of any kind that's not seasoned with weird kiddy circus music, squeaky toys, simple pianos and muppets... it can drive you nuts.

Balance your own mind. Make sure your partner does this as well. You will be both your best friends and biggest enemies at times even if you wont admit it. So making sure you're both exhausted from the adventure and ready to move forward with a family is probably the most valuable advise I have to give.

As for raising the child or children... you'll figure it out. If you care enough to ask this question at all it means you're not one of those whack job parents that leaves their kid alone at home with guns and booze while they go party. Just by the merit of posting this at all I'd say you'll do fine, with your own blend of parental style, flavor, and fun. And you'll have a great time even if you don't get it all out of your system first.

1

All answers are great. Just adding one more point. I'd say get to know yourself better and get to know what issues you got in your personality (anxiety, perfectionism, not loving yourself enough, etc).Might not be an easy thing to do. But do get them fixed using whatever technique you can think of (Yoga, mindfulness practices, therapy, etc...). In other words, start to love yourself truly :)

Sooner or later people will pass their own childhood stuff to their own children. And if they have not dealt with their issues in a responsible way that will definitely affect their kids too!

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