Every parent will experience different surprises at different times during their child's development. While no two parents will have the same experiences, there are common themes. These are ten big surprises you will probably encounter:
Big changes will happen in your relationship with your spouse. No matter how close and intimate you were before your baby arrived, you will experience a drop in satisfaction with the status of your relationship - especially during the first year. Lack of sleep, lack of intimate time and financial problems all take their toll on your relationship. The good news is, you will be able to reconnect with your partner – it just takes time to get over the initial hurdles associated with looking after a baby. The first year will be tough, but after that, you will find more time for yourselves, and with good communication, you will be able to resolve any issues you may have had before.
Time will seemingly disappear when you have a baby to look after. The first few months are particularly frantic. All your waking time is spent feeding, changing and cleaning up after your child. Due to your interrupted sleep pattern, any free moments you have will probably be spent napping. The expectations you had about being a new parent might be very different to what you actually experience. Many parents-to-be tend to gloss over the work involved in basic childcare and focus on planning all the enjoyable activities associated with babies. The reality is there is precious little time to visit friends, go for long walks and just play with your child; these activities become easier to do, the older your baby becomes. You will be surprised at how well you start planning your days and weekends; all of it will revolve around your child's feeding and napping schedules.
Your body will change permanently once you've become a parent. Men tend to gain weight due to lack of exercise during the first few months. Women, of course, have the most changes: wider hips, breasts that become bigger, then lose firmness, bigger feet and flabby tummies. Most of the minor changes will go back to normal; excess hair loss will stop, your belly will shrink and excess weight can be lost by eating sensibly and getting exercise – though this needs to be put on hold until you recover from the delivery.
Becoming a parent is almost like joining a club. Other parents – strangers – will strike up conversations with you, asking about your baby. Advice can be found and stories shared about parenthood. Family members, friends and neighbours will show great interest in your child's development. Some parents don't like too much attention in this regard; especially when other parents think it's okay to handle their child. Set boundaries, but don't be overly hostile; most of the attention you and your child get from strangers and associates will have good intentions.
Both parents, but mothers in particular, cannot believe how strong they have become since parenthood. The trauma of labour and delivery, and the stress and exhaustion of looking after an infant, really toughens a mom up. Other aspects of life seem less challenging in comparison. Mothers also gain a fair amount of physical strength; the heavier their baby becomes, the stronger they become to carry the weight for long periods.
You will be surprised by the “mistakes” you make as a new parent. All children have their own pace of development, so there are no definite “rules” to follow, only guidelines. You may find that your child uses a pacifier longer than you anticipated, or that you allowed your child to sleep in your room past their first birthday. While the little mistakes you make as a parent are all part of your own development, the real, big mistakes are the ones you must avoid, or never repeat if they do occur. Turning your back on your child while they are bathing, accidentally letting them roll off a high surface – these accidents are potentially fatal for your child. Learn from the mistakes of other parents and don't repeat any serious ones of your own.
Your group of friends of will change. Your single friends without children will be unable to relate to your new lifestyle. Your time will be limited so long social events will be off the cards for a while. Eventually your old friends will visit more often, once your child is older and you can focus your attention elsewhere. As a parent, you will start finding new friends, via support groups you belong to, or from your child's day care or preschool.
You may be shocked to find that you end up hating being a parent at times. You spend so much time just doing the basic, tedious work; changing, feeding, cleaning, washing clothes and comforting your child to sleep. Parents even feel that they are not good enough to do the job. Up to 80 percent of new parents feel that kind of self-doubt. Many parents even admit to disliking their own child at times. Worrying as it sounds, these feelings and emotions are normal. Being a parent takes a lot out of you, and the rewards are not always apparent. Although you may have negative thoughts at times, it is your continued dedication to being a parent that counts.
You will experience very strong emotions – most of them positive, loving ones – to with your child. You will be affected by news reports or movies about children that come to harm. The enhanced emotions you feel could be due to hormones, fatigue, or the huge changes in your life since becoming a parent. The most powerful emotion will be that of unconditional love that you feel for your child.
You will feel slight sadness from having to let your child become more independent, little steps at a time. After every milestone is reached, such as crawling, walking, eating unaided, you will realise how fast your child is growing up, and how precious those developmental years are to you.