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What people don’t tell you about being a parent

Most of us at Mum & You are parents of young children and we spend many meetings chatting about the latest wtf moment we experienced that morning/ evening/weekend with our kids. Because whether you have a newborn or a 7 year old, there is always a surprising new thing to learn about being a parent that people don’t tell you! Parenthood is a life-changing experience, and while we of course love our kids deeply, there are many aspects of having a baby and being a parent that we just didn’t feel prepared for. We know this list may sound negative but we think it’s important to know you’re not alone in how you are feeling if you’re going through any of the following:

1. The “Baby Brain” Effect: Parents often joke about “baby brain” or “mum brain,” referring to the cognitive challenges and forgetfulness that can come with sleep deprivation and the mental load of parenting. It’s real and can affect your memory and focus long after the newborn stage. The mental load of remembering everything you need to get done, lack of sleep, worry and just general busyness of life with kids can make you feel you have baby brain even when your kids are grown up.

2. The Constant Worry: You’ll worry about your child’s safety and well-being constantly, even as they grow older. From the moment they’re born, you become hyper-aware of potential dangers and risks. You worry if the ear splitting tantrum they’re having means they will be a psychopath as an adult, will they have friends at school, are they happy, are they in from their night out yet. The worry doesn’t end long into adulthood.

3. Loss of Personal Space: Be prepared to say goodbye to personal space. Babies and young children have no concept of personal boundaries, and you’ll often find yourself with little personal space or time for yourself. They follow you into the toilet, they sit on you when watching tv, they may want to hold your hand, twist your hair, stroke your arm or even your tummy when going to sleep.

4. You Can No Longer ‘Pop Out’: Run out of milk? Pre-kids, you grab your money, walk out the door and go get milk. Now you have to time it around a babies nap, change them, make sure their fed, check the change bag has nappies and baby wipes incase they poo while out, wrestle shoes and coat onto a defiant toddler, find your purse that’s been taken out of your bag and emptied onto the floor. The loss of ‘popping out’ can hit hard post kids.

5. Bodily Changes: Pregnancy and childbirth can result in permanent physical changes, like stretch marks, varicose veins, changes in breast size, c section scars, wobbly tummies, weakened pelvic floors causing you to leak a bit of urine when you cough/sneeze or bounce with your kids on a trampoline. You hair can change, your skin can get drier, periods can change and be heavier or lighter. The changes can carry on long after pregnancy.

6. Emotional Rollercoaster: The intense emotions of parenting aren’t always easy to anticipate. You may feel overwhelming love and joy, but also frustration, exhaustion, guilt, miss your old life and even regret at times. And suddenly a soppy advert has you bawling that wouldn’t have bothered you before. The emotions are intense.

7. Impact on Relationships: Having a baby can change the dynamics of your relationship with your partner. You have less time together just you two and its hard to resolve issues when the kids are always around. It’s essential to communicate and work together to maintain a healthy relationship amidst the demands of parenthood.

Mum tip: “We have 3 children and find its a big ask to ask family to put them to bed so that we can go out in the evening. So we usually go out for lunch and spend the afternoon together and be back before bedtime.”

8. Financial Strain: Raising a child is expensive, and the financial aspect can be more challenging than expected. People often save for loss of salary during maternity leave but don’t think about future needs. They grow out of clothes constantly. Nursery fees in the UK are one of the highest in the world. Even when they’re in school, there’s school trips, wrap around care, birthday parties, hobbies, all the food and snacks, costs can add up quickly.

9. Loss of Sleep: People often mention sleepless nights, but the extent of sleep deprivation can be truly shocking. It can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional well-being. And sleepless nights aren’t reserved to the newborn stage. Some children simply need more help and close attachment to go to sleep and stay asleep, which can go on long into their childhood. It’s perfectly normal but can be very hard on the parent loosing time in their evening sitting with their child while they drop off. Mum & You tip: use a nappy that has high performance to keep them dry at night so you don’t need to wake them just because they have done a wee. We don’t want to brag but Mum & You Nappychat eco nappies has smart tube technology to distribute the wee evenly and keep them dry for up to 12 hours.

10. Social Life Changes: Your social life will change, and it may take time to find a balance between parenting and maintaining friendships. Some friends who aren’t parents may not understand the demands on your time. It can be a lonely time if your are on maternity leave and don’t know anybody who is also off. But it can be a time to make new friends. Baby groups and parks can be a good way to meet people. And when they start school, getting involved with the school events or PTA is a great way to meet other parents.

11. Less Time for Hobbies and Interests: Pursuits and hobbies you once enjoyed might take a back seat to childcare. Finding time for self-care can become a challenge.

12. Surprise Allergies and Aversions: Some children develop allergies or strong aversions to common foods, textures, or even specific clothing materials, which can be unexpected, difficult to manage and require adjustments in your daily routine. Who would have known how frustrating it can be for you and your child to simply put on their socks in the morning only to learn you have done it wrong and the toe seem “isn’t right”.

14. Unsolicited Advice: Be prepared for unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends, family, and even strangers. Everyone has an opinion on parenting, and it can be overwhelming.

13. They Get Poorly. A Lot: A newborn can get their first cold within a couple of weeks. I had no idea that could happen. And as a generally chilled out parent most of the time, when my child has a temperature it’s always a night of worry. But it doesn’t stop as babies, when they go to nursery or school they come home with bugs I was blissfully unaware of pre-kids. Most of us will know about headlice (nits!) and nothing prepared me for the shock of seeing one move in my daughters hair. But that shock doesn’t even come close to the day I saw lots of stringy, white bits wriggly around her poo. Yes, kids can get worms! And the whole family needs treating (as well as washing all bedding, towels and soft toys). Then there’s the sickness bugs (that usually come when you’re about to have a rare date night). The many random rashes that can come with the many virus that turn out to be innocent but have you googling and worrying could be the serious ones. Ear aches, sore throats, coughs that linger. And the constant decisions of whether they are well enough to send to school that day or should they stay off give you a day of juggling work and a child who suddenly perks up and demands a snack.

15. Constant Mess: Babies and children can be incredibly messy, and you may find yourself cleaning up after them more than you ever imagined, from spilled food, toys, dropped clothes, arts and crafts. It still shocks me how much time I spend cleaning up after other people.

16. The Laundry Never Ends: an unusual present for new parents is a laundry basket. Because it’ll be an extra wardrobe when they don’t have time to put away the clean laundry. Laundry is never ending and your own laundry usually gets done last.

17. Milestone Pressure: There’s often pressure to meet certain developmental milestones, and this can lead to unnecessary stress. Every child is unique and may not follow the same timeline.

18. The Smells: Be ready for unexpected odours. Babies and toddlers can produce some surprising smells, and you may become accustomed to dealing with them.

19. You Become Obsessed With Poo: Talking of smells, from that first black meconium poo, poonamis, changes to poo when they start weaning, green poos, poos with sweetcorn in, the first poo they do in the potty, (and as previously mentioned, poos with worms) you become slightly obsessed with looking at, talking about and taking pictures of your child’s poo!

20. You Don’t Just Become a Parent: You become a chef, nurse, cleaner, teacher, organiser, finder of many lost things, event planner, clothes buyer, appointment booker, taxi driver, peace maker. You wear many hats when you have a child and you have to learn it all on the job with no training, salary or break.

Parenthood is a journey filled with both joys and challenges, and these lesser-discussed aspects are just a part of the complex and rewarding experience. While it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected, remember that the love and connection you share with your child, the giggles, the hugs, the excited eyes when they learn something new make it all worthwhile. And for all the stressful times, they really do grow up quickly. So while you don’t need to enjoy every moment (who would enjoy worms in poo!) every tricky stage really does pass.

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