Tuesday, 13 November 2012

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know Before Having Their First Child

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know Before Having Their First Child

By Jennifer Dobson

Deciding to adopt a pet is a big deal. Deciding to have a baby is a REALLY big deal. If you're thinking about having your first child, there's probably a lot more to consider than you think. While your new dog might only need a bowl full of kibble, a leash and a soft bed in which to sleep, a new baby -- and all his accessories -- will virtually take over the house. Of course, you probably won't mind much when you see her smile, take her first step or say her first word. Here are five things you must know before having your first child:

Know Your Finances -- Are you ready financially? Obviously, the more stable your family is financially, the less stressful it will be to add in costs for an extra member to feed and clothe. One way to evaluate how prepared you are financially is to pretend you already have your baby. For a month, or two, set aside the money that you would normally spend on baby-related items, such as diapers, wipes, formula if you won't be breastfeeding, clothing, doctor visits and childcare. When you're in the grocery store, go down the baby aisle, noting the prices of the necessities you would likely purchase on that trip. Once home, add up the total and set aside that amount of money out of your budget. One side benefit of doing this exercise is that you will have saved money that will give you a head-start once you need to buy those items for real.

Know Your Responsibilities -- Are you ready for the added responsibilities of a child? You might be surprised how many couples think they agree on the aspects of child-rearing, but find out after the fact that they don't. Who will be in charge of night feedings or diaper changes? How will household chores be split up once the baby arrives? Will you share the responsibilities of discipline evenly? How much outside help will you have? Are you prepared to give up space, time and money? Are there things you will want to do that you can't do with a child in tow? Will it matter to you if you no longer can do these things? Will you (or your spouse) continue working once the baby is born? If so, who will be responsible for child care?

Know Your Marriage -- While having a baby can bond two people like never before, that innocent little bundle can -- and will -- put a strain on your marriage like never before. Make sure you have a solid foundation first before you add to your family. If you aren't 100% committed to each other, a child will not fix that. Children have a way of illuminating the cracks in your relationship. While no relationship will ever be perfect, work on strengthening those weaknesses before you have a baby. It's true what they say: "The best gift a father (or mother) can give to his (her) children is to love their mother (father)."

Know Your Expectations -- Parenting is never what you think it will be. In some ways, it will be much more wonderful than you can ever imagine. The love you feel for your child, even at birth, is indescribable. Yet you will often feel exhausted, frustrated, burned-out, clueless and hurt. Your house will be messy, laundry will get behind, you're likely to wear spit-up stains to work at least once, time alone with your spouse will be but a distant memory and you'll constantly be buying diapers and wipes. So have a realistic perspective about what your life will be like once baby comes. Talk to other parents about their experiences. Volunteer to babysit for a friend if you have little or no experience with babies. The more prepared you are about what is to come, the less likely you will feel let down from unrealistic expectations.

Know Your "Why" -- It's easy to get "baby fever" when your best friend is expecting and gets all those cute, little clothes at her baby shower. But have you really thought about why you want to have a baby? There may be thousands of reasons to have a child, but they aren't all good ones. Only you can answer the "why," so it's important to be completely honest with yourself. Do you have your baby's best interests at heart? If you find that your "why" just isn't a good enough reason, take a breather then revisit the idea again in a few months. Once you can clearly see your "why" and feel great about the answer, then congratulations! You're going to be a great parent!

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