Life is full of important milestones, some of which we cannot avoid such as turning 18 and becoming a true adult, and others that we choose such as becoming a parent.
There are others—big jobs, moves, marriage, retirement, personal goals achieved—but somehow the milestone of parenthood seems to be the most radically life-changing.
Even if you have not become a parent yourself, you can quite clearly see the change in your friends who have. And really, why wouldn’t such a thing like bringing another life into this world, and then taking it upon yourself to raise that person to the best of your ability for two decades not be life changing.
Raising a child should be lifechanging.
Parenthood should be an evolutionary experience that alters and molds you—ideally into a better version of yourself than you were before.
But what do these changes look like for most people? Surely there will be variation, but what are the commonalities? What can be expected if you find yourself facing a future as a parent?
Your relationship with your spouse/co-parent/partner changes
In most traditional cases, the creation of a new life requires two parties.
It stands to reason that, if both parents are raising the child, the nature of their relationship will undoubtedly change.
This change is possibly the most feared by people who are unsure if child-rearing is for them. There is always the classic cliche to consider: if it isnt broke, dont fix it.
If you’re in a relationship that is working, and you’re very happy, it can feel risky to bring something else into the equation that will almost surely throw your life out of balance.
What changes can you expect? Will you and partner be able to work together as parents? Will there be time and energy for passion?
People worry that all their attention will be absorbed by the new baby and both partners will be too depleted to tend to their romantic relationship.
And truthfully, this is sometimes true—at least for awhile. Infants are a lot of work and the presence of one will reduce the amount of time and energy you both have for love, passion, and romance.
But, a strong couple will share in the joy of tending to this new life, and they will be able to rekindle all the passion from before the child as the child grows and needs less and less constant attention. The best thing a couple can do to remain close is to communicate honestly ( remember to tell you beloved other how much you love them ) and openly if they are feeling neglected, and be patient with this transition in the relationship.
Your priorities change
It is almost guaranteed that your priorities before parenthood and your priorities after parenthood will look very different.
This is a natural and important shift.
Before parenthood, your main focus was your own personal health, success, and livelihood (and maybe the health, success and livelihood of your spouse too).
Essentially, you were only looking after yourself. After parenthood, your priorities shift to include the new, essentially helpless, life in your care. This is good for the heart, but it can feel odd to suddenly be choosing to spend money on the best car seat money can buy over a hiking and camping weekend with your friends.
Suddenly, those things that seemed so necessary before look less so when when compared with the needs of your child.
Your friendships will change
Unfortunately, babies and children can put stress on your friendships.
Some people, especially people who do not have children, will not understand when you cannot spend as much time with them as you did pre-baby.
Other times, you will want to talk about your children, as they are a big part of your world, but your friends will be uninterested.
This can lead to a lot of resentment and ultimately into friendships ending. It doesn’t always go this way–many people with children have healthy friendships with those who don’t—but, understand that, if it does go that way, friendships sometimes have a season in your life and sometime those seasons pass.
Be patient with your friends and they will hopefully be patient with you as well.