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Parenthood is never what you expect it to be—just ask anyone who already has kids. It's a journey that's full of surprises and will always keep you guessing. It will be fun at times, and sad at times. No matter what you see, you're going to end up seeing a side of yourself that you never knew you had.
That being said, there's a lot about parenthood that will be difficult. More specifically, the money, the chores, and the scheduling will be the hardest to cope with for most new parents. What makes things even worse is that the first couple of months tend to be the most difficult.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of couples don't survive the first stages of parenthood because it can be so stressful. If you want to make your transition to happy parents as easy as possible, then we suggest you start doing these important tasks to prepare for parenthood as soon as possible.
Start a 529 Plan.
Crazy as it may sound to many families, you need to start saving up for college before your child is born. College has been skyrocketing in price, and if you don't want your child to end up in debt they can't even discharge, you will need to make sure that they have enough money to go to college.
A 529 Plan is a specialized college savings account that has tax advantages and also will help your child go to college at any school they choose. The sooner you start one of these plans, the better off your kiddo will be.
Consider becoming foster parents first.
Though this may sound pretty awful, you need to realize that being a parent isn't for everyone. In fact, you might not even realize that you don't really want kids until you actually have to take care of a child for months on end.
One of the best ways to prepare for parenthood on both a mental and practical level is to see what it's like to be a foster parent for a year. Foster programs offer you financial incentives to take care of kids, and also will give you a good idea of what to expect when you have your own child.
This choice benefits everyone involved. You get to gain parenting experience to make a more informed decision about having kids, a child who needs a family will get stability, and the state's child care system will be slightly less burdened.
Read up on your medical insurance coverage and start saving up for your child's birth.
Did you know that giving birth to a healthy child in a hospital can cost up to $20,000? That hefty price tag might not even include the necessary tests to ensure that your child is going to be healthy, nor the aftercare you will need.
Insurance (or Medicaid) covers the majority of it in most cases, but the truth is that there's going to probably be hidden costs that will still pack a powerful punch. Health care is expensive, and a lot of the costs you'll get might not actually be associated with the work you do during birth.
If you are planning to give birth, then you should take a look at what your plan does and doesn't cover. Expectant parents should even consider unexpected bills that might come during pregnancy. Additionally, you might want to sock away extra cash to cover any extra bills you may need for aftercare.
Quit your bad habits and get into shape.
Though this may just sound like generic good advice, you'd be surprised at how helpful kicking bad habits can be when you're trying to prepare for parenthood. When you have kids, you won't have as much time to care for yourself and you will be far more tempted to indulge in bad habits.
Go ahead. Quit smoking. Quit binge drinking. Lose that weight. Still not sold on this? Consider these four perks you'll get if you get into shape before baby is born:
- You'll have healthier kids and an easier birth. People who are heavily overweight are considered to be high-risk births because their weight could put them at risk of pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes. Losing weight and getting fit will reduce those risks dramatically and will also give your child a healthy advantage.
- Your body will be ready to handle sleepless nights better. The first couple of months with a newborn are pretty brutal. Having a healthy body will make it easier to deal with.
- Kids mimic what they see their parents do. There's a reason parents who smoke have kids who are more likely to smoke as adults. If you want to avoid your kids making the same mistakes you did, you'll kick your bad habits.
- Being healthy might also help conception. A healthy couple is more likely to conceive than an unhealthy one.
Learn good coping mechanisms.
The first year of having a kid is going to be brutal, no lie. Your child will demand constant attention and you will be very unlikely to get much privacy. Despite not getting much privacy, you will be very lonely because you simply won't have time for friends anymore.
It's unsurprising that a lot of new parents, especially new moms, tend to feel overwhelmed. That's why one of the best ways to prepare for parenthood is to sharpen your coping mechanisms and learn when it's okay to walk away from a crying baby so you can collect yourself.
You also may want to designate someone to talk to when things get to be too much—because they will get to be too much sooner or later.
Learn to say "NO."
One thing most people don't realize about parenthood until they actually have a kid is how often people feel like they have the right to push you around because of your parental status.
Sometimes, it's your kids who will try to bully you. Other times, it's going to be other adults who insist that they know what's better for your kid than you do. Even the most confident person will feel beaten down by this, so if you have trouble standing up for yourself, now is the time to learn.
Part of being able to prepare for parenthood is learning how to say "no" to others, and learning how to be assertive. It's also learning how to fight back. If you can't say no to other people, are often called a doormat, or just are very sensitive, you will need to cut that out before you have a baby.
Take parenting classes.
If you haven't really been around kids much, one of the best ways to prepare for parenthood is to take parenting classes and childcare courses. Most community colleges and hospitals will offer up these course for free, so even if you are on a seriously low budget, they still will be available for you.
These classes will teach you how to change a diaper, what warning signs to watch out for, and how to properly breastfeed. That makes them an ideal introduction to being a new parent for people who haven't been around kids before.
Start building up a parenthood support network.
When it comes to parenting, one of the hardest things to deal with is the feeling of doing it all alone. Parenthood is very isolating for most people, especially if you are used to having time to socialize with friends. This is actually one of the reasons why parenting and depression tend to go hand in hand.
The best way to reduce the isolating vibe of parenthood is to have a support network of fellow parents to help you out. They can pool resources with you, offer up good babysitter numbers, tell you parenting hacks, and also just be the sympathetic ear you need when your kids are acting up a storm.
At the very least, having supportive in-laws and relatives can be a huge help. Isolation can be really damaging, so try to prepare for parenthood by reaching out to other mom groups.
Learn to enforce routines ASAP.
Routines will be the biggest asset you have when you're a parent, and that's why one of the best ways to prepare for parenthood is learning how to enforce a routine. Start preparing yourself to put your children on a routine as soon as possible.
That being said, you will also need to try to sleep when the baby sleeps for the first year or so. Otherwise, you will not have much sleep at all during the first couple of years.
Some have also had some luck with the 2-3-4 Nap Schedule, if you want to give that a try.
Finally, save up as much money as you can.
If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of advice involving how to prepare for parenthood on a financial level. There's a reason for this, and that reason is that parenthood is expensive.
It takes over $250,000 (on average) to raise a kid from birth until the age of 18—not including college. That's a ton of money, so if you want to make sure that you child is well cared-for, you will start saving money before your baby is born. After all, it's not always easy to save money as a parent.