Reading page after page of conflicting advice on parenthood is enough to leave any new mum or dad’s brain in a spin. And then there’s everything else you have to think about, such as personal finances, organising childcare and life insurance.
Do you give birth at home or in hospital? Attachment parenting or Gina Ford? Follow your mum’s advice or your best friend’s? These honest nuggets from those with recent experience might give you a helpful starting point.
Have all the fun as a care-free adult you can before you even think of having kids or starting a family, says mummy blogger Fran Taylor at Whingewhingewine.
‘I wish I’d taken more cheap holidays during term time,’ she says. ‘That’s impossible when you have kids. I’d have savoured lazy afternoons too. Nowadays I’m sweating in the hot sun in a kids’ park rather than drinking a cold beer in a pub garden. I wish I’d known ‘me’ time should be relished beforehand!’
Gretta Schifano, blogger from Mums Do Travel, agrees. She wishes she’d thought harder about career options before kids.
‘It was only after becoming a mum that I realised that I wanted to be a writer,’ she explains. ‘So I went to college to study journalism when my daughter was at nursery – it would have been so much easier to have done that before becoming a parent.’
When your baby does finally arrive, the pressure can feel immense – but deciding to take each day at a time is important, says mum of three Cathryn, blogger at Cardiff Mummy Says.
‘I wish I’d known that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect parent’ and that it’s fine to be ‘good enough’. Some days can be so tough and challenging. You can feel like you’re the only one struggling and that you’re letting your child down – but you’re not,’ she says.
‘Even the parents who you think are perfect, and have it all sorted, have their own struggles. I wish I’d known to be kinder to myself and to know that I’m doing a good job.’
The day-to-day challenges baffled Holly Pither, blogger at PitterPatterPither at first – but here’s what she learned just after she had her baby girl.
‘There are so many little things that take ages to work out! For example, when putting a new nappy on make sure you pull the frilly bits out of the nappy sides. These help to avoid… explosions,’ she recommends. ‘Baby vests have envelope-style ‘necks’ so you can pull them down over a nappy if the worst happens. This means you don’t need to take a dirty nappy off over the head.’
Holly also says any new parent definitely doesn’t need to buy everything new, aside from a car seat and cot mattress for safety reasons.
We’ve purchased loads of toys and books on Facebook Marketplace and also sold them on afterwards, too. If you do buy things new, check out some of the discount stores as you can pick up some great bargains.'
‘In terms of unexpected costs parents might wish they had known about, a lot of people don’t think about life insurance until they have dependents,’ points out financial expert Emma Maslin, a mum of two who runs The Money Whisperer.
‘Check if you’re covered by your work contract and, if not, speak to a financial adviser to get an appropriate level of cover to make sure that your children would be protected if anything happened. You may find that, if you become a stay-at-home parent during parental leave, your car and home insurance premiums will change.’
Many of the mums we spoke to say a cleaner always makes life easier, if you can afford one, as does online food shopping.
Dietician and mum of two Bahee Van de Bor, who runs UK Kids Nutrition, says a ‘mother’s help’ has definitely helped her out.
‘My mother's help comes in weekly to help me out with my girls, who are three years old and 11 months,’ says Bahee. ‘She takes the girls out to the park, prepares lunches for them, feeds them and gets them dressed in the morning as soon as she walks in through the door.
‘She also makes me lovely cups of tea which I can drink while still hot. When my youngest was first born, she was invaluable as it meant that I could rest and recover. Now, I catch up on admin and usually get a few hours of work completed.’
Whatever you can afford and whatever your parenting style is, Holly Pither says everyone should remember that they’re doing their best.
‘Take parenting advice with a pinch of salt,’ says Holly. ‘Yes, it’s good to compare notes to an extent, but you also need to follow your gut too. No one baby is the same and you’ll find your routine changes depending on the baby.’
You can never do too much emotional, financial or practical prep for the biggest life change you’re ever likely to have. But it’s important to cut yourself some slack: take pleasure in your achievements and be the best parent that you can be.