There's nothing that has the power to change your life quite so much as becoming a parent. Whatever life was like before you had kids, I can guarantee you that you won't even recognise it once they arrive. The short list of things that having a baby changes is:
The slightly more in-depth list consists of:
How much you sleep will change DRAMATICALLY overnight. Literally. Because yesterday you didn't have a baby and today you do. It's just like that. How much you value sleep will change too. Before you had kids, sleep was just something you did at the end of every day because your body told you that you had to. You probably didn't really give it that much thought, did you? But now your sleep is precious. Now four uninterrupted hours on the bounce is the Holy Grail. A whole night? Are you out of your fucking mind? That's not happening for a long time yet. I am yet to meet a parent with young children - mother or father - who does not feel nostalgic about sleep. Oh, and those Sunday morning lie-ins you used to have? Yeah. I think you can see where this is going.
When you don't have to plan every outing around the needs of a small child, you take your freedom for granted. Why wouldn't you? Before you have kids you don't have to think about packing a changing bag and having spare nappies and wipes in the car. You don't have to worry about whether or not you can breastfeed in the outfit you're wearing or if there'll be somewhere to heat up a bottle. You need to go out, so you go out. But once children come along, you can't do that anymore. You either have to plan the outing with military precision and accept the fact that your baby will probably unleash a poonami the second you sit down on the bus/start the car engine OR you need to find somebody to babysit. Somebody your child is familiar and comfortable with - and I really can't stress that part enough. Still feel like going out? Nah. Maybe tomorrow, eh?
It is ASTOUNDING how much parents worry about their kids. When they're babies, you worry if they're eating, shitting and sleeping enough (probably; undoubtedly more; and NO). When they get a little older, you start to worry about those dreaded milestones. And everybody else is worrying about them too (or being smug about them, which is pretty much the same thing), so they're THE topic of discussion at every playgroup, play date and clinic. Inescapable. After that comes behaviour (toddler tyranny is normal; anybody who says otherwise is lying) and thereafter it's a constant snowball of worry until you die. I mean, that sounds bleak, but apparently it's true. So get comfy and settle in for the ride.
Okay, this one is tough. But the truth is, you might lose some friends after you have kids. As far as your friends with kids go, you're probably safe. When you cancel on them because you're too fucking mind-bogglingly exhausted to leave the house after 7:30pm, they will more than likely understand and feel secretly relieved. But when the same thing happens with your friends who don't have kids, they might not have quite the same level of understanding. That's not their fault, by the way, and they're not doing it to be assholes; they just have no personal experience of how knackering it can be to stagger through the bath and bedtime routine and then have to drag yourself into the shower and attempt to make yourself look something like human. So be prepared for some changes in your social circle; it's normal and it will be okay.
After almost four years of motherhood, I honestly cannot remember what it was like to live in a home that wasn't full of toys and nappies and bottles. I used to have ornamental shit all over the place and laundry that was actually done and ironed and put away before it took on laundryzilla status. Now... Well, now I spend a lot of time trying to come up with ingenious toy storage solutions and despairing over laundry. None of my kitchen cupboards open without adult intervention and there's a lock on the OUTSIDE of my bathroom door to stop small people letting even smaller people in to rifle through the bin and unravel all the toilet roll. Sometimes, when I forget to put that lock on after I leave the bathroom, I find shampoo bottles and sponges down the toilet. Oh, and O actually pushed one of the knots in the floorboards all the way through earlier this week, so I had to call a joiner for advice about how to bung it up and fill it in. Such fun!
Honestly, reading this has probably made you think that parenthood is just an endless nightmare with no redeeming features, but that's not true. There are a lot of shitty moments when you have young children. Literally and figuratively. But there are really great moments too. There are the first moments of the morning when your kids are inexplicably ecstatic to see you. There are the moments when they climb into your lap with a book on a rainy afternoon. There are kisses and cuddles and I love you's and there is the simple fact that you are one of their absolute favourite people in the world. All of that is pretty cool really, and it's more than worth all the other stuff.