While no-one can truly prepare for the impact of having a child, it pays to plan ahead as much as possible.
People always say that everything changes once you have a baby. As a dad-to-be this is hard to imagine: yes, there will be less sleep and more to think about… but can it really be as intense as they say? You’ll only know once it’s happened, and everyone’s experience is different. But it’s well worth planning ahead as much as you can, to give you as relaxed a start to parenthood as possible. You’d never approach a major work change without a plan, so apply the same approach at home.
It’s really important to have honest conversations with your partner about how you will approach work in the first year. These days, it’s no longer all down to mum to take a long break for maternity leave. Legally, mum can return to work six weeks after the birth, if she wants to.
Only you will know what could work best for your child, your home life and your careers. Many mums do choose to spend a full year at home with baby, while other couples share Parental Leave to get the best out of work, money and spending time with your little one.
It’s very important to have this conversation long before the due date. Legally, you must inform your employers of planned maternity and paternity leave 15 weeks before the baby’s due date.
Another important chat to have pre-birth is about how you’ll manage daily tasks at home. Speak to other parents and you’ll soon realise that looking after a newborn is all-consuming.
Whoever’s at home will have precious little time for cleaning, laundry, shopping or cooking. If you’re expecting to come home from work to a sparkling home with dinner on the table, you’re heading for some almighty arguments!
Talk through with your partner how you’ll manage the early months and make some agreements about how you’ll manage the cooking, cleaning and shopping together.
When thinking about having a baby, most couples have an idea about how they’ll approach childcare. Some people return to work after a few months and rely on nursery, nannies or childminders – whether that’s full time or part-time. In other families, one parent gives up work for a year or more. Often, baby’s grandparents or other extended family play a role.
Don’t assume that you know what your partner’s thinking. An idea that sounded feasible in early pregnancy may now not seem like the best solution as the birth approaches.
Talk through the options and what will work best for your situation. But, at the same time, do be prepared for your feelings to change once the little one has actually arrived!
Just like with any work project, regular review meetings are essential! In the early weeks of parenting everything is new and overwhelming and it’s hard to create any kind of structure. But as the weeks continue, you’ll both have a better sense of where things are good and where they are tricky.
Is your current approach working? Are the important tasks getting done, and is everyone happy? Find ways to improve things as you go along.
The more organised you can be, the easier life becomes. Many families co-ordinate online calendars and reminders so that nothing gets forgotten. Or you might choose to batch cook and freeze meals to make sure you still manage to eat well.
Whatever you find works, stick at it. The first few weeks of parenting are very challenging… but in many ways, so are the following 20 years – so the more you can do to make it easier, the better!