The leap into parenthood is stressful.
I know, understatement of the year.
But seriously. You’re expected to have it all put together BEFORE the baby even arrives! Preferably before you even get pregnant.
Let’s think of all the things you should be or have in order to be considered a “good parent”:
- Your basic picture-perfect adult-ness: responsible, serious, wise, informed, patient, humble, careful, secure, all put together… You know, like in a stiff 90’s family portrait.
- A job, wait, no…. A Career!!!
- The more degrees and certifications the better.
- A house. But not just any house. You need the complete package- a yard for the kid to play in, every safety feature you could dream of, close to family, safe neighborhood, and in a good school district. And a white picket fence. Don’t forget that!
- Obviously, health insurance for you and baby. Hospital bills can mess you up without insurance!
- Physical health. This goes for dads and moms, but particularly for mom since she’s gotta carry that little bundle of joy around in her belly for 9 months.
- Mental/emotional health. Cause, you know, this is a black and white, easily attainable thing that you can just pick up at the grocery store on your way home from work. NOT!
- An extensive savings account for all the unexpected things that are going to pop up.
- You better be on a wait list for a daycare and/or preschool. Now. Even if you’re not pregnant yet.
- A thorough knowledge of pregnancy, nursing, labor and delivery, caring for a newborn, caring for a toddler, when to make all the transitions in a child’s life, and how to parent in general so that your little angel doesn’t turn into an outright brat. And everything else that I forgot to mention that will pop up at some point during your lifetime as a parent. Start researching. GO!
- Every new gadget that has been thought up to make life with a newborn or toddler slightly easier, which of course, takes $$$$$. Plan for several thousands of dollars. Debt is fine.
- (*Cringe* Ok, I can’t even joke about that without a clarifying blub- Debt is always serious and always hurts! Don’t go into debt for stupid things!)
- A college savings account for the little one. Obviously, college expenses vary widely by area and college… Plan on something like $20,000-$50,000 for tuition, $1,000 dollars for books, $3,000 for housing, and $1,000 for other fees or random expenses. Per year. So multiply that by 4 years of school…. And keep in mind that some locations have higher living expenses…. My head hurts.
- Various other savings accounts for the little one. Yes, this is a thing. Some options are trust funds, life insurance accounts, or stocks/bonds.
- Money put away for the kid’s wedding. Weddings can cost up to $35,000! Yes, that’s one wedding. Were you planning to have more than one kid? Ouch…
- A retirement account for the little one.
Ok, so I’m getting silly… But seriously it feels like you are going to have to pay for the kid’s entire life before their life even starts!
Before I was a parent, I worried a lot about all the money involved.
How is anyone supposed to be able to afford this???
Honestly, I don’t think ANYONE can afford all that!
And I don’t think you HAVE to afford the whole list in order to be a good parent. The things on this list are all ideals. Most parents pick and choose a few of these things because they can’t do it all- but that doesn’t make them “bad parents.”
So what do you really HAVE to have or be in order to qualify as a “good parent?”
This is a tricky one because this is where the idea of needing a house, multiple savings accounts, education, a career, etc. comes from.
But the truth is that stability is different for each person because we all have different circumstances and needs.
Some people can barely get through college without starving. If you are barely affording food, maybe it’s not the right time for a child.
On the other hand, if you are waiting to feel completely unburdened by finances…. Well, unfortunately that day may never come. Most people feel financial burdens for their whole life. It’s rare to make enough money or save enough of what you make to feel completely free of any money-stress.
Don’t make having children completely dependent on finances. You might never have children if you do.
Of course, a parent does have the responsibility to provide the basic necessities of life (food, water, shelter, clothing, safety). If there is any reason why you won’t be able to provide these things to a child, then work hard until you can.
Having a good, honest way to provide for your kids is an essential part of being a good parent.
Every parent should educate themselves on the basics of parenting.
And I mean the very basics, not a Master’s Degree in Child Development.
Just simple things like:
- What foods should children eat to be healthy?
- What different philosophies of discipline and guidance to I agree with or disagree with?
- What do I want my children to become and how can I get them there?
- What do I value in my child’s education? Should I choose public, charter, or home school options?
Parents who lack basic knowledge tend to do whatever is easiest. I don’t blame them! That’s human nature. The problem is that the easiest thing is rarely the best thing.
It’s like a ship with nobody to steer it. It will follow the flow of the tide. This is fine if the ship is in open waters, but if the ship is pushed towards shore, it could crash.
This is reacting to parenting situations as they come.
Parents should learn enough to make educated decisions regarding their children.
This is like a ship that has a captain and a crew to guide it. They have a destination in mind. As they sail, they are constantly checking their charts and maps to ensure that their course is steady and true. They make many small adjustments as they go to keep on their way. This takes constant vigilance and effort. Even though this route is more difficult, the end result is much better and safer and it gets them where they want to be.
This is being an intentional parent. This is the parent who teaches, guides, and motivates children rather than reacting.
Click the image below!
This is the most important thing for a parent to have, and weirdly, one of the most flexible things too.
Everyone goes through phases of depression, anxiety, or long-term struggles here and there. Other people struggle with emotional difficulty daily. The idea of a person who is always happy is a dream. It’s not real. Nobody has that, and that’s ok.
I believe that everyone has something they can give to help the people around them, no matter their current struggles. It is not necessary to have a perfect life before you decide to be a parent. In fact, nobody would ever have kids if we did that.
The flip side of that coin is that children needs lots of attention and love. They take a lot of time. You worry about them. You sacrifice for them. You put your heart and soul into their well being.
Teach yourself tools to get through difficult emotional times. Teach yourself what you need in order to handle stress. Teach yourself how to calm yourself down or how to recognize when you’re on the verge of a meltdown.
Teach yourself about your own emotions so that you are capable of handling the emotional changes ahead as you become a parent.
- Don’t try to pay for the kid’s whole life.
You don’t have to pay for their entire college, for their entire wedding, for their entire anything.
Help is great.
But kids, especially adult kids, need the opportunity to learn and grow from life’s challenges. Just like you did. Don’t shield them from hard things. Let them learn to be adults.
Help when you can. But it’s ok to let them work hard too.
Nobody’s perfect. So why should you wait to be a parent until you reach some perfect vision of yourself?
Have a kid at the right time for you, even though you’re a flawed human being, and then work on what you want to become.
In fact, you’ll find that being a parent makes you a better person in a hurry. It’s amazing what you’ll do, what you’ll give up, for those sweet little ones.
- Don’t expect to be a millionaire before you have kids.
I know we already talked about this. I just thought it was important enough to say again.
- Don’t expect to feel 100% ready.
Notice, throughout this entire blog, I never once promised that any of these tips would make you “ready”. In life, there is no “just do this and then you’ll be ready to be a parent…” I don’t think anyone is ever ready.
Ready doesn’t exist.
You just kind of get thrown into it. At first, you’re winning if you just keep your head above water. And then you go through this sick phase where just as you start to feel in control, you are back to trying to keep your head above water. It’s like the universe is teasing you. And you hope and hope that someday you’ll be in control again.
And then one day you’re suddenly used to it.
I don’t know if you ever stop treading water, but you at least get used to the challenges you have and used to being surprised by new ones. And through it all, you’re happier than you’ve ever been.
There is no way to be ready.
“Good parents” weren’t ready when they first became parents. “Good parents” learned to love their kids and live simply.
Don’t worry about all the crap that people say you need.
Just be a “good parent.”