Starting a Family: See This Checklist for First Time Parents

While I've been a parent over 12 years, if you're about to be a parent for the first time, here's some things you might want to consider.

It’s exciting, isn’t it? Barely days or even weeks since you’ve found out, you find your thoughts wandering. A thousand things pop in and out of your head, playing scenarios over and over and you don’t seem to get tired of it. Sometimes you are excited, sometimes you are afraid, other times you are unsure of yourself.

I’m sure you want some assurances, but there is none. The best thing you can do is to be prepared. And if you are reading this in order to prepare for parenthood, congratulations! Great job! Deciding to keep your precious baby, that itself is a sign that you are on the right track.

Now, let’s get you up to speed. There are many lists and pointers out there and you can surely find a number of really good ones. Here’s a few personal notes, a checklist which I am sure you will find useful:

Be mentally and emotionally ready

Maybe you dreamed of this for a long time and it’s finally happening. Or you suddenly found out and it’s driving you nuts. It doesn’t matter really. A very tiny heart is beating in a womb and it's only going to get real as that tiny little pumping machine grows exponentially. It's natural to feel a mixture of emotions and be confused at times. It’s your first time, after all, it's all new to you. You are not alone and no, you are not likely to get it wrong. You will get it right, be confident! There are billions of parents out there, and believe it or not, most of them have been through what you are going through right now. Ease your mind, and let yourself feel the joy this brings. It may take a while to get used to but you’ll get there.

Accept your role, transitions are inevitable

Knowing that you are a parent, and being a parent is fundamentally different. "Being" requires action and it demands presence. First-time parents are often surprised to find themselves in conflict with their own interests. In the first months, even years, you will find yourself longing for the things you were once able to do freely. Like hanging out with friends or traveling on a whim. You are no longer as free to do so now that you have a baby or expecting one. Recognize these moments as they happen and know that you are in transition. It’s normal and expected. The key to these moments is acceptance. Accept the reality and demands of your role as a mom or dad then consider how your "wants" fit in your new situation. Are the risks manageable, is the schedule workable? Is it consistent with your "vision" for your family? Sometimes you just have to be imaginative to make things work.

Visualize the parent you want to be and the family you want to lead

Your baby is your priority, but you are equally important in your family. Your hopes, dreams, character, and especially behavior will shape the values of your children. The decisions you make will impact the family in ways you haven’t thought of yet. That’s why, as early as now, you have to picture yourself as a parent. Do you see yourself as a loving dad, do you see yourself as a conventional mother? Do you want a religious family, or do you prefer to just wing it? You don't have to make these decisions right now. The fact is, even if you do, you will likely change it as you age. But right now, the important thing is to know that like everything else, you will need a direction. Having a vision of a "family life" will keep you from making inconsistent decisions concerning your child, and the entire family.

Health comes first

The most reliable parent is one who’s always there, and you can't always be there if you are sick. Needless to say, you have to take care of your health so that you can attend to your child’s needs. There is no problem worse than a health-related one, be it your kid or yourself. Invest in living healthy, watch your eating habits, and be active. Make a lifestyle change if needed. According to health experts and life coaches, living a healthy lifestyle is the cheapest, but most effective way to healthcare. It doesn't take an expert to prove that.

Get your finances in order

Unless you are part of the world's top 1%, you’ll have to make changes here. You have to be serious and intentional in the way you spend your money. It is good to track down your expenses each month, so you have an idea of how much is being spent on mortgage/rent, transportation, food, bills, etc. Budgeting can be tricky, especially if you are trying to make ends meet. More importantly, you can allocate more to savings when you know that funds are going to unnecessary things like shopping or overspending on groceries. Track what you spend, how you spend, and zero-in on those unnecessary expenses. Nonetheless, whichever approach you take, your job is to make sure your money is going to where it counts – your family. It's no longer just your money, it's your family's resource. Think before you spend and be careful about taking on debt. Prepare for the inevitable and invest when you can. This will make or break the future you want to build for you and your kids.

Family life is social life, welcome assistance and offer help when you can

You can't expect to raise your kids alone without any help from anyone. I'm not talking about a life partner, simply to say that no man is an island. There will be days when you just won’t make it in time, there will be moments when you are just too tired. You will be depleted, incapacitated, and even unwilling. In these moments, you need someone to be there for your family. Keep your relationships and make new ones. You’ll be surprised how much parents are willing to help each other out. And just the same, help one out when you can. Parenthood is fun, especially when the responsibilities are shared.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to you. The decisions you make, the direction you take, even the relationships you keep or break. Nothing can truly prepare you for the future, it's not exactly known to us at the moment. You don't have to get crazy and follow the rules from A to Z, I don't think anybody has ever stuck to the rules really. Even so, it’s no guarantee that you'll achieve your vision for your family. Remember that like us, a family group is organic. It has unpredictable dynamics and impossible challenges. What matters is that you are there, present, in the center of each moment. That’s what being a parent is about.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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