How to Prepare for the Transition to Kids
Society is rife with cliches about becoming a parent: It will make you feel whole. Your instincts will naturally tell you what to do. You’ll be so loved up that you won’t even notice all that you’re giving up. When these cliches fall short of reality, many new parents (especially women) begin to feel that something is wrong with them. ‘Do I have postpartum depression? Am I really cut out to become a mother?’ they ask themselves. While postpartum depression is indeed an experience that is more common than it seems because it is often not openly talked about, there is a camp of women (and men!) who don’t feel like parenthood comes naturally and don’t feel the overwhelming bliss that they expect. There is nothing wrong with them, and these are natural feelings to have when it comes to becoming a parent. In fact, an essayist by the name of Dana Raphael actually came up with a term for hormonal, emotional and bodily changes that underscore the transition to motherhood and which can often feel uncomfortable: Matrescence (Sacks, 2018).
In matrescence, new mothers’ brains are wired to release a continuous drip of oxytocin. Oxytocin makes them zoom in and focus exclusively on their newborn baby. However, their brains are pulling in the opposite direction, saying “but what about my interests, my hobbies, my physical needs, and my ability to go to the bathroom alone?!” The inner tension between these thoughts and the effects of the oxytocin produce the experience known as matrescence, and it means that there is nothing wrong with you if the transition to childbirth is not as romantic as in the movies. In fact, most new mothers feel this inner push and pull (Sacks, 2018).
Thinking about becoming a parent? Already on your way there? Whether you are engaged and expecting, planning a wedding and thinking of kids in the future, or getting married and already have children either together or from a previous relationship, we have laid out our two cents worth of advice on making the transition, courtesy of experts and professionals. We’ll also throw in some direction on what child-related information you should include in your prenup!
Be Careful of Reading Too Many ‘How-to’ Books Related to Parenthood!
A well-adjusted mother of two with whom we spoke gave the following advice:
“Just [be wary of reading] books about raising children. They will make you start to think that there is a right way and a wrong way. I really think that you need to discover and find the parents whom you trust, and ask them for advice. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t read those books.” (Anonymous, 2021).
There is a dizzying amount of information out there about parenting in book form, all of it conditioned by the culture, background, predispositions, and even political beliefs of the people sharing that information. Although some people find it helpful in becoming a parent to gather and take advice from experts, they also frequently become overwhelmed because of the sheer diversity of expert opinions out there on this topic. If you find yourself flooded with information and unsure of what advice to take, don’t panic. If you do want to read about parenting here is a great list of the only parenting books you’ll ever need to read.
Just kidding! It’s totally understandable to panic a little bit. Yell a little, go for a run, stress eat. But when you’re done freaking out, listen to us on this one: It’s ok to not know. It’s ok to be completely and utterly unsure. In fact, it’s quite normal! The best thing you can do in this situation is a.) put down the books, b.) be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that there is no one ‘right’ way, and then c.) think of a friend or acquaintance who you consider to be an intelligent, well-adjusted parent, and reach out to them. Don’t be shy if you don’t know this person particularly well; most people are extremely flattered when someone respects them enough to come to them for parenting tips, and will gladly extend a helping hand.
Be Kind to Your Partner!
This one sounds obvious, but when navigating new parenthood and caring for a little creature who screams and poops a lot and cannot explain what they want, many couples turn against one another and the relationship devolves into a competition of ‘who’s the biggest victim?’ as each party tries to prove that they have it worse, they have to wake up earlier, or that they’re doing the lion’s share of the work. It is completely normal to experience relationship difficulties as you transition to parenthood. Here, too, be gentle with yourselves and remember that you have undertaken one of the most difficult journeys one can make, and that emotions will inevitably run high. But also…be gentle with each other. You are both having a hard time. Remember that you are on the same team, and you must be doing something right as a couple if you have gotten to this point on the journey together (Parents, 2018).
Be Ready and Willing to Ask for Help
If you’re someone for whom asking for and accepting help does not come naturally, this one is going to be a steep learning curve…but it’s incredibly important. You cannot go parenthood alone. For the vast majority of human history, people have lived in tight-knit villages and family groups, and childcare has been the responsibility of the community as a whole. In the grand scheme of things, the nuclear family is a very new invention. And forgive us, but for childcare purposes, the nuclear family is absolute rubbish.
If (and when) you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood bite the bullet and ask for help (Parents, 2018). Repeatedly. Regularly. If you have family nearby or willing to come to town for some time that can help you (and whose help you actually want!) that’s great. If not, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends. Pretending to be able to do significantly more than you are truly able is not noble; it does a disservice to you, your relationship, and your baby.
The best gift you can give yourself before the birth is to amass a support network. Don’t have people in your life that you would feel ok about asking for help? It’s time to join a community group of parents, make new friends, or both. We know that might seem like a tall order when you are planning for a baby, but we can assure that it’s exponentially less effort than trying to adjust to parenthood without help from your community! We promise that the reward of a caring support network is well worth the effort and intention that goes into building one. If you are able to build your support network before getting pregnant, even better.
Marriage, Kids and Prenups
We tend to equate prenups with divorce agreements. That aspect of a prenup is like an insurance policy (Wisnia, 2019). You don’t plan on your house burning down, but in case it happens, you have protection. However, there can be a lot more to prenups! If you’re considering having children together, this agreement can also serve as a way to think through and plan out important aspects of your future as parents together. Consider the following kid-related topics for inclusion in your discussion and maybe even a few of these for your prenup, including some topics that have nothing to do with divorce. Topics to discuss:
-Education of the children: Public school, private school, or homeschooling? (Wishnia, 2019)
-Religion: Will the children be raised with any type of religious upbringing or education? This is particularly relevant if the two of you come from different religious background, or if one of you is religious and the other is not (Wishnia, 2019).
-What, if any, property (such as heirlooms or family businesses) from each spouse will be earmarked for the children? (Wisnia, 2019).
-In the unlikely event of a divorce (especially if one spouse later has other children), what money and property will be allocated to the children from this marriage, and how? (Wishnia, 2019).
-Kids from previous relationships: If one partner has children from a previous relationship, which property will be protected and set aside for them? (Macnamara, 2019).
-Debt protection: This clause can help protect wealth intended for future children by safeguarding against creditors attempting to claim joint property as a result of the debt of only one spouse (Macnamara, 2019).
-Asset protection: In case of a split, this helps to separate property which could be claimed by one of the spouses from property which necessarily must be passed down to the children (Macnamara, 2019).
One thing you should take note of is that it’s not possible to write into a prenup things like custody, child support, visitation rights in the event of a divorce (Wishnia, 2019), how a child should be raised, and where they can spend vacations and holidays (Macnamara, 2019). This is because such things are decided in real time based on the needs of the children and the present situation, especially those pertaining to divorce (Macnamara, 2019).
We hope these ideas and considerations have given you some food for thought, but not enough to make your head spin! The common thread that runs throughout all of our advice is to be gentle with yourself. Becoming a parent is not an easy transition, especially today. May the journey be rich with meaning and growth!
Anonymous, personal communication, 28 August, 2021.
McNamara, B. 2019. Can Children Be Written Into A Prenup? Retrieved from: https://www.mcnamaralawyers.com/blog/can-children-be-written-into-a-prenup/
Parents Magazine Youtube. 2018. Advice for Your New Parent Self. Retrieved from: youtube.com/watch?v=gDcCUTXyOtc
Sacks, A. 2018. A New Way to Think About the Transition to Motherhood. Retrieved from: youtube.com/watch?v=jOsX_HnJtHU
Wishnia, J. 2019. Prenuptial Agreements and Children. Retrieved from: https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/prenuptial-agreements-and-children.html