Last week, we asked parents in the BuzzFeed Community what they wished someone told them before they had kids.
And we received so many thoughtful and intriguing responses. Here's what they had to say:
Note: This post mentions suicide ideation in #8.
1. "Parenting isn't about being a dictator. I should have treated my children with more respect and listened to them at their own level. I was so scared to be too lenient because I thought they would be disrespectful and out of control. One child pushed back and lacks respect for me because I was too overpowering and not understanding. I always thought it was 'my way or the highway.' They are little humans with real emotions, and I should have respected that more."
"I'm very fortunate that I have a decent relationship with my children, but I could have done a lot better raising them. I often apologize to them for not being a better mother."
2. "Start therapy well before you begin trying to become a parent. If that's not possible, I'd say begin therapy as soon as you find out you're going to be a parent. Also, take a good, hard look at your relationship, or lack thereof, with your parents. It will come up in your own parenting, I promise you."
3. "You need to be able to apologize. There are going to be times when you lose it and yell or act out of frustration. Kids take this to heart, and being able to apologize to them goes a long way towards helping them learn how to appropriately deal with their emotions."
4. "I never knew truly how little sleep I would be getting. My wife had postpartum depression and then latching issues while trying to nurse, and the first two years were pretty painful as far as the exhaustion levels go. The sleep deprivation does affect your mental health and honestly everything; your decision-making, your responses, all of it is hampered by lack of sleep. Sometimes, I wondered if we were even capable of keeping our baby safe because we were running on nothing."
"The scariest moment was me feeding our baby in the rocker, holding him up close to my chest and then waking up several moments later to him lying across my lap. I had fallen asleep, and he slipped out of my arms. Thankfully, he was safe in my lap and not on the floor. It was pretty terrifying."
5. "I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay if you don’t feel that instant connection with your baby. It’s okay if you don’t want your kids to take over your identity. Mom guilt is such a horrible thing, especially when you’re a new mom and have literally no idea what you’re doing. The truth is no one has any idea what they’re doing. But you do know one thing, and that is that you are the only person who knows what’s best for you and your baby."
"Do what feels the most natural and learn from your mistakes. Let your kids guide you to where you need to be. Don’t swim against the current; you’ll just make it harder for yourself. You will still wind up exactly where you’re meant to. Kids are extremely forgiving; you have to be able to forgive yourself."
6. "I wish I had known how much I would have to give up. Not just my finances and time, but personal space, brain energy, and the freedom of not worrying! Whether they're two years old and physically in your bubble at all times or 17 and taking all your food and your car. It's EXHAUSTING giving all of yourself, all the time."
7. "Postpartum hair loss. I had no idea until I was showering after having my son, and my hair was coming out in clumps."
8. "How badly my mental health would be affected. After my first child, I had bad postpartum depression and anxiety. I couldn't be away from my baby, or I'd have panic attacks. I'd have nightmares and wake up terrified something had happened to him. I'd want to hurt myself so I could maybe rest because I was so tired. I got so overwhelmed by the crying that there were shouting matches and break-ups. They just tell you, 'You might feel low or teary,' so I didn't see the signs."
"Got medicated, healed with my husband, and a couple of years went by. After my second child, I was more prepared to look out for the signs, as was my husband. But I didn't expect to feel suicidal even after upping my meds and a year going by. Some people are more prone to it than others, but always, always ask for help."
9. "People always talk about how hard it is to take care of a baby. Sure, that's true in many ways, but it is far, far, far more difficult to take care of a toddler, and it gets harder with every single stage. As soon as you get the hang of one age, they're doing something else you have to try to manage. Throw in neurodivergence, sports/activities, coordinating playdates...It's really not for the weak."
10. "I wish someone told me how expensive child care is and to save for it. Having two kids, our daycare bill was basically a second mortgage payment. I'm still paying off my credit card, three years after their last day there."
11. "In two-parent families, the child will often have a favorite parent. Not being the favorite is so hard when they would rather have cuddles with the other parent and prefer that parent to do everything with them. With my daughter, I am often alone with her while her dad is at work, but it's hard to help her with baths, dressing, and every other activity I need to do with her because she complains and wants dad instead."
12. "I wish someone would have told me how downright nasty some women are to one another. Seriously, the only advice anyone should ever be listening to is from their doctor/pediatrician. I was amazed by how many people felt the need to tell my wife they breastfed for obnoxious amounts of time when our second wouldn't latch. We also heard shady comments like 'I never trusted formula; I'll feed my baby the way god intended.'"
"My wife's head was filled with so much unsolicited advice and mom-shaming. It took four kids to get her to stop trying to live up to someone else's idea of the perfect mom."
13. "Coming from a distant relationship with my own parents (my mother especially), I did not understand the overwhelming sense of love and nurturing kids crave and give back. Especially when they really love their parents and when they know their parents love them, too. Unconditionally. None of that did I ever experience in my childhood."
"Even though parenthood may feel crushing at times, I am humbled that I created such amazing humans. During my darkest moments, that keeps me going."
14. "Have a life outside of your children. Take time to be your own person and do the things you enjoy. Your life does not need to revolve around your children 100% of the time for you to be a present parent. Once those children grow up and want independence, you are left with no direction, and it can be very lonely."
15. "I wish I'd known how physically difficult it would be and for how long. I knew pregnancy and postpartum would be difficult, but I didn't realize I'd still be exhausted years later. I wish I would've had mine younger when I was more able to recover physically."
16. "In my pre-parent hubris, I truly believed that the awful-sounding aspects of parenting wouldn’t happen to me. For example, I believed I wouldn’t be completely exhausted to the point of being debilitated. My babies wouldn’t scream and cry day and night for no apparent reason. I wouldn’t feel isolated and alone. My previous traumas and issues wouldn’t rear their heads. I wouldn’t be criticized by seemingly everyone. I would feel confident and capable, and I would have the support I needed to parent well. Well, that’s not how it unfolded for me."
"It took years of work – breaking down the seemingly endless days into more tolerable segments of time and finding effective coping strategies – before motherhood seemed worth it. Raising the next generation of humans is an enormous responsibility and a tremendous amount of work, but the gravity of it all isn’t always appreciated until you’ve experienced it yourself, and you’re in the thick of it."
17. "That you would have to ask someone else for permission (partner or someone to watch the kids) any time you want or need to do something alone, with friends, or for work that is outside of your normal routine. Basically, that you lose a big chunk of your freedom."
18. "There will likely come a time (usually during preteen or teenage years) when your child will hate you."
19. "Step-dad here. All the books, pastors, and friends told me how the soon-to-be step-kids were these empty vessels just itching to be filled with my love, companionship, example, etc. Nope! These vessels come pre-filled to the brim with personality, experiences, and their own ways of thinking and processing their worlds. Which turned out to be infinitely more rewarding (and more challenging) than all the 'experts' said it would be."
20. "I wish I would’ve known how real 'it takes a village' is. I was estranged from my parents, and they’ve both since passed away. I moved away from my friends and family, so they cannot help. I thought I had an awesome mother-in-law because she helps frequently with her other grandchildren; however, she doesn’t help with mine at all. It’s been three years since my husband and I had a single meal alone."
"It’s to the point that my husband and I have genuinely considered separating so we could have the ability to date, even if it meant other people. Do not take your village for granted because doing it alone is so lonely."
21. And finally, "When we talk about the difficulties of parenthood, it always seems to be about small children, but those adorable little poop monsters eventually turn into teenagers. I wasn't prepared for the worry they cause me that far outweighs any worry I had when they were babies. Academic success, bullying, influence from friends, drinking, drugs, school shootings, mental health, teen pregnancy, DRIVING, my god, the list is endless."
"There's also this horrible sense of loss. They don't need you nearly as much, and there's so much you can't protect them from anymore."
If you're a parent, what do you wish you'd known before having kids? Share your experience in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.