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baby lap

Having a baby is a wonderful part of life – it brings up feelings of excitement and delight, but it’s also a game-changer. The reality is, parenthood is going to alter every step of your life, and if you laugh at that suggestion and think “no way, that’ll never happen to me”, it’s time to stop kidding yourself.

The first step to taking care of a baby is being ready to do so, and that includes mental preparation. Here are five tips to help you get started:

Make a financial plan

If you want to reduce the financial stress of a newborn, before bub comes along, start making a plan for the future. According to a study, parents spend at least $140 to $170 per week raising a child, while a report in 2013 found the cost is closer to $150,000 – $550,000 in 18 years.

Whatever the cost, you want to be as ready as possible. Consider how long you’ll be on maternity leave, and how you’ll cope financially during and after that happens. Talk to your employer, and most importantly, talk to your partner to see what their expectations are. And start a savings account where you can put money away each week in preparation.

Accept you’re not perfect

Whether you’re a first-time mum or you’re an old hand with 10 kids under your belt, when it comes to parenting there’s no such thing as perfect. You might see feeds on Instagram by model mums who have perfect children, they are never even slightly dirty, and their house is spotless all the time.

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Don’t worry – the second those photos are taken there is baby food covering all the walls, and that perfect hair on the mum has been ripped from the bun and is now in little shreds in the baby’s fingers. NO mum is perfect, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be either. We all make mistakes, and none of us has it all figured out – but the important thing is when you’re knocked off the rocking horse, you get straight back on.

Have the right support

Bringing a baby into the world is scary, and even more so if you don’t have a good support network around you. If you’re a bit of a loner, take the time during pregnancy to go to the antenatal classes at your local hospital or women’s centre. There you can meet women who are all going through the same things as you – and at the same time.

Most classes have women who are all due within a few weeks of each other. You should also talk to family and friends who have given birth before, and plan to do a mother’s group afterwards – the support you get from mums who have babies the same age will amaze you.

Take care of you

This is a big one. Even when we’re not pregnant, many women find it hard to take care of themselves. In between work and taking care of other children, as well as looking after the household in general, there’s no time to be going out for coffee with friends, heading to the massage spa or salon, or reading a book. But you know what? You need to do this! Particularly in the few months before the (next) little one comes along.

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If you already have children, try to arrange a sitter for a day, or send hubby out to the park with them for a few hours, so you can sit around and watch a few episodes of your favourite show or listen to a podcast. Remember that soon you’re going to be spending most nights up and about, feeding a hungry cub, so make the most of your time now.

Keep control of other relationships

Looking after yourself is paramount, but so is taking care of your other relationships. Pregnancy means the hormones in your body are running a little crazy, and you might be finding that even the smallest nuances are becoming a huge deal. It’s normal, and it’s natural, so don’t stress, but remember to be patient. With yourself and your partner.

If you’re new to parenthood, it’s particularly important that you both sit down and talk about how life may change – and how you hope it won’t. If you already have other children, you should include them in these discussions so they have a better understanding of what might happen once the next baby comes along.