What I wish I had known or done before having kids

This one is a reader request, and I love to get requests — so thank you. We’re going to talk all about the things I wish I had known or done before having kids. (Well, one kid. Brady, and he is 2-years-old.)

Let me start this one out by saying that you can’t predict the future, and you only do the best you can with the knowledge that you have at any given moment in time. So I don’t have any major regrets on things that I did or didn’t do, but I do have some things that I always tell to future moms/parents now, and that’s what we’ll cover today.

What I wish I had known or done before having kids

What I wish I had known or done before having kids by A Lady Goes West

General “to dos” before having kids …

These are things I really wish I had considered in my life before I had Brady.

Go to movies in the middle of the day or at night. Just go to movies.

I like movies. But for some reason, Dave and I never spent the time to go to movies when we were married without a kid. We would go maybe once a year, if that. But don’t you know, as soon as we had Brady, going to a movie — especially on a Sunday afternoon — has seemed like such an attractive indulgence. However, we are hesitant to schedule a time for a babysitter to come watch Brady just to go to a movie. We’d rather use the babysitter for a dinner date or other activity, and spend most of our free weekend time during the day as a family. I’m not sure why, but I wish we had seen more movies leading up to having Brady. We’ve gone to one since he was born, and it felt like the most amazing escape.

Also, going to movies has changed significantly these days. Apparently you need to get your tickets ahead of time and reserve a seat — boy things are advanced now.

Travel the world, folks. Or travel nearby. Just go places and do things.

This is not an excuse, per-say, however, because Dave and I moved across the country a couple months after getting married, we spent most of our “travel budget” and time-off going back to Florida for holidays and visits for the first several years, which was a big expense. By no means do we regret this decision, yet, it means we didn’t do as much travel as we should have in that point of our lives — young, newly married, no kids.

Yes, we’ve taken Brady on a ton of trips all over the country and even a vacation to British Columbia, and we had a great time. But the fact of the matter is that it’s easier and cheaper to travel as an adult couple than it is to travel with a toddler or baby. You have to factor in obtaining milk and proper food, changing diapers, as well as being in a hotel or home for naps and an early nightly bedtime. We did all of that during our trips with Brady, and we still had a wonderful experience — for sure. We even found a babysitter through a friend for a couple nights on our summer vacation, but it’s not like we could stay out late and then sleep in, with our little man staying on his consistent schedule. It was different.

Dave and I both fully agree that we wish we had done a trip to Europe together before we had Brady and had been better about doing small weekend trips as well. I’m not saying we didn’t go anywhere (we did Maui, Cabo, Santa Barbara, Carmel, etc.), but we could have done more. Also, even if we could go on a trip without Brady now, we’d miss him too much to be 100 percent relaxed and care-free.

Ashley and Brady at Sea to Sky by A Lady Goes West - July 2019

Revel in slow and peaceful mornings, perhaps even brunch.

So this isn’t as big of a one for me as it is for Dave, because I’m a morning person. But kids wake up and GO — or at least Brady does. When he was a tiny baby, he didn’t sleep well at night anyhow, but then he was also up early in the morning and ready to party. Now that Brady’s a toddler, we’re doing puzzles and playing basketball by 8 a.m. There is no “chill morning” around here. If we ever decide to stay out late, we’re paying for it the next day for sure (which is why we barely ever get home past 11 p.m.).

Because I taught group fitness classes on Saturday mornings for so many years, both Dave and I have always been quite active on weekend mornings, at least one day a weekend. We never went to leisure breakfasts, watched movies all morning or laid low like we could have. I wish we had been better about sleeping in and hitting up brunch on Sundays, because we definitely can’t sleep in now.

Once people have kids, you have to give them a little bit of grace, especially in a work environment.

I’m so guilty of this, but when I was much younger and in the corporate world, I didn’t have an understanding of why people with kids needed to take time off for things. Because I had to be around the office working when they left, it didn’t seem fair to me. I now feel terrible for ever not understanding, because kids are MUCH more important than work. Hands down. In fact, I know it’s not easy for Dave to miss so much stuff with Brady because of his crazy work schedule, and yet, when he tries to get away for something Brady-related, he feels bad about that too.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s harder to get places on time when you have a kid. It’s harder to get out the door. It’s harder to be rested and stay focused. It’s harder to be spontaneous with your schedule with unplanned activities. And it’s definitely harder to put in additional work hours when you have a kid or kids to take care of.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are working with someone who has a sick kid or a kid’s recital to tend to — let them go do it, and be supportive. Because you can be sure that they already feel bad about it in more ways than you could know.

What I wish I had known before having kids by A Lady Goes West -- November 2019

Specific “to dos” while pregnant and before baby comes …

These are things I did or always recommend to others leading up to the arrival of your new baby.

Find and hire a house cleaner.

Hire a professional cleaner to do a deep clean of your house, then have that cleaner scheduled to come maybe once a month the first few months of the baby’s life to help with cleaning. We did the deep cleaning about a week before Brady arrived, and our home stayed so nice and sparkling for a while. It took me far too long to sign on to get a regular monthly cleaning service, but we’ve been doing it for a year, and it’s money well spent. Like very well spent. I was hesitant to add this to our monthly expenses, but have never looked back.

Organize your stuff more than you’ve ever organized before.

I went through a major nesting phase (as most pregnant women do), where I purged all of our belongings, did a serious Marie Kondo session, and it felt really good all around. But in addition to your clothing and belongings, I’d recommend minimizing what’s on your counters and in your living spaces, because babies come with a lot of stuff, and you don’t want to add stuff on stuff — it turns into chaos.

Get your entertainment lined up.

Find a Netflix series or an audio book to keep you entertained through a lot of sitting. The first few months of a baby’s life, you are really just sitting with them all the time. They nap, they eat. They nap, they eat. And we did this daily process with Brady in our family room on the couch, because it made more sense. I watched a lot of TV and even read books during nursing sessions and such. I recommend “Gaga Five Foot Two” “Somm” and “Minimalism” as interesting documentaries on Netflix, btw.

Sign up for a diaper delivery service.

Another thing I should have done right off the bat was sign up for diaper delivery. We were constantly going out to get diapers from Target. Yes, you can Amazon Prime them (speaking of which, definitely sign up Amazon Prime, if you haven’t already — it’s a must). But diaper delivery includes the wipes, and it’s set up on an automatic shipment every few weeks. We did the Honest Company, then switched to Abby & Finn, which is cheaper and also has high-quality nontoxic diapers and wipes. Fun fact: You won’t know if your baby needs newborn or size 1 diapers until you meet them and can assess their size. We needed newborn diapers for quite a while, so should have had more of those on hand.

Stock your freezer and pantry with easy-to-eat food.

I’d go ahead and get your pantry organized and full of easy food, like snacks, grains, minimal-ingredient bars (Larabar all the way), etc. And, if you have the time and ability, freeze some meals that can easily be defrosted. You won’t feel like cooking and you won’t have the time and energy anyhow. We did a lot of take-out the first few months of Brady’s life and our friends delivered us some meals too, which was awesome. While you can’t exactly plan for baby’s arrival with perishable food, you can definitely fill up the freezer and pantry ahead of time — so get on that.

Ashley and Brady at Pressed Juicery September 2019 by A Lady Goes West

Pack really loose and comfortable clothing for your hospital bag.

I didn’t end up wearing home what I brought in my hospital bag because it didn’t fit me at all. Newsflash: After giving birth, you’ll still look about 6-months-pregnant with a big distended tummy. Oh and the puffiness and water retention is unreal. I wore my super loose cotton pajama pants home, and they were just what I needed to feel comfortable. I should have thrown in a big maxi dress or something really flowy that wouldn’t stick to my body. Hindsight is 20/20.

Set reasonable expectations for your visitors who want to come see the baby.

If you have family who want to come stay with you right after you get home with a new baby, you have to be VERY clear about what you’ll need from them — and that means they need to help with things, not just hold the baby and say how cute it is. It may be best to have a few days to yourself before you get any houseguests too — or perhaps they could stay at a hotel — so you have a little more space.

My mom came to stay with us about a week after Brady was born, and she was SO helpful — exactly what we needed. However, I’ve heard of many people who have had some tough experiences with visiting family who forget that they are coming to see a set of new parents in the very most vulnerable and challenging time in their lives, even with the best of intentions. Tread lightly. You may explode on someone unintentionally … it happens.

What I wish I had known before having a kid by A Lady Goes West -- November 2019

A few other honorable mentions …

This post is not the TMI “what I wish I had known would happen to my body during pregnancy and childbirth,” so that’s why I’m not mentioning any of that. However, let’s touch on a few things I didn’t really expect …

  • Lots of talk about potty. Pee. Poop. You will discuss your child’s bathroom habits for years. And you’ll change a lot of diapers too. It’s just dinner table discussion now.
  • So much laundry. Every single day. Literally, it’s nonstop. Get lots of extra onesies and burp clothes and muslin blankets, because you will be going through them like crazy.
  • A newborn baby is very, very, tiny and fragile. You feel like you’re going to break it. But you probably won’t.
  • You don’t really need a crib for the first few months. A bassinet by your bed works best, so don’t stress over the crib being set up perfectly in the baby’s nursery. There will be plenty of time to get to that.
  • You will be very sleep deprived for a long time. It will be awful, but it won’t last forever. Did I mention it’s awful?
  • You and your partner will probably bicker a lot more, while stressed and low on sleep. Be as kind as you can, and know that you’re both just trying to figure things out.

Also, I polled my IG audience, and here are the best answers I heard from the question “What do you wish you had known before having kids??” …

  • “That I would be preggo or nursing for 5 straight years.”
  • “You may willingly watch moves like ‘Frozen’ up to a dozen times a day.”
  • “You’ll make so many personal sacrifices for your littles, even if you never thought you would.”
  • “That the newborn phase is the easy part. Toddler years have been more challenging so far.”
  • “How precious free time is for parents.”
  • “How little I actually grasped what it’s like to be a mom.”
  • “That I would never go to the movies again.” 
  • “Sleep is everything.”
  • “It’s so hard, but infinitely worth the challenge.”
  • “It’s the best, hardest job you’ll ever have.” AMEN TO THAT!

Overall conclusion and closing thoughts

I feel like it’s important to say that my life has NEVER been better than it is now that Brady is in it. He is the sweetest and cutest little lovable creature I could have ever imagined. I love him with all my heart, and want him with us all the time. I feel grateful, happy and blessed to hang out with him and watch him grow. Being his momma is my favorite job, because I laugh and cry on a daily basis with his amazingness.

This post is not at all romanticizing about the times before having kids, because I really do like life better now. But in the effort of keeping it real with you, I wanted to share all of these things that have crossed my mind on the topic, in case they can help you in the future.

And if you have a friend who needs to read this, please pass it along. 🙂 

Other related posts you may like …

I’ve written several additional helpful posts on some of these things more in depth, so check out these …

That should do it for now! Let me know if you have any questions! And have a great start to your week, my lovely friends.

Questions of the day

What’s something you wish you had known before having kids?

How was your weekend?

What’s the last life lesson you learned this year?

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  1. I heard so much about how much laundry comes with having a baby, but I have to say, I found the laundry to be completely manageable – a load every few days or so – however, the DISHES were out of control. Between bottles and pumping supplies, I found myself doing dishes multiple times a day, often at 2AM while I was up pumping or feeding the baby anyway. I’m so glad that part of early motherhood is over and now at almost a year old I wash bottles just once a day!

    1. Hi Julie! Funny how it’s different for all of us — our laundry stressed me out! I feel like dishes are WAY worse now that Brady is a toddler and eats regular food and has a sippy cup too. But boy, I’m not sad about putting away that breastpump — I didn’t have to use it regularly, but when I did … wasn’t my favorite thing to do at all. 🙂 Have a great day of momming, Julie!!

    1. hahah tiny baby! Same with Brady, I can’t remember exactly, but it was definitely several months before we moved him up to size 1. So cute!! 🙂 Happy momming to you, Erin. Looks like you are rocking it!

    1. Hi Brittany! Yay!! What an exciting time for you! You will hear a lot of advice from a lot of people — so just take what works for you and good luck. Rest up too! 🙂

  2. Loved this! Laundry and dishes both insane. Think: 2 teens and 2 adults all who workout/have sports regularly. Non stop!

    1. Hi Amy! Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine. It’s hard enough managing my own workout clothes! So many chores alllll the timeeee — but so worth it. Thanks for reading!! 🙂

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