In response to the inquiry, which has been upvoted more than 33,000 times, thousands of people took to the comments to share what they learned after becoming a parent, with mothers and fathers offering advice on topics ranging from mental health to realistic expectations.
According to one user, it is important to prioritise mental health as a parent, as it will be necessary when one’s child is struggling with their own mental health issues.
“Make sure your mental health is up to par when they become teenagers. I swear my youngest was going to drive me insane with all the worry she put me through with her mental health after her first bf cheated on her with her best friend after a year of dating,” they wrote.
Another parent acknowledged the importance of coming to terms with the idea that “there’s a very good chance they won’t turn out like you think,” while one user added that “you have to parent the kid you have”.
The parent then went on to explain that books and parental advice are okay for guidance, but “at the end of it all you have this complicated little person you’re in charge of with their own preferences, feelings, insecurities, abilities, and you have to do what works for them and your family and, of course, also raise someone who isn’t a blight on humanity or menace to society”.
The question also prompted a response from one parent who shared insight into their own parenting experience, and how having children meant they “stopped having a chance to think anything through without interruption”.
According to the Reddit user, this made it difficult to remember things or make decisions because “every thought seemed to get interrupted”.
“I’d just sit in my car alone sometimes so I could think,” they added.
The Reddit thread also included a response from a parent who stressed the importance of building a bond with one’s child during the years between seven and 12, and explained that doing so often means listening to topics that you may have no interest in but your child does.
By dedicating time to these conversations, the children will “grow into teenagers that will talk to you, and be fun to talk to, but only if you can get through long boring conversations about minecraft or whatever thing they are currently into,” the user said.
According to another user, the advice to new parents or soon-to-be parents about the importance of building bonds in a child’s early years was “the most important advice you are going to read on this thread”.
The question also prompted many parents to acknowledge the lack of sleep, which they said extends way past the newborn and toddler stage.
“The lack of sleep you’ll get. It’s not just the baby stage, obviously. It’s until they are old enough to be trusted,” one parent wrote, adding that the lack of sleep can negatively impact your mental health over the years.
Mothers also shared what they learned from the actual experience of giving birth, with many women revealing that they were not prepared for the realities of childbirth and recovery.
“I had such a traumatic birth, which was totally unexpected. My baby is nine months old, yesterday I coughed and peed myself,” one person commented, while another said: “No one prepared me for how traumatising birth would be both physically and mentally. My tailbone broke during delivery, I had to be cut open (episiotomy) to get him out and it healed wrong because I didn’t have any follow up in-person care because of Covid.”
The transparent thread was also met with some light-hearted responses from parents, with some sharing some of the humourous things they’ve learned since having children.
“They get a lot bigger before they get any smarter,” one parent wrote. “Source, have four teenagers. They are basically toddlers in adult-sized [clothes].”
According to another parent, what they and their partner weren’t warned about was the number of conversations they would have about bodily functions, with the user claiming that “no one tells you how much you and your partner will talk about poop,” and that these interactions will include discussions about the amount, the colour, the sound, and the consistency.
“It is unfathomable how much we talk about poop,” they added.
While the thread was met with many comments from users who revealed that the candid responses had left them scared to have children, there were also those who took the opportunity to remind fellow parents that parenthood is about doing the best that they can.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, and that you will make mistakes. And it’s okay,” one person wrote.