Having kids is weird, isn't it? Presumably you know many, if not all, the risks and permutations before the wean pops out. Yet, it's still a seemingly agonising, relentlessly exhausting form of group madness that you share with your partner. You begin to think the smell of human effluence is cute and endearing. You stand in a kitchen with a creature that is giving itself a sore throat through constant screaming, and you bob up and down to try to get it to stop. You're not cool any more, unless you're a celebrity, which you're not, and the chances of you becoming a celebrity have now decreased by an incredibly large margin.
Of course, it's all worth it for the joy of creating an actual human being whose name is entirely up to you. But bear this in mind: there are certain things in life that you should have done before you have a kid. Mostly, these are basic things like "knowing how to put up a shelf" or "being able to buy a crib", though some things you can only learn on the job, as it were, like "the best way to wipe an arse full of shit".
Below is a list of things that you should have done or taken care of before you have your little ankle-biter.
OWN A DOG
If you can't look after a mangy mutt that will literally do anything in its limited power to gain your approval and admiration, you're certainly not cut out for an equally mangy child who actively shirks your approval and wilfully disobeys everything you say, staring you in the eye while it tips a glass of sticky orange juice all over your new upholstery.
"It's pretty cliche, but I think having a dog before the baby came sort of prepared me for what was to come," says creator of a human life, Gemma. "The dog is a walk in the fucking park – literally – compared to the baby, but it was a lesson in responsibility and it meant we were already kind of used to having something more important to go home to."
The dog demands attention, it will not leave you alone, it will shit itself, it will cry. The only differences between a dog and a baby is that it will sleep when you want it to and owning one is much cooler and more chill. The only problem is they die sooner, but if the kid is born in the lifespan of the dog then you have a good friend on deck for the child who will one day end up teaching them about the painful, unfair horrors of mortality.
Which brings us to our next item:
GO TO A FUNERAL
Your first experience of the weird procession of goodbyes should come well before you squeeze out a being that will inevitably have to say goodbye to you as well. This ritual of both pain and relief is a test of your resolve and an eye-opening experience, during which a level of acceptance is tattooed onto your psyche, allowing you to properly guide your brood into their lives and teach them the ways of this cruel, unforgiving world.
Yep, seeing that casket move through the air at head height, then seeing the white smoke from the chimney lift into the clouds – a vessel deconstructed and blown back to the heavens – is a moving thing, and something you don't want to see for the first time holding the hand of some screaming prawn who wants to go home and watch whatever latter-day version of Minions: The Animated Series is on Cartoon Network.
LEARN HOW TO HIDE YOUR DRUNKENNESS
As a child, there is nothing more terrifying than the confusion that comes with witnessing adult inebriation. Seeing your parents – stalwarts of chastity, the birth givers, the closest thing your small brain recognises as God – stumbling through the front door, laughing and shouting, moving erratically. It's a lot for the child to take in. If you're going to be pissed half the time as a parent – which is a fair enough life choice, really – learn to hide how pissed you are. Or, perhaps you could incorporate your pissed personality into your normal personality; that way it's not as disorientating for the kid when you've had two bottles of wine and a Peroni chaser.
Conversely, getting wasted all the time prepares you for a life of near-constant exhaustion. "Slightly shameful to admit it, but regularly turning up to work hungover and on little sleep has definitely prepared me for these first months," says Dexter, a man with a small child. "Every day feels a bit like the third morning of a festival. You're not sure if you can really be arsed to go and do it all again, because while yesterday was bloody great, it was really fucking tiring, but then everyone else gets up and you all need to encourage each other to get involved, and you do, and it's all fine."
It might sound a bit #CheckYourPrivilege, but even if it's just Ireland or something shit like that, it's good to have seen another place and different people, even if those people are Welsh. It's also a good opportunity to enjoy some moments of solace before your life is wholly encompassed by the Damian of your loins. Before having a kid, "Go on a holiday where you actually read a whole book, because you will never finish a book again," says mother of one, Sophie. "Your brain goes soft."
GO TO THE GYM AND THEN DON'T GO TO BED AFTERWARDS
Of all the things the parents I've spoken to express about their new lives as caregivers, the extreme lack of rest they experience seems to be the most common. "One thing that literally nothing could have prepared me for was the sleep deprivation," says Gemma. "You'd need to participate in some kind of science experiment on sleep torture to truly prepare yourself for it."
One way to simulate this illegal-level of exhaustion would be to hit the gym for a sweet workout – glutes, lats, you know, bit of cardio – then go home and just stare at the ceiling in the dark. Maybe you could fashion a rudimentary Rube Goldberg machine that emits a scream and pours a bucket of hot sick on your face at bi-hourly intervals, too?
Man, the miracle of life, huh?
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