Any parent will tell you that having children changes your life forever, in ways big and small. Not only does becoming a parent change your goals and priorities, it affects even small, everyday tasks like taking a shower. While it can be overwhelming to some, it doesn't have to change who you are as a person. But having children does require adapting, adjusting and accepting the sacrifices and transformations that will take place in your life and relationships. Here are 29 ways that your life will change, mostly for the better, when you have children.
You get a new name
For decades, you've been responding to your first name. But now, you're Mom, Dad or whatever moniker your kids bestow upon you. It might take some getting used to, but you'll need to respond to this new title for the rest of your life.
You sleep less
Before their baby arrives, many parents-to-be know to brace themselves for long nights and all of the things that happen when you don't get enough sleep. But losing sleep over kids lasts much longer than those first few months. According to a 2019 study, six years after having a baby, moms still slept 20 minutes less and dads slept 15 minutes less than before the baby arrived. On top of being sleep-deprived, parents reported decreased sleep quality as well.
You take better care of yourself
After you become a parent, it can be tempting to see taking care of yourself as a luxury. But savvy parents know that it's important to stay up to date on immunizations and checkups, eat well and exercise regularly. Parents simply can't afford to get sick. And leading by example is the most effective way to help your child establish healthy habits.
Your relationship with your partner changes
Try as you might to keep the romance alive, you and your partner need to brace yourself for changes to your relationship when you decide to have children. You'll have less time to be intimate and go on dates as a couple, and your conversations can easily revolve around your kids instead of being a time to check in with each other. Even if you're a single parent, it can be hard to make time to date and find a partner. For your romantic relationship to be successful in the long run, you'll have to adapt and communicate well with each other.
You'll have to rely on your own parents again
Most new parents rely on help from their own parents, especially during the early years of their children's lives. You might be used to being independent, but your parents have the best wisdom and advice as well as much-needed babysitting or errand-running services when they come to visit.
You'll bond with your in-laws
Similarly, your in-laws become a vital source of help for you and your partner once you become a parent. While differences in parenting style could be a source of tension, accommodating your partner's parents and communicating boundaries allows them to have a beneficial grandparent-grandchild relationship with your children. You and your in-laws could end up making the perfect team.
You appreciate your own parents more
Seeing how hard it is to take care of your children will make you appreciate your own parents, grandparents or whoever raised you so much more. Teaching children about cooking and chores, proper manners and respect, and your values and cultural traditions are lifelong efforts that don't happen overnight. Once you become a parent yourself you understand how hard it is to do these things "right."
You develop more patience
People who become parents are not magically blessed with patience upon welcoming a child into their family. Rather, the hours, days and years spent raising them forces parents to develop this virtue. Parents often have to learn how to better manage their own emotions and frustrations for the sake of treating their kids well and modeling listening, empathy and compassion.
Your routine changes
Your children rather than your personal preferences will dictate your schedule once you become a parent. A night owl is forced to learn how to become a morning person, for instance. You might be too exhausted at the end of the day to keep up your habit of reading before bed. And your former routine of having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning might have to wait until after the kids are off to school.
Everything takes longer
A major reason you have to alter your routine is that everything takes twice as long with kids. Cooking dinner, getting dressed and out the door in the morning, bath time and bedtime - all these activities become major projects. It's important to adjust your expectations for how long certain tasks should take so that you avoid stress and frustration to keep your family happy and healthy.
You're less spontaneous
Having kids makes you less spontaneous. Perhaps in your single or couple phase, you could get up and leave on vacation or even just go out to eat at a casual restaurant at a moment's notice. But with kids and all their various supplies in tow, you'll need a level of planning for almost everywhere you go.
Taking 'me time' is harder
When you're pressed for time, going to the gym, getting a haircut or going shopping for new clothes for yourself can feel like luxuries rather than necessity. These self-care activities can fall in priority when you're a parent, and you have to give yourself permission to make time for them. But in order to be the best parent you can be, it's important to make "me time" to practice self-care.
You change your diet
American culture promotes feeding your children salty, sweet "kid foods" like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. And for many on-the-go parents, it's tempting to eat this way as well, throwing together something like fast food, TV dinners or boxed meals that children will eat without a fight. But it's important for parents to instead model a healthy, balanced diet and introduce children to a variety of flavors early on rather than limiting their palates. When your kids have more open minds about food, parents can easily eat healthier as well.
You save more money
Raising a family comes with many expenses, and though parents might feel like there is always something to spend money on, they are more focused on saving money as well. On top of saving for retirement, the majority of parents try to save money to help pay for their children's education. This requires being more frugal and savvy when it comes to saving, which is one of the things financial planners say you should do anyway.
You take different vacations
For parents, planning a trip is no longer about your own personal preferences. Choosing a destination for a vacation means finding family-friendly options with hotels, restaurants and activities both accessible and entertaining for children. Time to learn how to plan a trip to Disney World! With limited funds and vacation days, many parents forego exciting jet-setting for time spent visiting grandparents or other family instead.
Your space will be messier
Your personal standards for a clean and tidy home change after becoming a parent. You'll become vigilant in wiping down certain toys or surfaces that could make your child sick. But clutter and messes like toys underfoot or drool on your blazer become no biggie.
You'll sit still more
Busy parents-to-be in their 20s and 30s might be used to an exciting social calendar, regular visits to the gym and the ability to quick hop from one location to the next. But once a baby enters the picture, life comes to a halt, literally. With a baby, you might find yourself sitting, rocking and talking with them for hours. You might spend a whole evening reading to your kids or spending an entire weeknight helping them with their homework. Your family can force you to become more of a homebody.
You'll also play more
While you might stay home more than you did before, your children will also guarantee you get out and about, exploring nature in national and state parks, playing games and using your imaginations together. You might do some activities that you haven't done since you yourself were a child, like flying a kite, playing tag or building a sandcastle.
You develop a stronger stomach
Bodily functions that might've made you head for the hills are no longer nasty or surprising when you're a parent. Diaper blowouts, stomach bugs, sunburns, broken bones and more might make you wince, but you buckle down and handle them all for the sake of your child.
You'll be fascinated by little things
Being a parent is full of major milestones from your child's first words and first steps to their first crushes and first driving lessons. But there are plenty of small moments as well that might not seem as exciting to your friends or coworkers, such as the way your child sneezes and how their teeth are growing in or falling out.
You have to put more work into friendships
Friendships are among the most important relationships you can cultivate in your lifetime. They contribute to your overall health and happiness, but they can unfortunately fall by the wayside when you're overwhelmed with the day-to-day stress of parenthood and running your household. Your friendships might look different and require extra effort, especially if your friends don't have children or live far away, but they are worth fighting for.
You develop a thicker skin
Kids are brutally honest. If you have any insecurities, these will get worn away by precocious kids or sassy teenagers bluntly pointing things out to you. Signs of aging, your fashion style, the weird slang you use and even your sense of humor are all fair game for mockery by your kids.
You tap into newfound strength
While parenthood presents many challenges and sources of stress, parents who overcome and endure are often surprised by their own inner strength, confidence and problem-solving skills. There's a sense of satisfaction and pride that comes with successfully navigating everyday conflicts.
Your wardrobe changes
While your overall aesthetic might stay the same, many parents find themselves incorporating clothes into their wardrobe for function rather than fashion. Mom- and dad-friendly handbags and backpacks as well as comfortable clothing with plenty of pockets or stain-resistant fabrics will be in heavy rotation.
You learn all about random topics
You will pick up lots of facts about whatever your child is into, whether it's dinosaurs or bugs or ancient Egypt. As your children age, you will also pick up information about their hobbies even if you don't practice them yourself. Plenty of parents unintentionally find themselves experts in boy bands, marching band formations, soccer or video games.
Hobbies fall by the wayside
Modern children have less unstructured play time than ever before. Parents face pressure to shuffle their children between school, extracurricular activities and classes and be involved in providing them with enriching opportunities. This means that your interests, such as learning a foreign language, gardening or other hobbies that take mental effort, time and energy might not have priority anymore. It's important to find time for your own passions when you can but also have realistic expectations about how much time you can devote to them.
You see the world differently
Children are known for asking "Why?" relentlessly. While their curiosity can be annoying, their questions can reawaken your own curiosity about the world and make you look at things with a childlike perspective. Even your teenagers and grown children can help challenge your thoughts and opinions on things in a positive way.
You worry about future generations
With access to information and news from around the world, many people today are tuned into national and global issues. But many parents find themselves more concerned and inspired to become more and active and vocal when it comes to problems their children could face someday, including gun violence, climate change and deadly storms and cybersecurity. Parents in particular have a personal stake in guaranteeing a good future for their children.
You receive unconditional love
Some days it might be easy to forget, especially when your kids reach their terrible twos or their teenage years, but your kids are a beautiful source of love in your life. Having your son or daughter give you a hug or kiss at the end of a hard day can make the stress melt away. Hearing them say "I love you" or "Thank you" can make all the work and sacrifice of being a parent worth it in an instant. If your relationship with your kids isn't what you want it to be, here are tips to ensure a strong, lifelong bond with your children.
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