Yes, You Can Prepare Your Life For Parenthood!


By Helen Cammack

Before I became a parent, naturally I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Not just for the birth, and for the baby care responsibilities that would follow, but for the impact parenthood would have on my life for many years to come.

I wanted to be prepared for how being a parent would affect my career, my marriage, my finances, my lifestyle, my free time and my mental health.


I wanted to be prepared because I was anxious about becoming a parent, and with good reason. I was one of the last of my friends to become a parent and all around me, I could see evidence that parents were finding things difficult.

They loved their children, but they were feeling the strain on their lives in ways they hadn’t anticipated. They were burning out in jobs which offered less flexibility than they wanted. Some were quitting in desperation or taking much lower-paid roles. Previously strong relationships were coming under pressure, as couples became resentful, distant or argumentative. Parents were reeling at the costs of childcare and its surprising lack of local availability.

Some confided that they wished they’d moved closer to their family to get more support with childcare. Or they wished they’d shifted their careers in a way that enabled flexible working. Some said they wished they hadn’t taken on such a large mortgage. Some said they weren’t the kind of parent they had wanted to be, because of lack of support or resources.

The more I listened, the more anxious I became about the prospect of becoming a parent myself. Parenthood didn’t seem like fun. Did I really want to take this on?


Ever the pragmatist, I looked around for ways to proactively prepare. I was a natural planner in my corporate job, and a spreadsheet geek. Surely there was something I could do to prepare myself for what was to come. Who could teach me what I needed to know and guide me to avoid the pitfalls?

But except for antenatal classes (which focused on birth and infant care), I found very little of what I’d call “life planning” support for future parents.

Where were the easy introduction to childcare options? Where was the helpful advice about planning one’s career with parenthood in mind? Where was the guidance for couples to talk about how they would manage the logistics, how much time they’d take off, and who would do what? Where was the financial calculator to help me figure out the costs of parenthood and navigate all the complicated childcare benefits?

None of it existed, or if it did, I didn’t find it. There really wasn’t much support for future parents who want to be more prepared.


But it was worse than that. Whenever I asked anyone, “Where’s the support for future parents to prepare?”, I almost got laughed at!

“You can’t prepare for parenthood”, I was told. “It’s impossible to prepare!”. Apparently, everyone just “figures it out as they go along”. I felt mocked for wanting to prepare. I was made to feel that “good parents don’t prepare”, and that if I felt the need to plan, it was because I “didn’t really want it enough”.

I came to the conclusion that we live in a culture that actively discourages preparation for parenthood.

Yet the fall-out from this anti-planning culture is all around us. In the UK, 9 out of the average class of 30 children live in poverty (according to the Child Poverty Action Group), and parents tend to be less happy than non-parents, often caught in ‘traps’ at work or home that they didn’t see coming.

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