You can read all the books, go to ante-natal classes and download the latest apps to monitor your pregnancy, but there will still be surprises when your little bundle of joy arrives.

Here are 10 things I wish someone had told me before I had my baby.

1. Utter exhaustion

This is not your "stay out partying until 4am then get up for work" kind of tired. This is debilitating, over-whelming, never catching up on sleep, exhaustion. I didn't expect to be getting a full eight hours' of shut-eye every night, but I didn't know I'd have to survive on a maximum of four hours - broken - for weeks.

2. Don't compare

Coffee groups are amazing support networks and mine is as good as it gets. I'm forever grateful to my coffee group pals. However, for someone who is naturally competitive, I spent far too long wondering if my parenting was up-to-scratch when comparing myself to the other mums. I also drove myself crazy wondering why my child wasn't yet walking when all the others were. It's all BS. If you're an engaged, loving parent it really doesn't matter if you work, stay-at-home, go to all the baby-centric activities, or none. YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB, so don't compare.


3. Prepare for the guilts

When you become a mother, you also become a guilt-ridden, sleep-deprived bundle of nerves. If you're a stay-at-home mum, you feel guilty about not providing in a monetary sense. If you're a working mum, you feel bad that you can't give your absolute all to your career or your family. You pretty much feel guilty about everything. The consolation is, every new mum feels the same, so try not dwell on it too much.

4. Don't try do it all

There are plenty of demands on new mums these days. And, for some bizarre reason, it's the in thing to look like Wonderwoman raising kids, keeping an immaculate house, cooking gourmet meals, being a supportive wife and working. The truth is no one can do it all, and I bet those perfect-looking mums who always seem to have things under control also find themselves sobbing into a pile of laundry just like everyone else. Accept practical help. If someone offers to cook a meal, babysit or fold your washing, say yes please. Here's a top tip: Leave your vacuum cleaner in the lounge as if you're just about to get to it. Then, when someone drops by, they just might pick up the hint.

The one who changed everything. Photo / Wendy Cain Photography

5. Yelling is okay, sometimes

I was heavily pregnant with my second when I took my over-tired toddler to the supermarket. Two tantrums in the store already made me weary but when my card declined and I had to leave a trolleyfull of groceries and get my now-screaming toddler to the car I was near breaking point. Hot with shame and close to tears, I wrangled my two-year-old into her seat and attempted to drive. Her incessant wailing was too much, and I pulled over gripped the steering wheel and yelled. Loudly, aggressively, full of rage. I frightened my girl, and myself. Her big, scared eyes brought me to my senses and I managed to calm down. I felt awful for weeks and Googled what long-term damage my rant may have caused her immature psyche. Here's the thing to remember. We should set a good, human example to our children. Kids need to learn from us that it's okay to slip up, sincerely apologise, and move on.

6. Include your partner

I am in awe of my sole parent buddies because raising kids is hard yakka, even when there are two adults. My husband doesn't do things the same way I do, but that doesn't mean he can't do things for our kids, his way. I often jumped in and took over with my first, believing I could do things better or more efficiently. I now know better and am happy to say my husband is extremely capable and my girls share a very strong bond with their dad.

7. Still be you

Just because you have a baby doesn't mean your entire world needs to revolve around your little one. Having a career you're passionate about, and interests that stretch beyond feeding times, toilet training and nap routines makes you a well-rounded, interesting individual. It also teaches your kids that they are not the be all and end all of everyone's universe.

8. Recycle!

Babies use things for three months, then they grow out of it, or lose interest. Secondhand baby goods are usually in really good condition and cost a fraction of the price of new goods. Also please remember, new mums, like brides, are a marketer's dream. You may think you need the hammock, swing and beanbag, but you really don't.

9. Smile and nod

Everyone, from the person you meet in the supermarket to your family, will offer advice and solutions for every aspect of child-rearing. All conflicting. There are some hidden gems, but ultimately you know what's best for your child. Smile and nod at every bit of well-meaning, then just go ahead and do whatever you think is best.

10. Time flies

I can't believe my oldest is going for her before-school check next week when it feels like only yesterday I brought my mewling, tiny miracle home from the hospital. Being a parent is tough, but it's so rewarding. When you're feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly endless and thankless task of being a mum, scoop up your little one and blow some raspberries on her tummy. The dishes and laundry will keep, and beans on toast is a perfectly acceptable dinner.

Rhonwyn is a working mum of two girls, aged four and 20 months. Her home is seldom immaculate.