1. Birth Doesn't Always go as Planned. I had a pretty distinct idea of what the birth experience would be like and what I wanted to happen during labor and delivery with my son, but not everything went as planned. I can't complain too much, because things certainly could have been worse and my son and I are were both healthy.
2. Breastfeeding is Harder than it Looks. I wouldn't do anything differently with breastfeeding looking back because my goal was to breastfeed exclusively until around 2 years of age and I accomplished that. I am very pleased with myself that I did not give up when it was the easy solution. It's harder than I thought it would be. I thought everything would come naturally and there would be no problems, but I wasn't prepared for biting and the challenge of getting my son to sleep through the night without nursing so I could finally get some sleep.
3. You Won't Have all the Answers and You're not Alone. I thought if I read enough books about infant and toddler development, I would be prepared for what I would have to deal with as it came, but I quickly learned that all babies and toddlers have unique personalities and develop at different rates. Some of the things I read really didn't work for us and there's been plenty of times where I've thought, "I don't know what to do.", but I've also realized we learn a lot as we go through experience and other parents don't have all the answers either.
4. The "text book" baby/toddler/kid might not be your kid. I did a lot of reading before and after my son was born and I've realized there's no one size fits all solution for most challenges parents face. Some things suggested went against my parenting views and others my son just wasn't going for.
5. Everyone has Something to Say on What you do as a Parent. It's one of the most annoying things I think parents face is the "I know everything" attitude from other parents, even strangers, even people with no children! It seems like everyone has something to say about what you're doing. For instance, if you breastfeed your child past 1, you're sick and you'll breastfeed them until they are 10 (I've been told this). Then there's someone there to tell you that if you encourage weaning instead of letting your child completely self wean, you are a bad mother and your breastfeeding efforts aren't good enough (I've heard this too). You just can't win when it comes to pleasing everyone else.
What do you wish you knew about parenting before becoming a parent?