Men: to prepare for paternity, go to the local pharmacist, tip the contents of your wallet on to the counter and tell the assistant to help herself. Then go to the supermarket and arrange to have your salary paid directly to its head office.
2. To find out how the nights will feel, walk round the sitting room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag weighing 8-12lbs. At 10pm put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to bed. Get up at 12am and walk round the sitting room with the bag till 1am. Set the alarm for 3am. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a drink. Go to bed at 2.45. Get up when the alarm goes off at 3am. Sing songs in the dark until 4am. Set the alarm for 5am. Get up. Make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.
3. Hollow out a melon and make a small hole in the side roughly the size of a golf ball. With a piece of string, suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side. Now get a bowl of soggy Weetabix and attempt to spoon it into the swaying melon by pretending to be an aeroplane. Continue until half the Weetabix is gone. Tip the rest into your lap. You are now ready to feed a 12month old baby. To prepare for toddlers, smear Marmite on the sofa and jam on all the curtains. Hide a fish stick behind the stereo and leave for a couple of months.
4. Dressing small children isn't as easy as it seems. First buy an octopus and a string bag. Attempt to put the octopus in the bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this: all morning.
5. Forget the sports car and buy a Volvo. And don't think you can leave it out on the drive, spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that. Buy a chocolate ice-cream and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Jam a 50p piece into the cassette player. Mash a family- sized pack of chocolate biscuits down the back seats. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car. There, perfect.
6. Get ready to go out. Wait outside the lavatory for half an hour. Go out of the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again and walk down the front path. Walk back up. Walk down again. Walk very slowly along the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette end, piece of chewing gum, dirty tissue and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you've had about as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you. You are now ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
7. Go to the supermarket, taking with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child - a fully grown goat is ideal. If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Do your weeks shopping without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goats eat or destroy.
8. Learn the names of every character from Teletubbies or Power Rangers. When you find yourself singing 'Postman Pat' in the bath, you qualify as a parent.
9. Always repeat everything you say at least 5 times.
10. Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience and how they allow their children to run riot. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's sleeping habits, potty- training, table manners and overall behaviour. Enjoy it - it'll be the last time in your life you have all the answers.