Many parenting manuals focus on the baby and what to do with them, but what about you – the parent?

Becoming a parent is something most of us are woefully unprepared for. Not only in the practical sense – changing nappies and collapsing buggies are after all skills most of us can master quite quickly – but in the emotional and psychological way.

During pregnancy, there’s such a huge focus on childbirth, that sometimes we forget to prepare ourselves for the real task – being parents. The enormous responsibility, the physical demands and the plain overwhelming love can come as quite shock.

Fortunately, there are plenty of frank and funny, honest and helpful books out there that will help you feel better prepared for parenthood. Here’s our guide five of the best pre-parenthood must-reads:

How Not to F**k Them Up by Oliver James

The follow-on to James’s first book on the subject They F*** You Up, this is a psychological guide to parenting, which argues that the mental wellbeing of the parent (that’s you) will ultimately determine whether your child has a happy life. The idea is that instead of fussing over their happiness from the off (babies actually have very simple needs,, says James), we should all sort ourselves out first. As he puts it: ‘The real challenge of parenthood is you, not your child.’ Are you a Hugger, an Organiser or a Fleximum? James shows how to identify and own your parenting style, and how to move past the difficult emotions or fears that might be killing your parenting vibe. Probably not the answer to everything, but a great place to start.

The five books you need to read before you become a parent

Life After Birth by Kate Figes

The range of new emotions and physical demands experienced by a new mum can be immense. Kate Figes’ book is a sanctuary or recognition, a compendium of real-life stories, highlighting the feelings and emotions experienced by women (and their partners) in the early weeks and months after childbirth. First-person accounts of sex, bodies, relationships, mental health and many other issues, make for truly comforting reading. Reading it before parenthood hits you will help buffer the blow when it comes, and give you the re-assurance you that you’re doing OK, even when you feel you’re not.

The five books you need to read before becoming a parent

Things I Wish I’d Known by Victoria Young et al.

Bryony Gordon, Emma Freud, Clover Stroud and Kathy Lette are among the high profile female writers leaning in for this useful anthology of – you guessed it – things they wish they’d known about before having a baby. From failing at breastfeeding to feeling like a hostage in your own home, every chapter throws a sharp and humorous light on the aspects of motherhood it seems like no-one talks about. It’s a wise older sister of a book, one to rely on for unconditional, non-judgemental support, and plenty of laughs, when you need it most.

The five books you need to read before you become a parent

Kitchenella by Rose Prince

There are plenty of books about weaning and pureeing baby-food out there. But the art of providing nutritious, wholesome meals that the entire family enjoys, on a budget, is something few of us are practised in before parenthood. Pitched squarely at the time-starved, budget-and-health conscious mum, this bright yellow book is packed with everyday recipes, many of them handed down from other women around the world. Dishes such as everyday mountain lentils, coconut soup with chicken and sweet cooked tomato, are the kind of meals children will ask for again and again, while also being healthy and cheap. Get practising before the baby arrives so you’ll always have a crowd-pleaser up your sleeve, as well as on your sleeve.

The five books you need to read before you become a parent

How it Works: The Mum by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris

‘A mum has two very important jobs to do. One is to look after her children. The other is to do everything else as well.’

In many ways, there’s not much else to say about motherhood. This funny How It Works book includes the original Ladybird illustrations, with text that’s been re-modelled for 21st century, grown-up readers. When you are too tired to read anything else, this short, laugh-out-loud book says in a few pages and pictures what others do in 80,000 words. A great one to give to expecting friends.

The five books you need to read before becoming a parent