Becoming a parent is not straightforward. Things happen that you aren't prepared for, and the only way to really know what to do is to live through it and continually readjust. No single parenting style is the right one - it's possibly the most diverse occupation in the world. There are a few constants, though - good intentions and love, and a willingness to try and do better. This is not a guilt thing, though - it is an exciting thing to want to do better and to see the fruits of your labour.
So here are a few bits of advice from me to you - take what you will.
1. Ignore everyone who criticises your parenting. Believe me, it will happen to you. They can go jump.
2. Don't criticise others' parenting.
3. Your kids are better, prettier, smarter, more amazing than anyone else's. Period. Just don't go telling anyone else - they believe theirs are.
4. You'll probably go in with lots of ideals about feeding your kid organic, only using cloth nappies, teaching them calculus before they're 3 etc. This is good, but I'll bet you five bucks you ease up a bit, especially if you have a second. Others will try and foil your plans for the superchild, but try and remember (and it's haaard, I know) that your darling will not die if they eat a cupcake, or drink red cordial. Follow the 80-20 rule. Keep them healthy 80% of the time. Let 'em be kids for the rest.
5. Washing their faces is a rather low priority. Having fun is much more important. Maybe wash their face when Grandma is visiting.
6. Kids are not stupid. They understand a lot more than we give them credit for - for example: they can understand that the rude words are not okay, but they're fun to say anyway. They learn what is real and what is make believe and will have fun with it. They understand when Mum & Dad are tense & annoyed even when you try and hide it. Babies can sense your tension and will respond accordingly. If you can make yourself relax (Uh huh!) they will relax as well.
7. To survive and stay sane, you need to eliminate your emotional attachment to any precious objects you may have. Children don't understand why they can't play with the Waterford crystal. They don't mean to upset you when it breaks, the draw of the shiny thing was too strong for them to resist.
8. For the Mums, let Daddy enjoy his kids as well, including the nappy changing.
9. Enjoy them. Don't feel guilty for playing with baby instead of sweeping the floor. Or just look at them while they sleep.
10. Children are people. They act like people, not some scientific experiment that you can read books to learn about. Every time you think you've figured your kid out, trust me, the little buggers will figure you out and change their behaviour accordingly. Oh, but read the books anyway. Sometimes they help.
11. This is your chance to relive your childhood (not vicariously through your child, but really participate).
12. Do not live vicariously through your child (that is, if you wanted to do something, be someone, succeed wildly, then do it for yourself and don't expect your kid to achieve your dreams).
13.They will probably grow up to be within some range of normal. That is, they won't be genii or dunces. Extra activities before they begin school is child abuse (in my opinion). It's not giving them every opportunity, it's pushing a little kid to learn stuff instead of playing and enjoying the short time they have before they hit the 12 or so years of school. Let them be kids, and they will still learn at the same rate as they would have if you had "fast-tracked" their development. But ignore me because I'm being critical (that's going against rule 2).
14. Rules and boundaries are essential, but make sure they are reasonable. If you don't know why the rule exists, it probably shouldn't.