Coping with new motherhood
By Dr. Dina Kulik
When you are pregnant, especially for the first time, it can be difficult to fathom how dramatically your life is going to change once baby arrives. You may anticipate a change to your day to day life, but until you have the baby, it’s unpredictable just how chaotic and exhausting it can feel. Rest assured, you are not alone. A new study from Baby Dove shows that 99 per cent of Canadian moms feel pressure to be a perfect parent.
Having a baby leads to all sorts of new life stresses. Finding time to get everyday chores done, like cooking and cleaning, can be challenging. You will be awaking often to feed your baby and you will be tired. No one is unscathed, but you can make your life a bit more manageable with some simple tips.
Here are some ways to deal with the stress of having a new baby at home:
Identify your village
It is not a coincidence that the phase exists, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. This is legit. Enlist the help of your family members and friends and neighbours. More people than you can ever imagine will want to help cuddle your precious little one. This is time for you to rest.
Ask for help
Easy to say and sometimes hard to do, but try to enlist your loved ones to do less enjoyable jobs like filling up your fridge with groceries or making a meal or two. These are tasks that you will likely not want to do when you are sleep deprived. Be specific and concise. People are more likely to help when given explicit directions.
Turn off your phone
and close your door
Everyone you know will want to come over and see the baby. Though lovely, most will not actually benefit you in any significant way (though you should ask for some help, as above). It is important to limit this chaos. Pick a few hours during the day (and not every day, all day) when you will accept visitors. Carve out most of the day as ‘family time’. Rest. Turn your phone off. Close the bedroom door. And enjoy this time. It is your time, not everyone else’s. You do not have to host people all day. You are busy enough.
Repeat after me, ‘I am not perfect
and no parent is perfect’
You might as well get used to it now; you (and no other parent) is capable of being the ‘perfect’ parent. I’m not even sure what the perfect parent is. You will have many balls in the air at every moment for the next many years. You will constantly feel as though you are failing, or at least not succeeding in every way you dreamed you might when you envisioned parenthood. Success can often be measured as ‘survival’ some weeks. Sunday night for example, after a weekend with the kids. Seriously. You think I’m kidding. (ask any of your mommy friends!)
Trust your way.
I have partnered with Baby Dove and share the belief that there is no such thing as perfect moms, only real ones. When it comes to yourself and your baby, you know best.
Take some time for you
I meet new parents in my office every day. I tell every new mom and dad to try to find some moments of each day for some time for themselves. Time for them as a couple, and time alone. Most new parents tell me they ‘have no time’. I suggest making the time. Whether it is a walk, or a coffee with friends, or a trip to the gym (my personal ‘me’ time). I promise you are a better parent when you are the best version of yourself. For me, I need my daily exercise. I need dinner dates with friends. I need eight hours of sleep. This makes me a more whole, more connected, and happier parent. If you give up everything you love to be 100 per cent physically there for your child, they will be missing some of the best parts of you. Oh, and don’t be guilty for wanting and taking some time to yourself.
Give it time
You will find your rhythm. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What can often feel overwhelming and impossible at the beginning will feel like a distant memory. You are exhausted now and it is difficult to see there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your baby will stop feeding every one to three hours in a few mere weeks. Baby will sleep longer stretches too. You will get to shower and pee in peace soon. And then you will forget how terrible the first few weeks were, and instead remember how delicious and amazing it was to become a first-time parent. Think about it this way, if you only remembered how hard these first weeks were, most people would not have more than one child. And yet…