What I'd want to say to this mother

5089341_sIf I was to be in the moment, with the mum in this picture, a place where most of us have been when coping with a newborn, this is what I’d want to say to her:

Firstly I’d want to ask whether she was okay – the traditional approach to seeing someone in distress like this.

After giving her a big fat hug, I would want to tell her that she was doing a great job and that this parenting gig is hard, despite any pre-conceived ideas that it wasn’t going to be.

I’d want to show her the many different parents I come across on a daily basis who feel exactly like her, so she could see that she wasn’t alone and her struggles were NOT a reflection of her being a bad parent.

I’d want to help her to see how this is only part of the mothering experience, not the totality of it because I know personally and professionally that we can get consumed by these moments and see them as the only thing going on in your life.

These three messages I would want to share with this new mother is what I believe to be the basis of the three most important things a mother needs to keep at the forefront of her mind after having a baby.

1) We need to change the picture on how parenting was ‘supposed to be’.
2) The difficulties are only part of the experience.
3) Challenges with your baby do NOT reflect your worth as a parent.

Here’s why these three mind shifts are really important when you have a baby in the house (whether you are a first time parent, or adding another child to your family).

1. Changing the picture on how parenting was supposed to be.

What causes us the most stress in life, as well as parenting, is when we have attached ourselves to an idea, a picture of how we thought something was going to go.
Throughout the course of our lives we adopt all these ideas of what we anticipate will occur in our parenting experience. We draw these understanding at a time when we knew zip about parenting at all. Often we’ve gathered this primitive understanding from the way we were raised (“I’m so going to be like my parents!” Or “I’m going to be NOTHING like my parents”). We see other parents, we see cute kids on their best behaviour, we hold other babies, we see Huggies commercials and baby formulas where kids are at their best. But nothing can prepare you for the reality of what it is actually like, because your picture came from misinformation – you weren’t looking at the whole picture.

The reality of parenting, especially a newborn is that there are going to be highs and lows. It won’t be all warm and fuzzy snuggles on the couch with your baby.
There’s going to be sore nipples, lack of sleep, messy house, overwhelm and times where you don’t have a damn clue what you’re doing.

Which brings me to my next point.

2. The difficulties of parenting are only part of the experience.

When we start to realise the reality of being a parent to a baby, we can very quickly get completely consumed by the difficulties to such a degree that we forget to enjoy the good times, and there are good times.

Our brains are geared to find evidence of what we have our attention on, so if you are only looking at the hard stuff, you won’t be seeing or the easy, enjoyable stuff.
What about those times where you do get to snuggle that sleeping baby? What about the times where you do look into your baby’s eyes and feel overwhelmed with love and are mesmerised by this little being that you created? What about those times where the baby is sleeping and you did get the house clean? What about the times where you did feel productive and got that washing done, or dinner on the table? What about those times when your baby had a good feed and was satisfied?

Once you start to put your attention on all the highs, you start to realise that the difficulties do not define your parenting experience.

3. Challenges with your baby do NOT reflect your worth as a parent.

In addition to my previous point, it’s extremely important that you do not personalise the challenges either.

I fell into this trap myself and caused myself so much anguish and upset by believing that the challenges I had breastfeeding and getting my baby to sleep suddenly meant I was a bad parent.
Just like you sometimes tend to only see the bad in the parenting experience, sometimes we can get into a bad spiral of only seeing the bad in ourselves.
We inaccurately compare all our ‘failures’ to everyone else’s successes, when you have no idea what is going on for them in their lives.

Even if they aren’t going through difficulties with their children, that still doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. It just means that’s not their area of life to find difficult right now.
It is inevitable that we all have challenges in life. That never reflects self-worth. It just reflects lessons and learning we need about life and how to do certain things in life.

Perhaps your strategy isn’t working with your baby. Perhaps there is another approach that might work better for your child. But none of this means anything about your worth as a parent. All it means is that the current strategy isn’t working.

When parenting a new born, we have to be really careful about the mindset you are approaching the highs and lows with, because it’s too easy to train the brain to only see the bad stuff and see it as a reflection of your self-worth or the quality of life.

And going down that hill repetitively, leads us to intense stress, emotion and even depression and anxiety.

Just like we spend time working out how to help bubs settles and feed in a healthy way, we may also need to spend some time learning how to settle our own emotions by working on our mindset and the way we see those challenges.

This too can not only effect how you feel about parenting, but also can ripple out to affect how settle your baby is.

As they say, happy mum = happy bub.

Having a baby is a massive transition, even if it isn’t your first. Be aware of how you are thinking and feeling about it and whether those thoughts/feelings are escalating to the point of effecting your experience with your child and reach out for help. It’s okay to get assistance of those who have been there before.
And that’s exactly what the mum in the opening picture needs to know.

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