Adjusting to parenthood is a transition- it requires shifts in you, your relationships and life. It can be unpredictable, unexpected and ever so wonderful all at the same time.
The adjustment to being a parent of a newborn can take time, with the need for patience, support and tips from those who have been there before.
A New Dawn: Embracing the First Steps of Parenthood
Becoming a parent is a transformative journey that encompasses a rich and complex emotional landscape. It is a blended rainbow of all human emotion – joy, excitement and love; grief, loss and overwhelm, along with all that lies in between.
The thing about parenthood, just like in all human experience, is that it isn’t all easy or all hard, or all predictable or all out of control. Nothing worthwhile in life is just one thing, and learning to flexibly welcome the whole gamut of human experience and adjusting to parenthood – riding the waves – is a journey that all new parents are called to embrace.
The first few weeks can be hard, and our expectation of parenthood is often not what reality brings.
Whispers of Wisdom: Tales & Tips from Seasoned Parents
- Adjusting to parenthood takes time- you’ve been given a brand new job that requires special skills & 24/7 responsibilities, and you likely have little to no experience. It will take time, patience, compassion & support to find your feet & ‘learn the ropes’.
- Remember that you don’t have to be perfect- no one is! There is a lot of external pressure on new parents to do it all and have it all worked out. The truth is that no one really does (despite how things appear on Instagram).
- All new mums need to know about matrescence – the transition from maiden to mother; the physical, psychological & emotional changes after the birth of a child. Seeing motherhood through the lens of matrescence can be incredibly helpful in making sense of the whole experience.
- Breastfeeding can be challenging and doesn’t always go to plan. Preparation and seeking information and support is a must, even before starting the journey.
- Emotional changes & challenges after birth are expected, normal and a natural part of the process. Finding ways to celebrate the emotional effects of parenthood with humor, or light heartedness, rather than resisting or trying to change them can be helpful.
- Self-esteem, identity and body image may change due to pregnancy, birth and starting the journey of parenthood. Go gently on yourself.
- Bonding with your baby may not come naturally or straight away. It is different for every parent and our babies have their own temperaments which make them their own unique person. It is a brand-new relationship, one that will hopefully last a lifetime. You have plenty of time to get to know each other.
- Relationships may change – with family or with your partner, they may take more work or just look a little different. Communicating & respecting each other’s needs has never been more important.
- It is ok to not be ok and to ask for help – reaching out for help from your partner, family, friends or professional support systems is absolutely necessary as it takes a village to raise a baby.
- Strategies that worked to soothe, comfort, and assist when times were tough, mood was low, stress or anxiety heightened may not work as it once did. Try to be flexible and think outside the box where you can.
- Finances will probably not look as healthy as they used to, at least in the short term. Financial adjustments are inevitable. Changes in income & costs related to baby can be hard. Planning for this and seeking financial advice eases the pressure & can save some surprises.
- Forgive yourself for the moments that don’t go to plan. You are doing the best you can. Good enough is always good enough!
The Emotional Tapestry of Parenthood
Parenting is like a rollercoaster – full of ups and downs. No day is exactly the same and it can be very overwhelming. Caring for yourself emotionally as a parent is a must.
Prioritising yourself is not selfish (despite the messages we have been conditioned to believe). How we get through the psychological adjustment to parenthood, is by putting that oxygen mask on ourselves first, then our child, as the analogy on a plane goes. That oxygen mask can include things like making sure we get our hot coffee in the morning, we get dressed, we have that planned outing, we eat well, or just eat at all, and by doing the things we love that makes us who we are as a person not just a parent.
You will have days where this comes easy to you & it will all fall into place. However, the next day can be the total opposite, and nothing goes right, baby doesn’t settle for their usual nap and no matter what you do they appear upset. Sometimes your thoughts will take over and sabotage the day… why am I stuck at home? Why is this so hard? This is again a normal part of the transition. What is important to identify is when these thoughts become stuck and feel hard to shake.
Don’t forget your own oxygen mask! That means grabbing that cuppa, hitting the gym, or just zoning out to your fave tunes. Keeping your tank full is job number one, because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Reaching out for support and some breathing space to address parental burnout is not only vital for emotional and mental health, but also to model to our children what healthy relationships look like – where everyone is valued and important and gets their needs met.
Parenthood is full of sacrifices. These sacrifices are what makes coping with the adjustment so difficult. Letting the joy override the sacrifices may help move through this change with more ease but how do you do this?
Colours of Love and Laughter: The Emotional Upsides of Parenthood
Celebrating the highs of parenthood can be done in so many ways. We celebrate milestones as a new parent with a baby and then as our children grow, we celebrate birthdays, tying shoelaces for the first time, developing friendships, and the simple fact that they actually ate the dinner you spent hours cooking.
What’s also important to celebrate is our own growth along the way too. Becoming a parent brings the opportunity to really find our authentic selves, what is important, and most of all being truly present. Seeing my partner in this role as a father, is like unveiling a side of him I had never seen before. I remember really sitting back watching my baby and her father have a moment of play together where their eyes locked and smiled together. The warmth of that moment made the hard times all worth it.
This child raising gig can often feel more overwhelming than not, so how do we as parents capture & hold onto the joy? The truth is the little moments of a spontaneous laugh or witnessing your baby delight in the world around them are often the most magic. On the hard days it takes more effort to find these moments, but everyday day has a sprinkle of magic if we are willing to slow down and look for it.
Amidst the diaper changes and sleepless nights, don’t forget to high-five yourself for the little victories. Caught a giggle? That’s gold. Baby napped on schedule? Score! Each tiny triumph is worth its weight in parental gold and they add up to a whole lot of love and laughs. So, celebrate the small stuff – it’s actually the big stuff in disguise.
So new parents, take note to revel in those moments of joy parenthood can bring, your baby’s first giggle or first word, or when your child rides a bike, but also those moments that are small and at times taken for granted. We’re talking about those moments where you and your baby share a connected moment, when you notice something funny or cute your baby does, or that you simply got out of your pajamas for the day. Filling your emotional health bucket by stopping to acknowledge these moments can help with your emotional health and the psychological adjustment to parenthood.
There are endless ways to capture the special moments along the way, some simple ideas we love include:
- Setting up an email address for your baby and sending them pictures and notes- it’s quick and easy & so fun to watch them opening the emails when they grow up.
- Recording milestones and moments in a book or journal.
- Journaling the daily positives, achievements and gratitude.
- Leaving a note for your partner to acknowledge a moment of delight or success you witnessed.
- Taking photos (of course)- remember you need to jump in some too!
Shades of Doubt and Fear: Navigating the Inevitable Downsides
Parenting can bring doubt, fear, guilt, shame and so many feelings and thoughts to a depth you may not have been experienced before. This new chapter brings the forming of a new relationship with a little vulnerable and dependent being that you brought into the world. No one has been so dependent on you, ever.
All of these feelings and thoughts can be normal with adjusting to the emotional effects of parenthood as it brings challenges you may not have ever faced – sacrificing social events, being unable to leave the house when you want to, financial pressures, changes in your relationship with your partner – arguing who is doing what chores now since the roles have changed in the household. Worrying over your baby whether they are ok – are they sick or hurt? Are they crying too much? What does the crying mean? How do I soothe my baby?
Our baby’s trigger feelings inside of us from our past experiences. As a new parent we are more susceptible to feeling vulnerable, experiencing lowered mood, anxiety and mental health challenges, as the wake ups overnight, breastfeeding and being ‘switched on’ 24/7 is a lot for our body and mind to adapt to.
Remember, it’s totally cool to raise your hand and say, ‘I need some help over here!’ Whether it’s your partner, your fam, or your pals – it’s all about teaming up to tackle the awesome task of raising a tiny human. You’re not supposed to have all the answers.
To manage all the feelings including doubts, fears and resentment we must of course seek support – speaking to friends and family about their experiences of being new parents, attending counselling, reaching out to helplines to speak to professionals and finding other like-minded parent groups whether in person or virtual.
There are other tools and things we can do to manage our emotions and thoughts and develop coping strategies, such as; journalling our experiences, writing positive affirmations (print them out and place somewhere you can see them), prioritising self-care and the things we enjoy, moving our body, sensory modulation – think about those 5 senses and how they bring comfort, call a supportive friend, or use distraction – complete a task or use mindful coloring or a short meditation from a phone app.
Contact your GP to start the conversation about seeking emotional support or call the ForWhen Helpline on 1300 24 23 22.
Crafting Resilience: Weaving Strength into Your Emotional Fabric
Tips and exercises to foster inner strength during the stress of challenging times:
- Prioritising self and self care – moments just for you as a part of every day
- Spend time with those you love – friends, family, pets
- Keep active, sleep well and eat nutritious food whenever you can
- Get out of the house each day, even for a short walk or to feel the sunshine on your face
- Connect with other mothers or parents
- Do something you love or enjoy each day
- Ask for help and accept help offered
The Circle of Support: Where New Mothers Share and Grow
A circle of support can look different for you to another new mothers’ experiences in adjusting to parenthood. These supports help by building connection, emotional well-being and develop a strong support system to help with the emotional journey of parenthood. Sharing the journey as a new mother with a newborn baby can help share the joy and share those moments that make you pause.
Creating a sense of community around you builds a support network to help raise your new baby. Our modern society often tells us that we can do it alone – don’t get caught up in the myth! It really does take a village, and actively seeking this village and sense of community is the only way to build resilience and allow for personal growth by sharing the journey together.
As mothers this community can be developed through our family, mother’s groups, friends, neighbors and virtual support groups. This sense of community enables us to get information, practical support and knowledge that has been trialed and tested within parenting. We can speak openly to those around us about our experiences and cultivating courage to speak up about mental health struggles.
ForWhen has supported thousands of new and expecting parents like yourself. If you find yourself seeking support, we’re here to hear you. Call 1300 24 23 22 to speak to one of our friendly navigators who will help you understand your needs and connect you to the local services.
Frequently Asked Questions
See our answers below to commonly asked questions we receive about adjusting to parenthood.