Despite everything we know, many people still fall into the trap of thinking that, because procreation is natural, that parenting will come naturally. But there’s no point denying it – pregnancy and becoming a parent, especially for the first time, is an enormous and daunting endeavour.
If you think that you are alone in feeling overwhelmed, the numbers would indicate otherwise. In fact, one 2020 survey revealed that as many as 70% of new moms experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. As for dads, they may not be the stay-at-home caregiver but they are not exempt from their share of struggles. A 2021 study found 11% of new dads experience a higher level of anxiety pre- and post-birth.
It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed – a little or a lot – during your child’s early years. And it’s definitely something that people should be talking about more to break the stigma that parenthood is all reward and no regret.
If you're feeling fragile, here are four coping strategies to get you through the early years with your health and your happiness intact.
1. Expect emotions and talk them out
With the birth of a new baby comes a rollercoaster of emotions. And there are numerous factors behind this, ranging from surges and dips in hormone levels to a lack of sleep to not feeling prepared for the challenges of parenthood. You might go from thinking your little one is perfect one minute to thinking you are a hopeless caregiver to a screaming monster the next. Totally normal!
It’s important that you don’t bottle these emotions up. Talking to your partner about your current and future concerns can make you feel a lot lighter and will ensure that your bond remains strong despite most of the attention being on baby.
2. Set aside time for self-care
This goes for basic hygiene, catching up on sleep when you can, phoning a friend, going to the gym or even just taking a few quiet minutes alone. Self-care comes in many forms, all of which are valid if they help to keep you healthy and happy.
Most new parents will claim that these free moments don’t exist. This is where planning ahead is useful. Book yourself (and your partner if you’d like) into a day spa for a few treatments and ask a trusted friend or family member to watch your baby. This can double up as a date with your other half and a date with some serious relaxation.
3. If you need help, ask for it
Last year, research indicated that 71% of new moms and dads are reluctant to reach out and ask others for help. 23% said that it was because they were scared they'd be judged as bad parents. It's crucial, however, that you overcome this, especially while you are still getting into the swing of things, to prevent burnout.
We all want the world to think we have it all together. But, despite what you might see on social media, everyone is just figuring it out as they go. And it's not glamorous! Tap into your close network to ask for help, an honest conversation or even just a hug.
4. Seek out a supportive network
Whether you join a Facebook group for new moms and dads or join a local neighbourhood meet-up, both offer you the chance to build valuable connections. Not to mention it gives you the opportunity to communicate with other actual adults and to share the highs, lows and relatable moments from your parenting journey with people who get it.
Establishing and nurturing these bonds from the early years can also grow your and your child's, social circle by forging lifelong friendships. This can go a long way in ensuring that the early years are rich and rewarding for both you, your partner and your new baby. You’ve got this!
This post was sponsored by Panado and produced by Adspace Studio.