24 May Maintaining your identity after becoming a parent.
Although becoming a parent can be an amazing experience, it can also bring a multitude of challenges. Whether you are preparing yourself for parenthood, or are already a parent, recognising the changes that may occur when you have a baby can help you understand how to prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.
Some common changes you might experience include:
- Identity: after your baby is born you may find you are referred to as ‘your baby’s name’s mum’ instead of your first name.
- Financial independence: It is likely that parenthood has meant you have had to stop working, either for the short or long term. As a result, people often report feeling guilty when spending money they have not earned.
- Loss of self: Some people may struggle to remember what they used to like doing prior to having a baby. This may cause them to lose a sense of their needs, making it hard for them to engage in self care.
- Loss of couple time: Although having a baby is a bonding experience, couples also report feeling disconnected after having a baby, as the focus becomes their baby and not them as a couple.
- Loss of sleep: Who came up with the phrase “sleeping like a baby”? Sleeping is something babies need to learn, and as they do, sleepless days and nights are likely to become the norm. This can lead to new parents feeling exhausted, and for some, this may have a negative effect on their mood.
- Loss of spontaneity: After having a baby, many couples feel they must plan much more than they did prior to having their baby. This can range from going out and meeting friends to reconnecting sexually.
- Body changes: Women’s bodies go through a lot of changes in the journey to becoming a mother; this occurs as a result of the hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy, from delivering the baby, and from post-delivery experiences. Most women’s bodies return to their pre-baby state within a few months, but for a lot of women this process takes longer.
What can you do to make these changes easier?
- Try to remember that although things have changed, change doesn’t have to be bad. Things are just different.
- Although it may appear that other parents don’t struggle in their new role, that is often not the case. All parents struggle at various times. The severity, duration and frequency is just different for different people.
- Talk to your partner about how they see your new role and the contribution you make on a daily basis. Don’t assume your partner thinks you are just at home enjoying yourself and relaxing.
- Ensure you remain in contact with friends, and make time to catch up with them. Try to make some ‘me time’ on a daily basis. This doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time; it can be as little as 10 minutes (have a hot cup of tea, have a quick chat over the phone, have a 5 minute longer shower than usual). Once a week, you may like talk to your partner to see how you can have more time to yourself.
- Ensure you and your partner make time for one another independently of the baby. You may decide that one night a week you’ll have a take away at home; or have a no screen night so you can touch base with one another with no interruptions, or alternatively catch up on your favourite show. Perhaps arrange a baby sitter so you don’t have to worry about the house chores. Remember the babysitter doesn’t have to come in the evenings; you can arrange times during the day when you are likely to have more energy and be able to enjoy your couple time more.
- Try to sleep when your baby is sleeping. Babies have an amazing ability to making themselves heard. So if you are sleeping, your baby will increase their cry for you to hear it. You may want to get into the habit of having at least one sleep during the day.
- Talk to your partner about who is putting baby to sleep for the night or who may be getting up in the morning. You can have your partner help you with this even if you are solely breast feeding. You may like to agree on your partner doing it twice a week when you both know he/she won’t be at work the following day.
Parenthood can be such an amazing time, but remember that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Reaching out and having supports in place will make this an enjoyable experience for you.
Are you worried that you, or someone you know, is having trouble adjusting to motherhood? If so, help is available. At Vida we have several psychologists who are highly experienced at helping people navigate their way through the challenges of being a parent. To make an appointment, or to find more out about VIda Psychology call 03 9328 36 36, or click here.