When you’re pregnant all you can think about is how wonderful life is going to be when you’re baby arrives. Of course there are the usual anxieties about how things might change and how you’re going to cope with sleep deprivation and so on. However, no-one really talks about the expectations of parenting and that life cannot possibly stay the same – that it’s essential to make your child, yourself and your relationships a priority otherwise stress, depression and anxiety can easily set in.
We have a strange misconception about parenting that it should be easy. That mums should be able to seamlessly work full time or part time, run the household, look after their health and happiness, be on top of their finances, maintain healthy relationships and just be calm, happy, fun, energetic and consistent parents all the time. But this is not the reality that befalls 99.9% of moms in this world. Due to the fact the expectations do not meet reality, motherhood is often a shock for many new mums. Mums can easily become confused about why it seems so tiring, difficult or not as seamless as expected and therefore can be left asking themselves regularly “why can’t I cope as well as I expected I would?
But what if you were able to alter expectations and become more prepared for motherhood as a result
Having the right expectations
The first thing that needs to be altered in pregnancy is expectations. Specifically, the expectation that a child will just fit into your lifestyle, will always behave and will always give you time to yourself. The expectation should be that you have a child that needs you to make her your first priority, but not at the expense of yourself. You still need to look after your health and happiness but it’s important to understand that there will be times when you plan to do things a certain way and your child decides she needs you right now. These instances are prime targets for high levels of stress. For instance, let’s say you have to pay some bills. You have been putting this off and now finally have a minute to pay the bills whilst your child sleeps.
But, your child wakes up after 20 minutes and won’t settle down – she needs you right then. You start to feel resentful and angry that you can’t get a minute to yourself. However if instead of letting this resentment build up you took a breath and remembered your child has to be priority no 1, you would be able to think clearly for a minute to work out your best course of action to look after her needs and your own. You might put your baby in her sling and rock her to sleep and then sit on the computer to complete your bills.
Making your infant a priority does not mean neglecting your own needs
One of the things that many moms neglect is how to look after their own needs. They push through exhaustion, neglect to maintain a healthy diet, emotionally eat or drink to soothe negative feelings, worry about whether or not they are meeting the expectations of friends, family members, or the wider community, spend money they don’t really have in order to appear to be coping/or have the best dressed child and so on… When moms neglect their own physical and mental health, it is very easy to feel insecure and allow self-doubt to impact confidence in parenting. Feeling insecure often leads to snappiness and fighting within relationships too. So, the key to maintaining a happy home and to achieve the goal of positive and consistent parenting – is to look after yourself as a mother so that you feel calm in the face of stress (e.g. when your baby won’t go to sleep or is having a tantrum in public), or to feel energetic when your child wants you to get down to his level and play. So, your health and happiness is paramount to the health and happiness of your child.
Motherhood is not meant to be perfect
You are going to make mistakes. This is part of being a human being. So, it’s really important to trust that being a Perfect Mum is not the goal of parenting. The goal is being the best mum you can be for your child. When you make mistakes, don’t criticism yourself. Just think through the situation and ask yourself “is there anything I can change that would make things easier or better?” That’s all you can ask of yourself.
Prioritise time for fun with your child
This is really important. Often mums feel guilty about all the tasks they ‘should’ be doing when they are playing with their child. Then they feel guilty when they are undertaking these tasks – thinking they ‘should’ be playing with their child at that time. So they do not allow themselves to really enjoy the opportunities to have fun together and they never feel as though they are being ‘present” with their child. If you can relate to this, take a few minutes to schedule you day so that you can take opportunities to have fun with your child (for example going to the play centre or park together) and then feel relaxed and happy about having ‘you time’ or spending time on work or tasks during other times in the day. That way you create a balance and you and your child create special moments together that will last for every in your memory.
The key take-away
Always remind yourself why you had children. What was the reason you wanted to have a child and how can you alter your mindset to create more realistic and calming expectations of parenting. Being a parent is very taxing because children crave your attention. However, when you become mindful and set time together to have fun and relax, when you look after both your needs and the needs of your child and when you feel OK that things will not always go to plan, your live becomes easier and much less stressful. Plus, you can cope so much better when things don’t go the way your way.