Useful tips for new parents who are feeling the strain
Anyone who says it’s easy being a new parent is probably not telling the whole truth. Nobody is supermum or superdad and at some point, everyone feels the strain of having a new baby in the house. Sleep deprivation is one of the main problems noted by many first-time parents, who aren’t ready for the sheer exhaustion of round-the-clock care for the latest family member.
Some mums and dads worry they’re not enjoying parenthood as much as they should be and even feel guilty for realising it’s not as easy, or as much fun, as they expected. The first rule is, relax, you’re not alone in feeling this way and there’s nothing to feel guilty about, as parenthood is never a breeze!
If you’re buckling under the pressure, remember these handy tips:
1. There are many groups and discussion pages for parents on various social media sites, where you can find all sorts of parenting advice, or simply let off steam. Remember that when you jump into a discussion, you may be helping someone else too.
2. If you’ve had many sleepless nights and feel anti-social when someone asks if your baby sleeps through the night, just say yes. It helps avoid a long conversation about sleeping advice, when you’ve tried everything and all you actually want to do is sleep, not talk about it.
3. It’s perfectly OK to look back at your relaxed, pre-baby life and think, “What have I done?” It’s nothing to feel guilty about, it’s a normal reaction to one of the biggest changes ever in your life. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent to have thoughts like this.
4. If you need help, ask for it, whether it’s from your parents, another family member, friends or a health professional. It doesn’t make you a failure. Similarly, if you’re offered help when you’ve been too proud to ask, accept it graciously.
5. If you feel upset about something that’s happened, including fairly trivial things such as baby sick on your shoulder, or the aroma of dirty nappies enveloping you, take a step back and think, “Will this be important in five years’ time, or even in five minutes?” Learn to separate the big things from the small and try not to worry about the latter.
6. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you don’t love everything about bringing up a child. Sometimes, it will be tough going and you may feel more stressed than joyful. This is natural and you’re not expected to enjoy every minute.
7. Never try to accomplish everything you think you need to do in one day. It’s impossible. You’re not superhuman. Set yourself an achievable target, such as shopping at the supermarket one day, or tackling the pile of dirty washing the next. You only have one pair of hands and you can’t do everything in one go.
8. When you feel the need to take a break, put baby in his or her pram and take a walk, even if it’s just to the end of the street, or round the block. It does you good to get out and the fresh air will clear your head and lift your spirits.
9. Although gaining knowledge from books on babies can help, no two kids are the same and you shouldn’t worry if textbook advice doesn’t work for you. Try reading your baby and his or her actions and demeanour, rather than reading a book. Trust your own instincts.
10. It’s fine to feel tired, to cry, or to feel emotional. It’s natural. Take a few minutes to recharge your batteries. Relax in your favourite chair, put your feet up, cuddle your baby, count to 10. Take a little time out, take a deep breath and then you’ll realise everything feels better again.
Remind yourself every day that you’re doing your best, that you’re a good parent and that nobody else has the right to tell you otherwise. An apt saying is that the days are long, the years are short. Cherish the time you have with your new baby and when you look back, you’ll only remember the good times.
I suffered post natal depression with my first child and I remember just crying at the drop of a hat for no reason which made me feel like a failure. I finally mentioned this to my health visitor and she was fantastic, she lined up plenty of activities to help keep me busy and get out more with my son. I made so many new friends and it helped create an even better bond with my son. If you think you may be suffering from post natal depression, don’t suffer alone, ask for help.