Guest blog post by: Ishtar Gabriel, Child & Family Therapist
Becoming a new parent is one of the most life altering events you will experience and requires a huge amount of learning, surrendering, exploring, growing and discovering. It is like starting a new job without any training or manual. All the other employees have been around forever and seem to think it is their sole purpose in life to tell you how to do your work but none of them are staying after hours to get their project done. Parenting can feel lonely and overwhelming, and yet once you find your way, it can be the most amazing journey ever traveled. So here are our tips to help you find your way as you start your new job:
Let go of expectations
Wow this is a big one! This is one of the most anticipated events of your life. This can be a scary and exciting process. Expectations and plans help us make sense of the unknown—and a new baby is uncharted territory. But when plans don’t go as we expect it is hard to adjust and enjoy the moment for what it is—not what we expected it to be. Just being aware of our expectations is a step in the right direction. I was expecting the baby to sleep longer, I was expecting to breastfeed, I was expecting a girl. Exploring ways to feel safe and supported will help you to stay open to the new possibilities on your parenting journey.
Parenting is a process not a destination
Before baby even arrives most parents have read all the right books, registered their child for mommy and me classes, decorated the room, researched the best diapers, taken lessons on how to push and open the stroller and started making homemade organic baby food. We cannot “parent” until the baby arrives and we really have no idea what is going to be expected of us until we get to meet our baby. You cannot start your job until you arrive at your office or receive your first project. So expertise—-parenting expertise just like work expertise—develops over time. It means you are going to make mistakes and you are not going to do it all—-and definitely not perfectly. Becoming a skilled and confident parent takes practice, time and conscious effort. So meet the baby first and then start your journey together.
Try not to compare
Every child is unique and comes pre-package with their own personality, likes, and mannerisms. You are unique and that means the relationship between you and your child is unique. A healthy and thriving relationship between you and your child requires a deep understanding of yourself and your child and develops as a result of exploring and becoming curious about who you are and who your child is becoming. Comparing your child to those of others forces us to focus on what our child cannot do verses what they can do and we miss the things that make them unique. This is what Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfecting Parenting” refers to as scarcity. Scarcity is the idea that we are not enough. The way to combat scarcity is to practice gratitude–appreciating things exactly as they are—trusting everything is exactly as it needs to be. Your child’s self esteem and self-worth will thank you for it. And you will become a more confident, loving and grounded parent.
Have fun you say when you are knee deep in puke and poop. One of the best ways to laugh about your new experiences is to call another mom friend that you trust and share your story, keep a journal or video tape the chaos. It might not seem or look funny in the moment but it will become funny days or even weeks later…..okay who are we fooling it might take years to appreciate the humour. The point is to not take yourself too seriously. Children have survived for centuries with much less. According to Judith Warner of Perfect Madness we are the most educated mothers to date and tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”. We will never be perfect but we can be enough and exactly what our children need us to be. So remind yourself of this mantra next time things seem totally out of control, progress not perfection.
The love affair evolves
As you get into a routine (however chaotic of a routine this might seem—especially for all you type As) and you get a handle on feeding, sleeping and showering and begin to distinguish day from night you will begin to have time to see, feel, smell, hold, play and laugh with your baby. This is when the love affair begins. So don’t worry if you are just not feeling “the love at first sight”. These things take time. Love evolves and grows. You will fall in love with your baby as time evolves.
Remember motherhood is a journey not a destination. Measure your progress not your perfection. Acknowledge the things you did get done and you did do well—even if it is simply stopping to look at your baby for a few minutes in the business of the day. Motherhood if done with self awareness, self care and deep dedication and love means you will evolve and grow right along side your new bundle of joy.