Dear new parent: Cut yourself some slack
- By: Maricruz Ferrari LCSW
We’re pregnant! Quite exciting to hear those words for the first time. Endless amounts of emotions run through your body, mind, and soul in a matter of seconds. There’s happiness, excitement, fear, and uncertainty. There are too, dreams about the future and what life will look like once your little one arrives. Family members rejoice in the excellent news and cover you with a blanket of support. You embark on this adventure of getting ready for your first baby with total bliss.
You want the best for your baby and will even obtain things that soon enough, you’ll realize are useless. You modify your space preparing for the arrival of this tiny little being. Months go by, and you remain vigilant to all the changes, hoping everything unfolds healthily. Finally, birth time is here! Your baby is born, and you can’t contain your happiness. You feel like a fish out of water; you weren’t expecting these mixed feelings. Nothing is like you had planned; caring for a baby is not as simple as you thought. How can such a little thing be so disruptive? Your happiness and excitement are intact, but somehow your feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy grow strong. All of a sudden you realize parenting is not as blissful as you imagined and yet, it is. You quickly find yourself immersed in the horrible ambivalence of parenting: loving your children exhaustingly, while exhaustingly trying to survive each stage.
I vividly recall a day when my husband and I were sitting on our living room couch. We were quietly watching our newborn twins sleeping in their bassinet. We were trying not to make any noise to avoid waking them up. We just wanted a moment of peace, maybe a few minutes of adult conversation. Without talking, we both knew what each other was thinking and feeling. Suddenly I whispered, “I love them so much, but I might hate them too.” We both chuckled. We knew what that implied. Our love was unquestionable; we both would’ve and still would do whatever was necessary for their well-being. Nevertheless, we felt we were in an alternate reality where these little emperors commanded how we needed to live life, and that was not easy to accept.
Throughout the years since their birth, I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful parents. We have celebrated our children’s accomplishments together, and we have commiserated too. One thing has been sure for everyone along the way; we’ve all faced struggles in the journey of parenting. Some parents more than others depending on their specific needs and support system. Regardless, everyone has experienced some battle whether it is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.
Unfortunately, our society and news outlets have created this romantic version of parenting that is untruthful. People rarely share their raw, uncensored experiences as a parent. That’s where we fail. That’s where we lead new parents to believe that having a child is going to be a walk in the clouds. Such expectation leads many to think that they are inadequate or they are not succeeding at it. The truth is that nobody is born knowing how to be a parent, you learn along the way. Like many changes in life, it takes time to adjust to a new reality, and you might experience some growing pains. You might find yourself struggling emotionally to find the right balance between being the independent you that you love to be and being the parent who has to sacrifice some of the you that you like to be. You may find yourself frustrated and exhausted with the groundhog’s daily routine that comes with having an infant, and that doesn’t make you any less of a parent than those who don’t complain about it. Honestly, they probably feel the same way; they just don’t say it out loud.
So cut yourself some slack. There is no love like the one you feel for your children. You will learn the true meaning of unconditional love by becoming a parent and chances are you’ll become an upgraded version of yourself. Most likely, when your child needs you, you’ll be there, and you’ll try your best not to disappoint. You will make incredible sacrifices to give your child the opportunities you never had. When it counts, you’ll be present. Therefore, don’t get caught up in the minutia and don’t let societal standards define how you evaluate yourself as a parent. Be flexible, be present and enjoy every day as much as you can.
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Maricruz Ferrari is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in healthcare for multiple years. Throughout her career, she has provided supportive services to people struggling with numerous psychosocial stressors, including parenting issues. Although nowadays there is more information available on effective parenting techniques, many parents are still hesitant to share their honest feelings, especially the negative ones. Maricruz’s purpose is to help parents in need to enhance their relationship with their children by showing them practical ways to cope with their parenting struggles.