In those early days with your baby, you can be strolling through the sunshine one minute, and crying into a pillow the next. ‘Emotional rollercoaster’ doesn’t even begin to explain it. And the creeping doubts that follow all of us mothers around definitely don’t make life any easier. If you’re having one of those days, where it’s all too much, and you’re not feeling up for the job, here are some little reminders to get you through.
1. We’ve all been there
It’s natural to compare ourselves to other mothers. We all do it occasionally, and if you happen to be having an off-day, the endless comparisons can make you feel like you’re coming up short.
The thing is, every mother is struggling with something. Our children bewilder and confuse us on a daily basis, so we’re all on a steep learning curve most of the time. Give yourself permission to feel a bit off, or a bit broken, or a bit over it all. Talk to the other mums in the playground, and keep reminding yourself that they’re dealing with the very same crap that you are.
If all else fails, just watch that elderly woman smiling at you when you walk past with your baby. She’s been there, a long time ago, and she only remembers the good stuff. So will you.
2. There’s help if you need it
Our generation of mothers has been raised to be independent and efficient, so we’re used to snapping our fingers and getting stuff done. We know babies don’t work like that, but old A-type work habits are hard to break.
This is the time to call on people for help. If you’re struggling with dark thoughts or just need to talk things through, there are so many resources out there to help. The government runs a number of terrific parent helplines. Beyond Blue also has extensive resources for new parents.
3. Mothers need mothers
Most of us don’t have a close-knit tribe of women to share our baby with. In fact, most of us are bundled away in our homes, on our own, raising children in what can feel like solitary confinement.
If you’re feeling isolated, a mother’s group can be a really good way to get out of the house and feel like a human being again. Or even just reaching out to another mum in the neighbourhood, or a good supportive online forum. Mums need to talk. Simple as that. We need to stay connected with each other, and we need to hear each other’s stories. We don’t have campfires or villages anymore, but we do have coffee.
4. It feels worse than it is
In that first year with your baby, there’s always something new to worry about. Feeding, sleeping, milestones. Your mind can get caught in an obsessive loop about nap schedules, but in a year from now it won’t even matter (you’ll be worrying about toilet training instead).
This too will pass right? It always does. And just like ripping off a bandaid, it only hurts when you think about it too much.
5. We’re not born to be good mothers
Motherhood does not come naturally to all of us. While yes, the nurturing instincts do kick in when we first hold our little baby bundle in our arms, we’re not internally programmed to change nappies. This is something we have to remind ourselves … and the world …constantly. Motherhood is something we learn. It takes time. Sometimes we feel like we’re smashing it, sometimes we feel like we’re failing. Let’s all just take the pressure off and agree that mums (and dads) are all just making it up as we go along.
6. Worried? You’re going great!
If you’re putting in the thought about how you can be a better parent – you’re a better parent. Just the fact that you’re thinking about it, is everything. Just don’t let the fears and insecurities weigh you down. Thankfully our children grow at rapid speed, meaning the problems of today (won’t eat broccoli!), are soon replaced with the problems of tomorrow (won’t do their homework!). Pace yourself for the long game.
7. You’re in it together
In a perfect world, every relationship would split the childcare half-half. But odds are, if you’re home with the baby, you’re always home with the baby. It’s a slog, and it can be hard communicating to your partner what your day actually looks like. Keep talking to your partner. Put yourselves, and your relationship first. Baby will slot into this life you’ve built together.