How to Keep Your Identity After Having a Babyby Dr. Amanda Gummer
When you become a parent, it’s easy for all of your energy to go into looking after your little bundle of joy. After all, he or she relies on you for everything.
Becoming a mum or dad is a beautiful thing, but it’s not all you are. For your own benefit and your child’s, it’s important to remember to prioritise your own needs too.
Stress and your baby’s behaviour
There is a theory of child development called the transactional model, developed by Sameroff. In it, he shows that parental stress may come from several different sources:
● Family demands, such as feeding a baby or managing finances
● Lack of support, for example, if a parent isn’t supported by their partner
● External pressures, like going back to work or high expectations from their own parents
A stressed parent may struggle to meet their child’s needs consistently. This can lead to a confused child who may be irritable, throw tantrums, or exhibit other attention-seeking behaviour. That behaviour then leads to an even more stressed-out parent!
By addressing the sources of stress, you can help to stop this cycle.
How to break the stress cycle
Firstly it’s important to remember not to feel guilty if you’ve got caught in this cycle. Stress isn’t anyone’s fault. There are a few ways you can help tackle this that can be good for your whole family:
1. Forget about perfection. It’s easy to compare yourself with parent friends, siblings or in-laws, especially when you see how lovely their family photos are on Instagram. But remember that this is just a small snippet of their lives. Try to aim for “good enough” - that’s plenty for your child to be happy and healthy and much more achievable.
2 Feel confident in your choices. All the advice that gets thrown at new parents can make you feel like there’s an “ideal” way to raise your child - there isn’t! Every child and family is unique, so it’s about finding what works for you. You’ve got this.
3. Pay attention to your own needs. Meeting your own social, emotional, and physical needs means you can be better equipped to meet your child’s needs. This includes hobbies and anything else you need to support your mental wellbeing.
4. Find time for your friends. Having that social support is vital as a new parent and keeping in touch with existing friends can keep you feeling like “you”. This might look a bit different than the pre-baby years but true friends will understand. For example, do chores together like food shopping or cleaning the house, to grab some precious catch-up time.
5. Find time for your partner. It’s easy to simply become co-parents and forget about being a couple when you have so many new responsibilities. You both need to feel valued as a partner, as well as a parent. You could have a quick breakfast date if time is short, or friends or family to babysit to give you both a break.
Children learn by copying and you are your child’s biggest role model. As your little one grows up, seeing you make time for your friends and hobbies can help them realise and respect that you are an individual with your own needs and wants.
The tips above can help you keep your identity and support you in becoming a happier, calmer parent. If you’re struggling, this isn’t something to be ashamed of. It can often help to talk to your partner, friends, or family; or speak to a GP if you’re worried about your mental health.