Does it feel surreal that you are a mama now? It is something that you’ve prepared for a while and now the day is finally here. I know you don’t really have time to think about it, as you’re so consumed by making sure that your little one is still alive! It is a huge responsibility, no doubt about that.
Now that I have been in this journey for more than two years, I would like to share with you, my younger self, what I have learned.
Here are eight insights that I want you to know:
Parenting books are helpful.
However, recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in parenting. Sift the information and apply what is relevant to your child. What is most important is that you need to know your baby and apply what works for her. You are the expert of your child, not the authors. Always trust your instinct and experience to guide you.
Don’t be too disheartened when you notice a decrease in your marital satisfaction post-partum.
You are not alone. Research shows that 2/3 of new parents suffer this decline up to three years after birth. Reasons for more conflicts include differences in parenting styles and values, division of responsibilities, unmet expectations, and the sheer exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Patience, understanding and a forgiving heart help greatly to get through this period along with open communication.
The never-ending cycle of feeding, burping, diapering and putting baby to sleep can be awfully mind-numbing.
In the early days you will end up with a bigger share of the responsibility simply because you are the mum. This often leads to resentment at the inequality. As a modern woman, we have not been raised to value domesticity, mundaneness and housekeeping. We have been raised to expect equality, that our spouse will assume the role of a partner and not a helper. This collision between expectation and reality can be very painful in the beginning.
Avoid the comparison game as much as you can.
I know it is very hard and periodically I still succumb to it. Comparing ourselves, our child or husband with others is totally unproductive because what we are doing is comparing our inside with their outside. What has worked to counter this tendency is to count my blessings and appreciate what I do have and remember that our child is unique and consequently no comparison is meaningful.
We don’t need to be a supermum.
It is okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make us less worthy as a mum. Yes, there are mums who can do it all. Good for them. We are not here to prove how awesome we are. Our most important role is to take good care of our baby and to do that effectively we need to be mindful of our own mental wellbeing. Admittedly, this is a hard lesson to learn.
Baby is resilient just as you are resilient.
We can bounce back from difficult situations. It is important that we manage our own anxiety as baby can often sense that in us. Too often, we continue to beat ourselves up for a mistake when the baby has move on to enjoy her day.
Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
Motherhood is very hard and it is filled with self-doubt, harsh judgments, mistakes and guilt. When we feel helpless and vulnerable, it is critical that we are kind and gentle with ourselves. Our baby learns how to treat herself by observing us and unless we model self-compassion for her, she will end up being harsh and critical also.
Motherhood is a roller-coaster ride.
You will experience such rapture that you want time to freeze. You will also feel so low when she rejects or hurts you. Some days, you may even find yourself hating your life. The pride that you feel when you watch her reach different milestones is indescribable. And the first time she calls you mama? Priceless! Life feels much richer and fuller because of this myriad of feelings.
Happy motherhood, dear mama. Here’s to a happier, new you.
Love, Your older self.
This article was contributed by Winifred Ling, the director of W3ave Pte. Ltd., Singapore and Psychologist and Couples Therapist at Promises Pte Ltd.