Preparing for parenthood
We give you six tips to help you mentally prepare for becoming a parent.
Planning to become a parent involves more than simply stocking up on nappies and baby wipes. Thinking about the emotional side of parenthood will also help set you up for success.
1. Expect the unexpected
It’s natural to be excited about the joys that will come when you meet your little one, but Jennifer Ericksen, clinical psychologist from the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) at Austin Health, says it’s important to be aware it won’t be all smiles. “Be open-minded about what might happen,” she suggests. “Think about the various scenarios and how your life will be impacted. Do you think it could put strain on your relationship with your partner?”
2. Picture parenting
Our upbringing has a big impact on the way we want to raise our children, so Ericksen says couples ought to discuss the kind of parents they want to be even before the baby is born. “Know what it is you would like to achieve,” she says. “Talk about what might make a happy family and what you think would make a happy arrangement.” Ericksen says it’s important for both parents to have one-on-one time with the baby, as well as alone time for themselves.
3. Keep communicating
Whether it’s your first, second or sixth baby, having a newborn around the house can throw things into chaos. Make sure you tackle things as a team by setting aside time to talk with your partner regularly – preferably once the baby has gone to bed. “You both want to feel relaxed, so don’t start the moment your partner walks in the door from work,” Ericksen says.
4. Look after number one
Being a mum is a busy job, and it’s easy for that yoga or boxing class you used to love to become a distant memory. But Ericksen says the whole family benefits when you take some time for yourself. “Caring for yourself is actually caring for your baby,” she says. “It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but taking some time out can make a great deal of difference for recharging your batteries.” Often mums admit to feeling guilty for doing things for themselves, but Ericksen says you need to cut yourself some slack.
5. Accepting help
Whether it’s offers to make you a meal or hang out your washing, don’t be afraid to accept offers of help. “Don’t try to be independent,” Ericksen says. “If help is on offer, take it!” If you’re struggling emotionally, it could be worth speaking to your doctor, your maternal and child health nurse, or a psychologist who specialises in perinatal (during and after pregnancy) mental health.
6. Listen to your heart
During pregnancy and the early days of motherhood, many new mums complain of well-wishers giving them unwanted advice. Ericksen advises trusting your maternal instincts and if you’re confused about something, speaking to your maternal health nurse, who’ll likely have the best information.
Becoming a parent can be an emotionally exhausting time, but if you make the effort to plan, communicate and go easy on yourself, you’ll be better equipped cope effectively. It is important to seek help if you need it.
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