Motherhood changes you physically, mentally, emotionally, morally and ethically. Once your child is born, your whole life is turned upside down and often this can bring with it self-criticism and feeling like motherhood is nothing like you'd planned.
Society teaches us that there are many ways to get parenting 'right' and combined with our own expectations formed from our experience of our own parents and the hopes we have of our parenting abilities, often the pressure to be the 'perfect' mum takes its toll in the early years of becoming a mum.
Non-sleeping babies, breastfeeding issues, advice from others, feeling out of control and many other unexpected challenges makes us feel like we are doing it all wrong and perhaps makes us feel like we are terrible at this motherhood thing.
So I have developed 10 tips for mums that will help you stay aligned with the reality and the bigger picture of being a mum, so that you don't become overwhelmed and consumed by this stage of your life:
1. You have never been a mother to this child before and you cannot expect to know the ins and outs of this child's behaviours, wants and needs. You must learn this over time a nd through trial and error.
2. Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding does not define you as a good or bad mother. You either can't or you decide that you don't want to, for whatever reason and this is just one small contribution to your child's development. There are many babies raised to be healthy children on formula, and this part of your relationship is only a minute part of the life long journey you will have together.
3. There is no set time that a child will sleep through the night. They need to learn this skill and the amount of time it takes does not reflect your abilities as a mum. It is simply something your child is learning to do. You cannot rush another person's development and this goes for how long it takes them to walk, talk, run, or any other skill they learn throughout their entire lives.
4. Taking time out is a necessity. Every mother knows this, however the reason why she doesn't take time out, is not because she doesn't hav e time, it's because she doesn't make herself a priority. Make yourself a priority so that you can refresh yourself and gain some perspective from the situation. Taking time out doesn't make you a failure as a mum. It makes you a smarter and more rational mum.
5. Know that this too shall pass. Whatever challenge you are encountering with your child, remember that this is just one small moment in yours and your child's life and will soon pass.
6. Listen to the self-talk you have about the challenges that you are facing. Stress comes from how we perceive a situation, not the actual situation itself. Stop your mind from entering into conversations that conflict with the reality of the situation (eg I don't want to do this, I'm sick of her not sleeping etc)
7. Look for the solutions to the challenges, rather than allowing your mind to get stuck in what is not happening.
8. Throughout your entire journey through motherhood, you will con stantly be learning how to handle different and challenging situations. This is the reality of being a mum, (and incidentally it's the reality of all aspects of life). Sometimes you will know what you are doing and sometimes you will have to source out different things to try. Challenges don't mean that you are hopeless, they just mean that you have something to learn, and perhaps your child has something to learn too.
9. Often mums are expected to instinctively know what to do with their child. However you cannot know what you do not know in your mind. If you've never done something before, then the only way you learn how to do it, is to practice and try different ways of doing things. How do you know what to do unless you've learnt what not to do?
10. Finally, know that you are always doing the best that you know how to do. Life is about learning and growing and no one ever knows everything about everything. We are always adding to our development in life and you can only ever draw upon the current knowledge you have in order to make decisions and deal with situations. You are always being the best mother that you can be.
An unrealistic expectation of being the perfect mum and doing everything right (for fear of ruining your child's life) will only cause you to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Understand the reality of life's ups and downs and learn to find the value in those down times. What is this challenge teaching me about myself, about the situation and about life?
Motherhood challenges will happen. It's not the challenge that will cause you to feel overwhelmed, it's how you view the challenge with your mind. Change the way you think about these challenges, and you will change how you feel about them too.
Be gentle on yourself during these early days. You are simply learning the new skill of being a mum, just like everyone else.
Jackie Hall is a not only a life coach, course facilitator and life coach trainer for the Anti-Depression Association of Australia (ADAA) but is also the mother of two boys aged four and five. She has worked with many clients who have had stress, depression and anxiety and has also trained counsellors and psychologists in the ADAA method. Having suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety during her own experience of motherhood, she began searching for effective answers. Unable to find any, she created ways to change her own m indset towards motherhood and then combined them with recent training from the ADAA. The result is The Happy Mum Handbook.
For further details on Jackie Hall and The Happy Mum Handbook visit: www.selfhelpformums.com