Putting your own child first does not mean ignoring your own needs. Happy parents tend to have happy children. So it’s important to spend some time thinking of your own needs and feelings.
No matter how much you long to have a baby, in the early days you will probably feel quite overwhelmed by the tremendous responsibility of caring for a new person. It is likely to be the single most important change in your life and nothing will ever be exactly the same ever again. You are no longer free to come and go as you please, even down to when you sleep or have a cup of tea!
Some parents, thrilled with the baby, have no problems. But for many others the changes can be difficult to adjust to. This is especially true for parents who did not feel ready for the baby.
If this is how you feel, don’t despair. Try to hold on to the idea that sooner or later your baby will become a much more independent person and you will be able to take part in nearly all the things you enjoyed before the birth. In the early months it helps if fathers share as much as possible in caring for the baby, so that they too can form a close bond.
Look after yourself
Reality is rarely anything like the magazines would have us believe – where the glamorous supermum settles her baby in the pretty new nursery, as adoring dad looks on. With a new baby, you will probably be exhausted as you cope with almost round-the-clock feeding, changing and setting new routines.
- Try to remember that all the things you don’t enjoy now won’t last forever
- Make the most of the times when your baby is asleep to have a rest yourself
- Treat yourself when you can
- Make the most of any aspects of your new baby that you particularly enjoy
– like choosing new clothes or a new toy for him. Even if money is very scarce, you can always find all sorts of nearly-new items in special shops or jumble sales.
The outside world
Many parents soon discover that the outside world is not designed to make life easy for them. All kinds of everyday activities suddenly become very complicated -like catching a bus or train, or going shopping. This can get even more difficult with a toddler or more than one child in tow. It helps a lot if you have friends or relatives living nearby who can help out from time to time.
It is worth making the effort to go along to the local toddler group. This will give you the opportunity to meet and share ideas with other parents living in your area. If you begin to feel isolated or trapped at home, or are feeling down, do ask for help. Your public health nurse will be able to give you information about any special facilities or local groups you can join. Post-natal depression needs professional help.
Sex and your relationship
In the upheaval and excitement caused by the new baby, it is easy to forget that the whole thing started with the loving relationship between you and your partner. Like many couples, you might experience problems at this time.
These can be caused by a number of different reasons;
- There may be still pain or discomfort, especially following a difficult birth or stitches. If this lasts longer than the six-week check-up, see your doctor.
- You may be feeling too exhausted.
- Or you may not feel ready to start love-making again.
If you both try to take a relaxed attitude about this, talk to each other about how you feel and keep a sense of humour, you should find that your sex life returns to normal after a few months. If the problems persist, ask your GP to recommend a counsellor.
Make sure that you set aside time together as a couple, whether this is at home when your baby is asleep, or by asking a friend to babysit so that you can go out together. This is important both in the early months and as your child gets older. By looking after your relationship, you will be looking after your child’s future needs.
If you are bringing up your child alone, the problems you face may not be so very different by those faced by two parent families. But they will probably feel very different and often harder to solve. Getting support from family and friends will be very important. You can also get help and advice from a number of organisations set up to help lone parents.
Going back to work
This is an issue parents often worry about, as many parents work long hours and more and more women are returning to work when their children are still very young. Most experts agree that there is no reason why both parents working outside the home should be harmful to children. It is constant conflict at home that causes long-term damage to children. So as long as both parents are happy with work decisions, whether to stay at home or go out to work, your children will probably be happy too.
Whatever you decide, try not to feel guilty about it. It is better to concentrate on making sure that your children are well looked after in your absence. Employers could do a great deal more by being more flexible and sympathetic to parents.
Problems in your relationship
In today’s climate of family stress, children sometimes go through enormous suffering. Experts disagree on whether it is better for parents to stay together for the sake of the children, or to split up and avoid exposing them to constant rows and bitterness.
Once again, it is conflict which is most harmful to children. Only you can decide how to resolve the problems in your relationship, but to consider carefully the effect your decision will have on your children, and be honest with them about what is happening, stress that it is not their fault, and try to listen to and take account of how they feel.
The ISPCC run a Support Line for parents and members of the public. If you would like to get support or advice you can call us Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm on 016767960.
Provided by “ISPCC” Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children www.ispcc.ie