There are a lot of physical demands during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Motherhood is also incredibly mentally and emotionally demanding. You can do so much to prepare for being a parent, like stocking up on supplies for your baby, planning for maternity leave, or learning about breastfeeding. A big part of mentally preparing for motherhood is setting your expectations. This article covers tips to help you mentally prepare for motherhood.
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There are a lot of physical demands during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Motherhood is also incredibly mentally and emotionally demanding. You will have emotions you have never experienced and think about things you never considered. Becoming a mother will require a shift in your mindset.
You can do so much to prepare for being a parent, like stocking up on supplies for your baby, planning for maternity leave, or learning about breastfeeding. How can you prepare mentally? Part of mentally preparing for motherhood is knowing what to expect and setting your expectations. This article covers some tips to help you mentally prepare for motherhood and to help set your expectations.
Plan for Time to Adjust
The weeks and months after you have your baby are a huge adjustment period. Planning for your postpartum period is essential. This article on birth recovery and postpartum will help prepare for what to expect. Perhaps even more important than planning is giving yourself space and time, both the recover from birth and to start adjusting to being a mother.
You may not be ready to get out of the house with your baby and meet up with friends and family right away. It may take you longer than expected to get back to working out. Every new mom adjusts on their own timeline. However long it takes you to be ready for new things or to feel like you have a handle on being a mother is okay—plan for time to adjust.
Your Brain is Wired for Motherhood
There is a big learning curve for being a mother. The good news is that our brains are wired for motherhood, and a lot comes naturally. Newborn babies are 100% dependent on caregivers for survival. From an evolutionary perspective, we have evolved to be good at caring for and raising babies. Our existence depends on it.
A study that took brain scans of pregnant mothers during and after pregnancy found that pregnancy is associated with substantial long-lasting alterations in brain structure, which may serve an adaptive purpose for pending motherhood.
For someone who has spent a lot of time around babies and has wanted nothing more than to become a mom, this may seem easy. If you have not had a lot of exposure to children being a mother can be intimidating. You can’t know everything up front, and you will have a lot of questions. Thankfully, a lot will come naturally because your brain is wired for motherhood.
Comparing Yourself to Others
We all have expectations of what motherhood will be. We form these expectations from our own experience, observing others, and what we see on TV and social media. What you see on Instagram or any other social media is the highlight reel. You will get the perfect pictures and those special moments, but a lot of motherhood is spent in the trenches. You will spend most of your time feeding, changing, and trying to get your baby to sleep. Don’t compare a rough day you are having to a perfectly curated picture on Instagram.
Everything is Always Changing
Your role and the needs of your baby are constantly changing. As soon as you figure one thing out, there is something new. Once you get some semblance of a routine or schedule, your baby will change it. There will be times when you feel like you are in a groove, and there will be times where you feel lost. If you find yourself in a challenging time, know that it will not last forever. You may have weeks that your baby fights naps only for them to adjust to a nap schedule perfectly fine.
Don’t Do it Alone
The saying, it takes a village, is a real thing. You are not meant to parent solo, and you need people. Surrounding yourself with a support system, including your partner if you have one, family, and friends, is critical. Having a support system will make your parenting journey easier, but you have to be willing to ask for help. Please lean on your village and ask for their support. Your friends and family will help you out, but they may not know the best way to do that if you don’t ask.
There is also value in having other friends that are moms. This may come easily if everyone in your friend group is in the phase of having kids. If you don’t have the luxury of a prebuilt group of parent friends, please seek out some new friendships. It can be a lifesaver to have people who can relate to what you are going through and help you navigate parenting. Having an in-person birth class will introduce you to other expecting parents in your area. There are a lot of local Facebook groups for new moms. You can also meet other parents at the park or out and about in your neighborhood. Having a baby is an instant conversation starter. If you are more of an introvert, it can be challenging to introduce yourself to new people and make new friends. It will be worth it to have more people in your support system.
Find Your Way
There are a lot of very strong opinions about how to be a parent. Your job is to find your way of doing things that work for your family. This may mean you do things the same way all of your friends and family do, or it could mean you go against the grain and do things differently. In a national survey, 61% of moms reported being criticized for their parenting choices, most often by other family members. 42% of those moms said that at times criticism made them feel unsure about their parenting choices. If there were one right way to parent, there would be a manual, and everyone would use it.
We tend to seek out resources that affirm our beliefs and gravitate towards people who agree with us. This is known as a confirmation bias. There will always be people who will disagree with how you choose to do something, and that is okay. While criticism may be constructive and helpful, it doesn’t feel good to be criticized, especially as a parent. Keep this in mind as you see other parents who do things differently from you. We never know what someone else is going through. Hopefully, other people will do the same for you. Take ideas and concepts from others that work for you and leave the things that don’t. Find your own way.
You Will Make Mistakes
You will inevitably make mistakes. The good news is that making mistakes is an excellent tool for learning and doing things differently in the future. When you do make a mistake or do something that did not get you the desired outcome, don’t beat yourself up. Make a mental note of what didn’t work and move forward. There is no sense in dwelling on what you did wrong or what you could have done better. Making mistakes is part of being a parent.
Changes to Your Time
There is a saying about parenting that “the days are long, but the years are short.” This sentiment is sometimes intended to mean that although things may be challenging on a daily basis, your children grow so fast, and they will be older and grown-up before you know it. Sometimes parenting feels like a never-ending marathon. Other times, it seems like you just blinked, and months or years went by.
Your relationship to time seems to change when you become a mother. Suddenly your time is dictated by a baby who doesn’t understand daytime and nighttime, or when they are supposed to take a nap, or when you need a nap. If you are accustomed to being on a schedule, prepare to learn to be more flexible. Some parents can have a more rigid schedule with their children. Others let the baby lead the way. Chances are, if you are accustomed to being on a schedule, you will need to adjust.
One part of your schedule that will change is your sleep schedule. One study showed that in the first three months, postpartum women experience, on average, a 1-hour reduction of sleep per night. Sleep duration increases by around 30 min, on average, in months 4–6. This study found sleep levels do not recover fully to prepregnancy levels even up to six years after birth. You have probably heard, sleep when the baby sleeps. Many mothers find it challenging to do that. The time when your baby is sleeping can be an opportune time to veg out and scroll on your phone, or take a shower, or get something done around the house. Sleep is critical for your health, and you should make it a priority. That being said, it can be challenging to do that. Chances are you will be functioning on less sleep than you do now.
Becoming a mother means that you are responsible for another human. Often that involves putting your child’s needs above your own. You have to make yourself a priority. There are many cliches like you cannot pour from an empty cup, or you have to put your oxygen mask on first. Making yourself a priority when you are a parent can be difficult. Being a parent means it is more important than ever to do things that recharge you. That could be catching up on the phone with a friend, taking a nap, enjoying a bubble bath, or having a night out. Start making self-care a habit now. Ask your partner or someone to step in and take care of your baby. Put it on the calendar. Please prioritize yourself and schedule a time to take care of yourself.
You Got This
Motherhood is amazing and rewarding but also hard and challenging at times. You are doing so much to prepare to become a mother. No matter how much you read or how many podcasts you listen to, there will still be surprises, both good and bad. You will make mistakes, and you will figure it out as you go. You will be great, and you got this.
Thank you to the amazing companies that have supported this episode.
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