Posted on December 17, 2019
All that stuff people tell you when you’re pregnant –– you know, enjoy your sleep, go to movies, blah blah blah? Annoyingly, they are right. Though, our best advice for new parents is that you can’t really bank sleep, Netflix is just as good, and nothing can truly prepare you for the life-altering realities of having a baby.
No, you won’t sleep. Yes, the house will be a mess. And most likely, you’ll feel the insanity of being both the most miserable and the happiest you’ve ever been. This is because, in between those amazing moments, new parents are facing about six years of sleep deprivation.
So, how do you cope with the experience?
Ask For Help
Even if you’re usually very bad at asking for help, now is the time to get over that. Our best piece of advice for new parents is to ask for help. Friends and family will offer, and you should take them up on it. However, that doesn’t mean you should accept ANY help. Speak up and let people know what would be most helpful for you at that moment. Is it a meal? Laundry? Simply holding the baby so you can have a shower? Everyone will be happy to cater to whatever you need, especially if it involves holding the newborn. Eventually, you’ll be experienced from all the help and preparing for adolescence will be a breeze.
You can also find plenty of resources in Facebook groups, mommy and me classes and, of course, therapy. Whether you’re experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety or not, being a new parent is a stressful time and it helps to have someone to support and navigate these life changes. Plenty of therapists are even accommodating if you need to bring the baby to sessions. Find a nearby location today!
If your bundle of joy is already here, you’ve likely encountered your first lesson in expecting the unexpected. Your birth went nothing as you had planned, and yet it all worked out. Here you are with a baby! The rest of parenting falls into a similar pattern. You’ll continue to receive tons of (unsolicited) advice for new parents from your friends and family about what you should do, need to buy, and how you’re going to feel. While a fraction of this is probably very helpful, it can feel like an overwhelming stream of information and make you go crazy wondering why your baby isn’t following the same behavior and milestones as your loved ones.
This is because babies are not one-size-fits-all. Like pregnancy, they’re all different and you’re not supposed to know what to do. Doing your research and getting parenting advice is crucial, but don’t let rules, schedules, and milestones govern your life. Your baby is on their own timeline and has his or her own unique needs. Be gentle with yourself as you learn on the job.
That said, lean into your life as new parents. This new season is not going to be anywhere close to your old life, and that’s ok. It’s temporary, so soak it in –– even the sleeplessness. The more you try to fight it, the more stress and anxiety you’ll feel. As a new parent, you just don’t have the capacity you once did for your social life and even household chores. Adjust your perspective to focus on what you are doing, like having a long staycation with lots of TV binge-watching while people bring you endless food, and spending time with your new child, instead of the things you’re missing out on. Likewise, reframe your expectations to be more realistic to what you can accomplish in a day.
Yeah, YOU! Just because you made a new human doesn’t mean you stop existing. If anything, now is a more important time than ever to pay attention to your needs. It’s impossible to be a good parent if you aren’t fully functioning. Don’t feel bad if you need a break from the baby, want to take a breather from breastfeeding because you’re in so much pain, or want to indulge in something from your pre-baby life to have some sense of normalcy. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to put yourself first. Remember that oxygen mask? Make sure you’re getting enough air so that you can care for your child and be fully present.
Our best advice for new parents is to trust your gut, get help, and try to enjoy this time, even the most difficult moments.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.