9 Tips to Help Struggling New Moms
There is still stigma associated with mental health difficulties, despite much research and a growing number of people willing to talk about their struggles. Stigma around mood and anxiety problems during pregnancy and postpartum seems even more punishing and unfair – it isolates new moms and robs of what is supposed to be a joyful experience.
Just because childbirth and motherhood are natural does not mean either will be an easy and smooth transition. Often, expectations – social as well as our own – are too unrealistic: “everyone else makes it look so easy,” “she has three kids and she is always so put together,” “she seems so happy, what is wrong with me”, and “her Facebook pictures are always perfect.” Do these sound familiar? You are not alone. And, of course, Facebook pictures are perfect! Who posts pictures of messy kitchens and piles of dirty laundry?
We know that there is a connection between our mood and what is going on in our lives, and when we have children this connection becomes even more salient because so many changes occur at the same time that affect every single domain in our lives: intimate relationships, friendships, relationships with parents and parents-in-law, work, and leisure activities, just to name a few.
Here are some things that are helpful to keep in mind:
- Do not pretend that everything is fine when it is not. Sometimes, we tend to withdraw when we feel sad rather than reach out for help because we think we should know how to do everything.
- It is important to keep in mind that changes in your relationship with your partner are normal and that the postpartum period is a role transition for both of you. You have less time for each other; you have different ways of doing same things. Your partner’s way is not necessarily right or wrong – it’s just different.
- It is important to express our needs and ask for help without fear of judgment or rejection. Sometimes, we are caught resenting the fact that we have to ask for something which seems obvious, but what seems obvious to us might not be to our partners.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps – sleep deprivation is a strong contributor to postpartum mood and anxiety difficulties.
- Allow yourself to be flexible with your own expectations, especially with house chores – it’s ok if dishes aren’t done, you don’t get to the laundry, or if dinner is a sandwich or a bowl of cereal.
- Sometimes we worry about burdening our families and friends – everyone is busy and tired, and the tyranny of “shoulds” ensues: I should be able to do this myself, others have it worse than me, I just need to push through and do it.
- Social support is important – ask your friends who have children how they handle some of the things you are struggling with; take advantage of the many free moms’ groups in the city. Often just sharing how you feel and knowing that you are not alone in your experiences is helpful.
- Conflict with parents and parents-in-law is common. When we are tired and sleep deprived, we often interpret advice and help as a criticism and commentary on what we are doing wrong, even when it is intended as a genuine attempt at providing help.
- Practice self-compassion – imagine what you would say to a best friend or a loved one who is going through similar experiences and extend the same kindness to yourself. There is no such thing as “perfect.”
Most importantly, believe that it is not selfish, nor a sign of weakness, to take care of yourself, especially when sadness and overwhelm threaten to overcome you, because that’s what gives you strength and flexibility to take care of others.
Healthy Moms cardholders receive a free 30 minute initial consultation with Lana (in person or by phone) and 25% off therapy sessions. Find out more here: https://gohealthymoms.com/lana-mamisashvili-counselling-psychotherapy