image source: raisingchildren.net.au
Becoming a parent can be such an amazing experience, as you suddenly feel overwhelmed with love for your child. However, this love can often be paired with extremely anxious feelings as we are concerned about making sure our children are happy, healthy and safe.
It is completely normal to feel anxious as a parent, so you certainly aren’t alone, but there are a few ways that you can work on your anxious feelings to make the most of being a parent and improve your wellbeing. Talking to your loved ones, reading realistic parenting experiences, having ongoing to-do lists and spending time away from your children are all important steps to take to help protect your mental health.
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TALK TO LOVED ONES
Everything you are experiencing in your day to day life is likely to be similar to things that your loved ones have also gone through, or are currently going through. Ask someone close to you if they fancy coming round for a cup of tea or a film night and talk to them about some of the feelings you’re experiencing. You will probably find that they will reassure you, as they are likely to have felt exactly the same as you at some point.
Keeping your feelings to yourself and letting them build up is probably a major contributor to your anxious feelings, so let them go with someone you trust and you will notice a big difference. Perhaps you’re really struggling with meal times with your toddler. Speaking to another parent might help you realise that coverall bibs could help make clean up time more manageable or they may know a sneaky recipe to help your child access some of the essential vitamins and minerals they need.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to your loved ones, please reach out to free parenting helplines. OPFS supports young parents, St Michael’s Fellowship supports disadvantaged parents and Family Lives supports every type of parent out there. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t an answer, yet these professionals will help you to rationalise your feelings and realise that every problem has a solution.
READ REALISTIC PARENTING BLOGS
When reading magazines, often you will come across articles about celebrity mums who have got their pre-baby body back in 6 weeks, or glamorous photo shoots of parents with their little ones talking about how dreamy parenting is. Social media is also saturated with unrealistic representations of parenting. Yet, this simply isn’t real life and it can have a negative effect on your mental health.
You won’t be able to find other parents talking about the realistic experience of parenting, which is filled with love as well as really difficult times. So, protect your mental health and spend your time reading realistic parenting blogs online or listening to parenting podcasts. You will get to read or listen about real parents and real experiences in people’s daily lives. It won’t take long for you to realise that thousands of other people are going through exactly the same things as you.
CREATE ONGOING TO-DO LIST
When you are feeling overwhelmed, one of the worst things you can do is force yourself to do tasks that you really don’t feel up to, like hoovering or cleaning the bathroom. Instead of having a strict daily schedule that feels stressful, instead create an ongoing to-do list to help you gradually make progress with things that need doing.
This might include a few things that you do need to get done like cooking dinner or doing one load of washing and then you can note down other things that you would like to get done at some point over the week or month. This way your thoughts will be organised so you know what you are aiming for whilst also taking away the pressure. Ticking your achievements off is also a great way to help you feel motivated.
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SPEND TIME AWAY FROM YOUR KIDS
If you are spending all day everyday with your children, it will be easy to become consumed with worried feelings when you aren’t with them. So, it is important to actively plan time away from your children, perhaps once a week if you can. It doesn’t have to be a night away or anything big, but instead could be meeting a friend for a coffee, going out for a date with your partner or giving yourself a couple of hours for a swim and sauna at the gym. Taking time to get out of the house, clear your head and have some alone time will be fantastic for you and your children.
Arrange for your partner, a friend or a family member to watch the children whilst you are out. You will know they are safe and having plenty of fun whilst you are away. The first few times you will probably feel very anxious, however you will soon learn that they are absolutely fine and will benefit from having a more relaxed and energised parent. Try to make it a part of your routine and you will end up really looking forward to it.
If you take anything from this article, please let it be that you are not alone. Anything you are feeling has been felt by millions of parents before you and will be felt by millions after you. Talking to your loved ones, reading realistic stories about parenting and spending time away from your children should gradually help to relieve your anxious feelings and give you space to enjoy the time you have with your kids more.
After trying a few different things, if you are still feeling overwhelming feelings of anxiety, please seek professional help. The best thing you can do is realise when things start to worsen and go to see a doctor as soon as possible. You shouldn’t suffer alone and you could notice significant changes really quickly with professional help. When you spend time focusing on yourself, it will do wonders for you and your baby.