So you have the cot, the pram, the high chair, some super cute outfits, and a squillion other gadgets recommended by family, friends, social media, and Google. Full disclosure: my favourite gadget was the snot sucker – just saying! The satisfaction of clearing those tiny little nostrils was hard to beat. However, how prepared are you mentally?
When my son was born in 2017, I was 41 years old and thought I knew all there was to know about becoming a parent. After all, we had been trying for a family for three years. We had a great marriage, lived in a beautiful town in Montenegro, and had no major stresses in our life. We were not naive to the challenges that would come along – the lack of sleep, the responsibility of caring for this new person, and the isolation of living overseas away from both of our families were all factors we were very well aware of.
Yet, nothing prepared me (or my husband) for the postpartum depression that enveloped me in those first 18 months. See, here’s the problem: if well-meaning people try to share the challenging details of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, then they are scaremongering. And if they do not disclose the reality faced by many, then they are hiding the truth and sugarcoating the whole thing. You can’t win, really. The best advice I can give you is before you learn all things baby, learn all things YOU.
As a new mother, you have a lot to learn. Diapers, bottles, and baby food are just the beginning. It can be easy to get so caught up in caring for your little one that you forget to take care of yourself. However, self-care is essential for new moms. After all, you can’t be your best for your baby if you’re not taking care of yourself. So what do you need to do to take care of yourself? Start by learning about the six human needs. Once you understand what you need to feel fulfilled, you can start making sure those needs are met. Only then will you be able to give your baby the best of yourself.
The Six Human Needs
During the last five years, I have literally lived and breathed maternal mental health and personal development. Upon receiving much-needed support from a counsellor, a doctor, and a life coach when my son was 18 months old, I experienced a pivotal moment where I felt compelled to help other families navigate these waters.
I have realised that while it is quite easy to access information relating to hormone, physical, biological, and social changes, I did not find much guidance that directed me to personal development in order to prepare myself for this chapter in my life. What do I mean by that? Well, if you had asked me five years ago if I knew what the six human needs were, I would’ve said, “No, I do not.” I believe the problem lay in my inability to identify my needs and how to meet them best. They are:
- Connection and love
We each have these needs. However, we are all unique regarding the varying degrees to which they drive us. For example, I personally am driven by a need for certainty. I am very routine-oriented and systematic. I love schedules and plans. One of my best friends is the opposite. She is driven by a need for variety, always makes plans at the last minute, is unfazed if things are not done systematically, and struggles with routine. Interesting, right?
If I had an awareness and understanding of this at the time of my son’s birth, I believe that I would have been able to help myself more during those dark days. Since then, the personal development journey I embarked upon opened up many layers as to what was affecting my mental health. It was not that I did not feel connected to my son, as is often documented as a sign of postpartum depression.
Checking In on Your Framework
When you begin to understand yourself fully, it can incite changes in all aspects of your life and none more so than during a huge transition, such as becoming a parent. It is common to immerse yourself in understanding best practices for the baby, such as feeding, sleeping, and potty training, but no one ever asks if you understand how to meet your own needs (or if you even know what they are).
We each have a unique framework in terms of how best to support ourselves based on our conditioning (upbringing), environment, belief systems, values, the things that bring us joy in our lives, the things that we are passionate about, and the expectations we have of not only our family and friends, but also ourselves.
When Was the Last Time You Checked In on That Framework?
Whether you are a parent or not, the fact remains that we evolve. What once made us feel good perhaps does not have the same effect anymore. Our tastes in music and books changes, the energy we share with others within our social groups shifts, and we can sometimes be wondering what actually makes us tick? What do I actually enjoy? What motivates me and makes me feel alive?
Completing the worksheets in the online programme Stepping Into Parenthood will see you and your family identify the answers to these questions. It will also open the narratives between you and create a visual tool to reflect upon and assist you with simple and easy-to-implement tips and tools that will help you to meet your own six human needs.
Turning your attention to subjects such as budgets, careers, child care, the running of the household, and expectations of everyone within the family unit as you prepare for the arrival of your child will be way more valuable than only concentrating on the aesthetics of the Insta-worthy nursery. It amazes me how many people marry, have children, and yet avoid uncomfortable conversations surrounding things such as money.
If you aim to raise a child with integrity, honesty, respect, and an ability to communicate openly with others, then now is the time to take a look in the mirror and see if you are, in fact, displaying these values. As I said before, we are all a product of our upbringing, conditioning, and environment. So perhaps consider what you would like that to look like for your child/children? An example of this melted my heart last year when my son came home one day and exclaimed, “Aww, thanks mum!”
Confused, I asked, “What for?” He replied, “For hanging up the laundry and cleaning the dog hair from the couch!” After we stopped laughing at how random that seemed and how cute he was, we soon realised that he was following the example set by his dad and me. We are always vocal with our gratitude to each other, and our son is growing up in an environment where this level of respect and appreciation is fully transparent. By doing so, it also meets our own human needs of significance, love, and connection. Pretty cool, right?
There are so many small yet impactful ways to meet our needs, and doing so will provide the foundation and stability required as you enter your next chapter as a parent. Often, when talking to clients, I can identify through the narrative that there is a human need not being met. That is often the root of the feelings of unease, anxiety, and depression commonly experienced by new parents.
Preparation in pregnancy, creating awareness, and a tool kit of best practices as to how to look after yourself mentally will have a domino effect as you parent, helping you to have clarity and understanding of yourself during this amazing part of your life. Yes, some parents indeed adjust with no adverse effects, but having this knowledge is a bit like having an airbag in a car. It’s not anticipated that we will need it, but it is good to know it is there if we do.