A guide for new parents: Coping with parenthoodWritten by Letitia Suk
What's inside this article
A long walk in the evening seemed like a great way to connect for Megan and Christian Heep. As new parents, the Heeps had learned that going out to dinner, having friends over and even watching a movie at home were now unpredictable events. Taking a walk seemed simple enough and a good way to catch up on each other’s day.
Gathering all the "just-in-case" items, checking the weather and lugging the stroller down three flights of stairs dampened some of the spontaneity of the event, but the evening still beckoned. One more quick feeding, one last diaper check, one last trip upstairs to grab a blanket and suddenly the moment was gone, the evening over. Will anything ever be the same? wondered Megan as she crawled into bed knowing the night would be short again.
As a veteran mother of four, I can say confidently, "Nope!"
Nothing will ever be the same
In my former role as a childbirth instructor, I learned that even the best preparation, up-to-date videos and latest research can go only so far to prepare you for labour and delivery. Ditto for parenting. Learning to be a parent takes more than a class; it takes being a parent.
One of my most vivid memories is heading to the hospital while in labour with our first child. Trying to time contractions, wondering if the car had enough gas to get there and BREATHING were all overshadowed by the empty car seat in the back. Driving as a family of two, my husband and I were profoundly aware that the next time we would be in this car, we would be a family of three. How could I ever be ready for this?
Adjusting to being a parent touches you at every level. Watching my husband fall in love with our children revealed a dimension of him I had never seen. Finding out how little sleep I could get by on was a surprise. Even with my introvert tendencies, I reached desperate limits for connections with friends. No day was the same as the next, and for a person who thrives on routines, this was difficult.
While there will be days when we might long for the predictability of life as it used to be, going forward as parents is one of the most satisfying of life’s adventures.
Is there any way to make this adjustment easier?
- Reading books about parenting as well as child development can clue you in on what is happening. You won’t agree with all of the parenting theories, so find authors whose overall philosophies resonate with yours. Focus on the Family Canada offers many helpful books and resources for parents. Consulting other family experts, such as pediatricians and pastors, often brings answers to common questions.
- Talking to other parents about their own experience is enlightening. Finding a family with a child about three to six months older than yours seems to work well.
- Understand that your spouse is also experiencing major life changes. Rather than letting the sleeplessness and stress pull you apart, laugh often, look out for one another and adjust your sexual relationship to fit your new reality. A Christian psychologist once said that after the birth of a baby, the sacrifice of the husband is to have less sex than he prefers and the sacrifice of the wife is to have more sex than she prefers.
Ultimately, what really works is getting to know your child and daily asking for God’s strength to get you through.
Six more tips to ease your transition into parenthood
- Scale down your expectations on everything. Count on dinners being interrupted — as well as conversations, sleep and shopping. Most of your life will be this way for a while; this is the norm.
- Enjoy the moments. Brief are the times when you get to bask in the loveliness of a baby nestled in your arms, marvel at a first smile, feel the pure devotion from your child when no one else can comfort her. These are times you can’t go back to and are the highlights of being a new parent.
- Continue to make fun plans, remaining flexible if they need to be revised. Special dinners, weekend events and trips to the mall won’t happen without planning.
- Do the obvious. Catch up on sleep whenever you can, stay in touch with friends, eat what’s good for you. It is hard to think positively about your new family experience when you’re exhausted, lonely and in need of essential nutrients.
- Look at the big picture. Evaluating the quality of your life based on a tough day with a baby is usually a setup for disaster. My husband always encouraged me to look at the good times and to remember what we were doing by raising a child. That never failed to put things into perspective.
- Stay confident. Believe God when He says He has given you everything you need for life (2 Peter 1:3), and that includes all the resources you need to be a parent. God wants you to succeed at this and has provided you with the wisdom and help to parent well. When He says in Isaiah 40:11 that He gently helps those who have young, that means you.
The Heeps are taking walks again. They just start earlier and have learned that a short walk is still a walk. Life does fall into new patterns, and what seemed difficult at first gets easier — until the next phase of life or the next child comes along.
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