By Suma Hiremath
You’ve loved your little angel since you first laid eyes on them. Everything about them evokes a warm, loving feeling. Their smile, their smell, their laughs, and all their other big “firsts.” There’s nothing quite like a brand new baby. You’ve waited for this, perhaps planned for this, and cleaned meticulously (nesting phase, am I right?). Even formerly squeamish new parents report that their new little darlings’ bodily functions hardly phase them. It’s all love and smooth sailing...until it’s not.
Parenthood comes with a lengthy laundry list of responsibilities. The focus is no longer on you. Previously, you were responsible for your own life. You cared for yourself and maybe a partner. You cooked for yourself...or didn’t, if you didn’t feel like it. Take out was always a go to option. You went on dates and engaged in fun activities at your leisure. The time and possibilities seemed endless.
As a parent, your existence in the universe seems to shift. This is an adjustment for many new parents and can even prove grueling for more seasoned parents, as your child grows, reaches new developmental stages, and new challenges arise. Society socializes parents to “grin and bear it.” Particularly with new mothers, the expectation is that they love endlessly, are forever patient, and self-sacrificing. Unfortunately, this narrative can prove quite harmful at times, particularly when considering parental self-care.
The idea of struggling with parenthood is particularly relevant in the current global climate. With the emergence of COVID-19, many parents, who formerly sought reprieve through daycare, family help, school, or extra curricular activities, are now sequestered at home with their children. Additionally there are none of the usual outlets for parental self-care that may have been available pre-pandemic.
So what’s to be done when you’re stuck at home; the apple of your eye is driving you up a wall; and, there seems to be no end in sight? Being open and honest about your feelings regarding parenthood is simple and a much needed way to subtly implement self-care. Talking to your family, friends, and other parents can help normalize the notion that not all sentiments about parenthood are positive. You should also allow yourself space to feel however you feel, even if it is frustrated, tired, or burnt out, in the moment.
Largely, a societal shift in thinking about parenting and parenting responsibilities, as well as an ongoing focus on bolstering parental support is much needed. Although many states have issued stay at home orders during the COVID-19 outbreak, regular therapy sessions (most are offered via telehealth) can be a great way to process and discuss feelings in a safe, unbiased space. There are also an abundance of parental support groups readily available, most even offered virtually. When and if possible, share parental responsibilities, either with a partner, friends, or family members. Getting outside for at least 30 min a day and consciously choosing healthy foods and lifestyle choices can also help. In order to stay afloat and foster the best possible growth children, it is crucial to “fill your cup first.”