And How To Avoid Falling Into The Same Trap!
We all make mistakes (many, MANY mistakes) when we first become parents - putting on nappies the wrong way round, forgetting to sterilise bottles, leaving baby too close to the edge of the bed!
The whole journey is just one big process of trial and error.
But there were three fundamental mistakes I made before I had my first child that really took some work to overcome...
1. Assuming I would be “a natural” at being a mum
My mum was such a great mother and I'm generally pretty good with kids, so I just assumed I'd find it fairly easy to transition into parenthood and connect with my baby.
2. Assuming that being a mum would be easier than my job
I'd always worked fast-paced, stressful jobs, putting in extremely long hours to make sure the job got done properly. The idea of staying home in comfy loungewear just cuddling and feeding a baby sounded like a well-needed rest.
3. Assuming there’d be an automatic support network once I'd had the baby
Everybody's so pleased for you when you get pregnant, it's easy to think they're all just going to be totally enamoured with your kids and be around to support you all the time.
Why were these assumptions my biggest mistakes?
Because they became expectations.
And when expectations don’t materialise, it’s easy to feel like you’re failing, you’re not cut out for it, or you’ve just got a raw deal compared to everyone else.
Now, not only have you got these challenges to overcome, you've also got to come to terms with the fact that the rosy motherhood journey you imagined, is quite a long way from reality.
What I actually discovered when I had a baby was…
1. I was not the "natural” mother I expected to be, at all.
The transition from being an ambitious career woman, moving at 100mph every day, to being a stay-at-home-mum moving at 2mph, was a huge shock to the system. I had a LOT to learn and adjust to. It turns out, you don’t just give birth to a new baby that day, you give birth to a new mother as well.
2. Motherhood is by far the most challenging job I’ve ever had.
Whilst other jobs I’ve had may have required more skill, experience and qualifications, nothing has ever been as emotionally and physically tough at the same time, nor as relentless. There are no days off, no holidays, no sick leave. Your boss needs you to work all hours of the day and night, 365/24/7, and your job performance is going to impact and shape the future wellbeing of the person you love most in the world. No pressure!
3. If you don’t already have a close support network, having a baby doesn't make one materialise.
Yes there is a bit of extra attention when you have a newborn but that quickly subsides, as people have their own lives to get on with. It takes work to build and maintain a support network. You have to reach out, go to groups, break the ice with other parents, arrange play dates, make the effort to see friends and relatives.
If you are not yet a parent, please understand I am not telling you this to scare you. I am telling you this in the hope that you drop the picture-perfect expectations of parenthood and start building your coping strategies instead.
Prepare to fail (like, a lot) but also work on growing from your mistakes.
Prepare for it to be relentless, but also develop some strategies for improving your mental resilience and patience.
Prepare for it to be isolating, but also figure out and plan some ways to build your own support network.
If you go into parenthood armed with the tools you need for dealing with these challenges, you will be much more ready to cope with the tough times and any positives that come your way (and there will be many of those too) will be a lovely surprise instead of the bare minimum you’re expecting.
For more motherhood truths and jokes, follow me on Instagram - @mykindamum