If you are a new parent, you know the answer to the redundant question, “Are you stressed?”
Parenthood can be incredibly joyful, but it is also demanding and stressful for every parent. The good news is there are ways to help you handle the very real stresses of parenting.
New baby, new priorities
Maybe you used to prioritize keeping the kitchen spotless and taking a long run every morning. Now taking care of your baby and yourself means new priorities.
Think about what is most important and what you can let go of.
- Run in the morning? Don’t give up exercising. If possible, bring your baby with you. Both of you will benefit from being outside and a walk in the stroller or baby carrier may even help your baby sleep better. Instead of a long run in the morning, break your exercise up into two shorter power walks during the day that work around baby’s feeding and napping times.
- Relax your standards. Your kitchen doesn’t have to be spotless, but it can be “reasonable.” For now, some dishes in the sink and some not put away are good enough.
Prioritize your time, too.
- Baby napping? If you can, sleep while baby sleeps.
- Can’t sleep while your baby’s asleep? Do a few needed chores, but also take the time to rest – text a friend, listen to music, sit in the sunshine, read a chapter or two.
It’s not always easy to say “yes” when a family member offers to help with baby or around the house. You may feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed having extra people in your home, especially in the first few days/weeks/months after giving birth. Or it may be that you are used to managing everything yourself. Sometimes it’s just hard to admit you even need the help. But you can relieve some stress by saying yes to offers of help, but schedule it around what is convenient and helpful for you.
Family and friends might love to hold your baby or take her for a walk. During this time, you can get a break or do errands if you want to get out of the house. Some days, asking someone else to do an errand for you may be more helpful.
Some people may not have the time (or inclination) to spend time with your baby, but they are more than happy to bring a home cooked meal (or takeout) or pick up a few things for you at the store.
Family and friends who are far away can help too! Gift certificates to diaper services or food delivery services, with a choice of restaurants, can help lessen the demands of your day. Ask them to send you a quick text, cartoon or voice message periodically. That can remind you of their support and lift your mood.
If your friend volunteers to fold your laundry or load your dishwasher, you may need to give up on your “right” way of doing it. Either way, the clothes will be folded and the dishes will get clean. You may prefer your own way of doing things, but keep an open mind and just say “thanks” when things get done a different way.
Sometimes well-intentioned people want to see the new baby or help in ways that are not helpful. Perhaps they show up at a time your child generally naps and you are able to get some down time. Instead, your baby is overstimulated and you are making coffee for guests. Set limits on visitors. Be clear and kind about what’s helpful and what’s not. People who really want to help will understand.
Consider making a sign for the door that says, “shhh, baby sleeping” to remind your visitors to keep their voices down.
Make sure you have time for adult relationships.
- Spend time with your spouse or partner. A quick “check in” or hug can do wonders. Take a few minutes after the baby is down to do some deep breathing together and express your gratitude.
- Stay connected with friends. Meeting in person is great, but sometimes even a quick text can be helpful.
- Try a video chat with those far away who can provide support. This is particularly important for military families who are separated.
- Join a parenting group, a playgroup, or find online parent chats. Library story times are back up and running. These are great ways to spend time with other parents and babies. Baby Connection at Parenting Now offers a chance for families to connect with a feeding and lactation specialist, as well as meet other parents.
It’s hard to take care of yourself when caring for your baby, but experienced parents will tell you it’s harder when you don’t take care of yourself. When you are tired or hungry or lonely, it’s easier to let stress get to you.
- Eat healthy. Have easy to grab snacks around like carrot sticks and fruit. Get pre-made mixes of frozen or fresh cut vegetables that you can easily add a protein to for dinner. When you do cook, make extra to put in the freezer for a meal at a later time.
- Exercise body and mind. Take ten minutes to meditate, stretch, run up and down the stairs, or read that article you’ve been waiting to look at.
- Rest. Take the opportunity to rest when you can. Try to sleep when your baby does. Don’t always do chores when someone is with your child – take some needed downtime, too. Ten minutes of rest here or there can make a difference.
- Emotional health. Being a new parent creates all sorts of emotions. You might be overcome with joy that your baby smiled, then saddened that you can’t go out with friends tonight, and then worried you are not that “perfect parent.” High-running emotions are pretty normal for almost every new parent. Remember to take time to laugh.
Make sure if you are feeling depressed or anxious and not able to handle the stress and changes of having a new baby, seek help. It’s quite common for both moms and dads to feel this way. Talk with a healthcare professional about your feelings or check out WellMama, a local nonprofit that provides pregnancy and postpartum mental health support services to women and their families.
Hang in there, it will get easier
A new baby is stressful for all parents, but you can handle the stress. Parenting is a marathon and you want to go the distance. Managing your stress will help you be more available to your infant and relationship!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis, and Lynne Grilley.
Triple P – Positive Parenting Program
Are you interested in receiving more parenting advice? Triple P Online – Positive Parenting Program could be for you! This online parenting program allows you to take a parenting class in the comfort of your own home! Triple P Online now includes a guide for parenting during COVID-19.
If you live in Lane County, you can get Triple P Online for free by filling out the form below. A staff person from Parenting Now will send you an access code within 24 hours and you’ll be able to start using the program right away! For more information about the program visit the LaneKids Triple P homepage.