Over the years many new mothers and babies have walked through my door, but it was not until mid-October 2017 that I was really able to understand what life was like for a new parent. This is when my daughter Lauren was born. It is with all honesty that I say being a mum is by far the hardest job I’ve ever had, although I do hope that it has made me a better doctor.
New parents are given a plethora of advice, but these are five things that I think are really important:
• Friends are an essential aspect of a new mum’s life. Choose your ‘mum friends’ wisely. You need a group of non-judgemental women who do not care if you come out for coffee with milk stains on your top or messy hair and track pants. Mum friends need to pick you up when you have had a difficult week, not make you feel worse or guilty about anything.
• You cannot be an amazing mum 100 percent of the time. No-one is. Try not to set your standards too high. If you don’t make it to a baby music class because you have had a bad night, it doesn’t matter. If your child is not eating homemade food every day, you are not failing. One of the best pieces of advice I had is that the most important thing is that you love your baby.
• Do not neglect the relationship you have with your partner. Each day try to spend some time with your partner without the baby. This will strengthen that relationship and your wellbeing. Doing this will therefore have a positive effect on the baby. It may mean spending time watching TV after the baby has gone to bed. Once the baby is a little older and you feel ready, you may wish to go out for a couple of hours and leave the baby with a trusted adult. If you are a single parent, do not neglect your close friendships. I recognise that this can be a lot more challenging, but do take some time to nurture other relationships in your life.
• That being said, expect there to be an element of tag-teaming. If chores need to be done, delegate one person to entertain the baby, and one to fold the laundry.
• Phases are a normal aspect of child development. Accept the ebb and flow of life. In our house we have battled colicky phases, picking-eating phases, crying in the car seat phases and many more. There will be days when you will question your life choices! Sometimes it will be really really hard and you’ll feel exhausted. Difficult phases are not necessarily an enjoyable aspect of parenting, but use them to gain experience and learn as a mum. Yes, your child is growing, but you are growing as a parent too. And remember, tantrums do not last forever.
Babies and children are curious creatures. If you are struggling as a new mum, and feel you are not coping, please discuss this with your doctor, midwife or Plunket nurse. There is a lot of support out there.