Parenthood is a time of transition. It requires mums and dads to mobilise a great deal of their resources and energy. New parents have to adapt to their new roles with enormous ongoing demands and responsibilities. In preparing for these changes, Towards Parenthood aims to:
- encourage you to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.
- provide ideas on self-care and stress busters, both during pregnancy and when your baby arrives.
- assist with planning for emotional and lifestyle changes to smooth the transition to parenthood.
Self-care and stress
New parents don’t necessarily feel ‘on top of the world’ in the months following childbirth. Some people love being a parent right from the beginning, while others take much longer to adjust. You may find you need to learn different ways of managing stress to those you have used in the past.
You can cope with stress in ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ ways. Many of your patterns of coping were learned during childhood—for example, hiding in your room when your parents argued (withdrawal).
It can be useful to think of ‘stress’ as arising from two sources: internal and external. Examples of internal stressors include feeling physically unwell, constantly worried or thinking negatively. Examples of external stressors include problems at work, relationship troubles and financial hassles. Because having a baby brings about both internal and external changes, it is considered to be a major life stress.
If a coping strategy helped you manage in the past, then you are more likely to use it again when feeling stressed. However, what helped you cope in one situation isn’t always useful in another. For example, withdrawing or emotionally shutting down on your crying baby may not be helpful. In the past you may have yelled at your partner when angry—however, an infant will find this frightening, so parents often have to learn new ways of coping with relationship stress. New stages in your life can challenge you to develop new strategies.
This is an extract from Towards Parenthood, a workbook to help you prepare for the changes and challenges of a new baby. To purchase your copy, click here.