Hey, guys! I have a very special treat for you! Our friend Victoria McCollum of The Virginia Baby Company joins us on The Birth Under Wraps Blog today with a guest post with some real talk about the struggles of early parenthood. Are you ready? Let's go!
Why is parenting SO HARD?
Becoming a parent is like becoming being made a CEO only because you had been a great executive assistant: your previous experience is invaluable, but has left you unequipped with the skills to be able to effectively steer the ship from day one.
My tiny boss is a little tyrant. Will I ever sleep again? When was the last time I had something to eat? Why is this so hard?
Being a mom is the hardest and most exhausting thing I have ever done.
At least in the workforce, we can always rely on an operations manual to be in place to guide the daily functions of our business, but no one book or piece of advice works for everyone in parenting. That’s because you and your precious bundle of exhausting joy really are unique and different from everyone else, so their advice may not pertain to you. Or every time. Frustrating, right?
I find that the more “successful” we are in life before parenting, the harder the transition can be. That is because doctors, lawyers and administrators and the like are very good at taking tangible evidence, making a decision and moving forward with a strategy or innovation. We are driven, talented, hardworking, and leaders in our field. We have amazing qualities that make others want to work with us, and will ultimately be exactly what our kids need.
But in this newborn stage though, there aren’t a lot of tangibles to show we’re doing it right.
There isn’t a lot of feedback, and that which is there looks unlike anything we are used to.
Being “successful” at being a mom isn’t something that can be measured or qualified quickly or easily. I’m not even talking emotional baggage we place on a new mom to “do all the things, do them well, and do them by yourself.” I mean merely the “how-to's” of taking care of a new baby.
Also, can I side note for a second?: YOU AREN’T GETTING ANY SLEEP.
In order to maintain sanity, just barely MAINTAIN it, your body needs a minimum 12 hours of sleep out of every 48 - five of which need to be uninterrupted in a single stretch. Your baby is literally driving you crazy, just by being their (adorable) self.
So why is parenting so hard? Becoming a mom is so hard not only because it requires you to change every concept you have ever used to efficiently complete a task, but because it also is trying to break the chemistry and electricity in your brain as well. Nice, right?
As postpartum doulas, my company has the privilege of working with families in their homes as they grow. At it’s core, our job is to sit with people when they are at their most raw, their most sleep-deprived, and their most frustrated, and we listen to see where to begin creating an action plan.
STEP ONE is almost always rest. A full-night’s sleep or even a nap can change our perspective and help make parenting not feel so overwhelming. No magic there, just get some sleep while someone experienced and compassionate takes care of your house and your baby. That is the easy part.
STEP TWO is the recognition that parenting is hard because there is no Operations Manual, no end date, and not a lot of positive feedback that you are on the right track. This is a hard one because I’m asking you to do some mental work when you are so exhausted, but it’s necessary. You will find routine, you will learn what your baby’s cries mean, and how to tell if they are getting enough to eat.
You can trust your gut when it comes to your baby, and you will be the best mom for her. But this IS hard and isn’t going to look like anything you’ve ever done before. Own it, and move on to…
STEP THREE is self-care. Your oxygen mask first, please. Most often at the newborn stage, self-care for a mother looks like that 5-hour stretch of sleep and a meal she hasn’t had to cook or clean up. But it can be taking a shower, even brushing your teeth, or spending 10 minutes outside in the fresh air with no baby attached to you. Fill your emotional cup, and you can more adequately take care of all of the other stuff.
STEP FOUR is GET HELP! And be specific in what you need. People WANT to help a new family, but often don’t know how. Much like you before you had kids, they think holding the baby will help. Sometimes yes, but only if you can go take a shower while they do. More often what you need help with is all of the other tasks, like putting away laundry, unloading the dishwasher, or cooking up that Blue Apron box you haven’t had the time or the energy to make, so you can focus on this newest task of LEARNING how to parent your new baby. Make a list of things people can do to help. Ask a family member to come stay overnight take the midnight-3am shift, or hire a postpartum doula to nurture your whole family while you get the hang of this new job you’ve just accepted.
You’ve got this.
The qualities that made you an amazing and powerful woman will be the things that serve you well in parenting. You have everything you need within you, it will just manifest itself differently because this job is different than any other you’ve ever had.
Now let’s discuss getting you some rest…
Victoria McCollum is the co-owner of The Virginia Baby Company, doula extraordinaire, SuperMom to three amazing boys, and a carbohydrate connoisseur who currently resides in Fredericksburg, Virginia with her very handsome and amazing husband. You can connect with her on Facebook and on her Instagram for updates! The Virginia Baby Company serves Northern and Central Virginia, from Arlington to Richmond and Charlottesville.