New Year, New Mother

Article by Andrea Paterson

Image copyright www.andreapaterson.com 2016

As the clanging of pots and pans subsided and the final fireworks turned to smoke, so many of us went to bed in the early hours of January 1 with a resolution for the new year gripped in our hearts like a talisman against the dark. For those with new babies the resolutions might go something like this: I resolve to be a better mother, I resolve not to yell at my children, I resolve to make my own baby food, I resolve to baby wear until my child is two, I resolve to limit screen time…the list might go on. Our resolutions as new mothers tend to focus on our perceived shortcomings–we want to fix what we see as wrong about ourselves as mothers, we want to change the things that are not good enough. But these high expectations can be a confounding factor in the development of postpartum mood disorders. The more expectations we set for ourselves, and the more we inevitably fail to reach those lofty goals, the  more likely we are to suffer from a difficult adjustment to parenthood. Making a successful transition after a baby can be helped along by keeping expectations simple (I will feed and nurture my baby to the best of my ability) and being sure to devote energy to self care.

This New Year I challenge you to investigate you resolutions. Are you making resolutions that reinforce your negative self-talk and feed the story that you are not good enough? Are you aiming for perfection when it could be that you are already pushing yourself to your limit? Maybe this year you could resolve to see yourself in a more flattering light. (I resolve to believe that I am a good enough mother, I resolve to do one kind thing for myself every day, I resolve to speak to myself as if I am my own best friend). Or perhaps you could forgo resolutions altogether and, instead, focus on what you have achieved organically through the past year. Maybe you carried a baby, gave birth, gave yourself space and time for physical recovery after your delivery, and have survived countless sleepless nights since nurturing that new child.

When you’re in a dark place and emotionally fragile it can be useful to make small and manageable self care goals. The sweeping change that is encouraged through the tradition of New Year’s resolutions may not be a good fit for you right now. There will be time for big changes down the road, when you have reached a place of greater stability and confidence. With a new baby in your arms, small and simple wins the day.

It may also be that the ruckus of the holidays has taken a toll on you, especially if you have a very young infant. You may find yourself more exhausted and challenged as the new year unfolds. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that help is always a phone call away. PPPSS counselors are happy to talk to you whenever you need them, and processing the stresses and upsets that arise from the holiday season can be a really good reason to call in and get a bit of extra support.

As we all move into 2017 walk lightly, be gentle. The year isn’t the only thing newly born.

PPPSS Counselors are available at 604-255-7999. If your call isn’t answered immediately, please leave a message and someone will get back to you.

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