Adjusting to new parenthood is no easy task. If you were employed previously to having your baby and now you are a stay-at-home-mum (either permanently or temporarily), it can be difficult to imagine how you will ever get used to the new pace of your life. Even if you were already a housewife, it can be hard to adjust to a life purely dedicated to looking after your child. Not being able to come and go as you once did is difficult to start with, and some people find it harder than others. I certainly struggled a lot more with it than a lot of people I know!
The key to keeping yourself sane in the first few weeks is this — acceptance. Your world will undoubtedly become very chaotic in the first weeks of your baby’s life. Your life will become a whirlwind of nursing, diapers, family and friends visiting, night-time parenting and watching the house get probably a lot messier than you are used to. If you fight against these changes, it will cause your ‘babymoon’ to be a stressful, fraught time rather than the sometimes difficult yet incredibly happy time it should be. Embrace your new, non-structured days and remember that this time is so short. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of visitors you get in the first couple of weeks, don’t ever feel like you can’t tell them to save their visits for another time. Of course, they want to see you and the baby, but you must think about your comfort and happiness. You want to be able to look back on this time with fond memories. If you find the stress of trying to keep your home presentable at all times in case of unexpected visitors too much, you have two options — either tell the visitors that you will see them another time, or simply relax and let go of the housework. No one will judge you, I promise.
Your New Social Life
After a few weeks with your baby, things will start to settle down. The visitors will tail off, and you will find your baby slipping into their own little routine, making life more easily plan-able for you. At this time you might feel able to start regularly attending some mum and baby groups and meeting some new friends. Indeed, the baby groups that my son and I attended when he was little really kept me sane, and I’ve met some wonderful new people and formed lasting friendships (that go beyond Baby Talk) with some of them! It’s important to try to see your old friends too, but you will probably find yourself gravitating towards your new mummy-friends; they understand that all plans are provisional when you have kids, and you can discuss anything baby-related with them without worrying about boring them! Your priorities change a lot when you have children, and you may find that you drift away from your childless friends for a while. I didn’t see many of my old friends after I had my son, until they started having children of their own. We gradually drifted back together again once we had more in common. You may find that listening to recounts of the previous weekend’s shenanigans just doesn’t interest you any more, and your friend may quickly tire of talking about the new cloth diapers you bought on eBay yesterday or the fact that your baby is feeding round the clock due to a growth spurt!
Finding Yourself Once More
You may find yourself temporarily losing sight of who you are after you have a baby. This is normal, so don’t panic. Your life is now taken up entirely with caring for this little person who you have fallen head over heels in love with, and you simply don’t have time to devote to the things that once made you yourself. There’s no such thing as finding time for something, you have to make the time. When your babe is napping, resist the urge to do the washing up and instead do something that reminds you of the you that is tucked away in there somewhere. Read a book, have a bubble bath, maybe even have a play around with some makeup in the mirror. Do something that reconnects you with yourself. As time goes on, you may feel ready to start doing some of the things that you used to enjoy outside of the home before your baby came along. Exercise, if you enjoy it, is a great thing to do if you can make an hour or two every now and then for it. Not only will it energise you and help you regain your pre-baby shape and fitness level, it will fill your body with endorphins which will help get rid of any lingering baby-blues. Your confidence will grow eventually, when you begin to see glimmers of the you that once was, emerging.
Many couples find that their relationship takes a back seat when their baby is born. Again, it is one of those things that you must make time for. When you are exhausted and your self esteem is maybe a little lower than usual, the thought of any kind of intimacy with your partner can be off-putting. Start slowly and have dinner together in the house one evening. Light candles for a celebratory ambience, and cook something special together. Enjoy each others company as you once did. As your baby grows, you may feel ready to leave them at home with a grandparent or a trusted friend for a couple of hours whilst you and your partner escape for a pub lunch, a romantic meal or a trip to the cinema. Even an hour-long walk in the woods or around the local park, sans baby, can be enough to remind you both of the love and affection that brought your baby into being in the first place.
What did you find to be the biggest change after having a baby? What did you struggle the most with, and what transitions did you find easier than you expected?