I am so excited to share this guest blog post from Jessie Everts, PhD LMFT. She is a therapist, mom, yoga/mindfulness teacher, and the author of Brave New Mom: A Survival Guide for Mindfully Navigating Postpartum Motherhood. Below, she shares some tips for adjusting to parenthood.
Becoming a new parent (especially if you’ve done it this past year) is amazing and life-changing. It also might make you feel a little chaotic – physically, emotionally, socially, all of it. It’s a major adjustment. Not many of us are really prepared to deal with everything that comes with a new baby.
Mindfulness is key.
What would it look like to be prepared for being a new mom or parent? To me, mindfulness practice might be the best way to prepare/adjust oneself to new parenthood. This is because so much of the transition is mental and emotional. Mindfulness teaches us to tune in to ourselves – our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and instincts. It then helps us respond to them non-judgmentally and with acceptance, rather than ignoring them, shutting them down, or de-prioritizing them.
How to develop mindfulness.
The emphasis is on practice – mindfulness is not something most of us do naturally, in our fast-paced and achievement-oriented world. We have to practice slowing down, connecting to what is going on around and inside of us. We also have to practice non judgment. This is challenging because, so often, judgments about what is right/wrong, good/bad/better/best, and what we “should” do are trained into us early on and often throughout our development.
Getting past self judgment.
I suggest new parents start by examining their thoughts with a gentle curiosity. When emotions are big or you’re feeling something like mom/parent guilt or “not-good-enough,” observe what judgments are arising in your thoughts. Consider where the judgment may have come from. Sometimes, its from family members or lessons learned growing up. Then think about whether the judgmental thinking is helpful or not. If it’s not, if it makes you feel badly about yourself or makes you anxious or depressed, then try to remove the judgment and revise the thought. What might have started as “I’m a bad parent because I should always enjoy being with my baby” might turn into “I’m a real parent and I don’t always enjoy being with my baby so I also need time for myself.”
Mindfulness allows us to be more present and to take care of ourselves. Those are two things that new parents rarely get enough of. Checking in with yourself and being gentle and self-compassionate allows you to feel able to respond to things that happen with a little more ease and confidence.
Are you a new mom looking for help?
You can join Dr. Evert’s community of mindful moms here.