Now that you’re a parent, you work hard every day to provide Baby with an enormous amount of care and support. But what about when you need someone to lean on? As much as you’re working hard to care for your little one, you do need support yourself, and if you haven’t yet found a network that gives you this, it’s a good time to seek out, establish, and work to maintain relationships that can help to make this challenging time in your life a little bit easier to get through.
Having good people around you – to ask questions of, share concerns with, laugh alongside, and sometimes just vent to – will help to lighten your (currently heavy) load.
Family can be a huge source of support for your during this time. If they live nearby, you may be able to rely on them for a lot – anything from babysitting, to meals, to lending a hand with household chores. These may be some of the people who you’re most comfortable with and, for example, who you don’t mind seeing when you’re unrested and unshowered. You might even be able to say, “Hey, mom, can you do that sink full of dirty dishes while I shower?” when you can’t ask that of just anyone. Take advantage of any help offered – and, hopefully, there’s a lot of that to go around – and ask for help when you need it.
And family members who have already ventured into the wild world of parenting themselves may have some amazing advice and meaningful stories to share with you. You might be even be surprised by how your relationships with certain family members deepen when you enter parenthood.
The same goes for friends. Hopefully you have these wonderful people in your life because they’re always there when you need them. There’s no time like the present to ask them for help too! Have them visit you in the early days when it can be tough to get out. And if you’re not totally comfortable having friends throw on a load of laundry for you, you can either get comfortable in a hurry or ask them to help in other ways.
You’ll probably find that maintaining these friendships, even if things change a bit, can also help you feel more like yourself after becoming a parent – which, understandably, creates a huge shift in your identity. Maybe you won’t be able to make late night karaoke like you used to, but seeing friends regularly can help raise your spirits in major ways.
Good friends will be happy to listen to you vent about explosive poopy diapers (maybe they’ve even been through this before themselves) and talk about things that have absolutely nothing to do with Baby (especially if you’re one of the first of your friends to have children). Whether you find that you want to candidly vent about all of the nitty gritty – sometimes icky – sides of parenthood or just laugh and focus on the fun, it will be good to stay social and see yourself as something other than just a parent.
And if it’s tough to see friends as frequently as you used to, keep in touch with a phone call, text, or contact on social media in between hangout sessions.
Your coworkers will provide you with a different sort of support. They’ll be there to lend a hand when, say, you might need to leave early from work because Baby is sick. And much like when hanging out with friends, they’ll also serve to remind you that you’re more than just a parent – you’re also a capable, valuable employee.
If there are other folks at your workplace who are parents, you might even be able to connect with coworkers in new ways, trading stories about your kiddos, asking for advice, and maybe just venting about how hard parenthood can be. In a very basic way, your coworkers are also hugely valuable as a source of regular adult social interaction, which, when you’re busy adjusting to life with a new baby, can sometimes be in short supply.
Healthcare providers who help support your good health and Baby’s good health will be another great source of support.
If you don’t have a ton of prior experience caring for a child, your little one’s pediatrician can be a huge source of guidance as Baby grows. Even if you do have a lot of experience, when your wee one gets her first fever or a strange rash, they’ll be there to provide you with the support and information you need and the healthcare Baby needs.
And when you’re feeling like times are tough – if you’re struggling with nursing, if you’re feeling depressed, or if other health surprises are cropping up – your own healthcare provider is also a great resource. Indeed, even though sometimes your own care can be at the bottom of the to-do list once a baby is in the picture, you do need to be feeling your best (or at least as good as you possibly can during this tough period) to care for your child.
Having healthcare providers in your family’s lives who you feel comfortable with will become more and more important as your family grows, and as you take Baby and yourself in for regular check-ups, you’ll find yourself getting to know the healthcare providers in your life better and better.
And as much as it can be helpful to have all those other sources of support at your back, something that can be invaluable is knowing other people who are new parents too. Having other people in your life who are also dealing with the finer points of sleep regression, solid foods, and potty training (whenever that time comes) can be a huge relief. Maybe you have a few other friends who also just had babies. Great! Maybe someone at work who you were casually acquainted with before also has a little one the same age as Baby and you find that you suddenly have tons to talk about. A new work bestie!
Maybe you don’t have anyone around you also dealing with this very specific life stage, though. If so, you might find it helpful to reach out and become part of a social network – whether formal or informal, in-person playdate-group or online message board community – of new parents who are. To find and engage with these sort of communities can help you feel a sense of camaraderie that you just can’t find elsewhere. And when parenting gets especially rough, these networks can help you feel a little less alone – you’ll know there are other brave souls out there going through the same things as you.
More than that, it can be awesome to have these people around as a resource as your kiddos grow. As you move into the toddler years and then into grade school, you might even consider these people to be some of your closest friends.
With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise to hear that strong support networks and meaningful social circles of all sorts can be hugely beneficial for your health and well-being. Whether they are loved ones, new friends you see IRL, or strangers you chat with online, these groups will help you feel supported and less stressed as you move through the brave new world of parenthood.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, April 16 2015. Retrieved August 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/social-support/art-20044445?pg=1.
- Fatih Ozbay et al. “Social support and resilience to stress: From neurobiology to clinical practice.” Psychiatry. 4(5): 35–40. May 2007. Retrieved August 28 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/.
- “Manage stress: Strengthen your support network.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 28 2017. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-support.aspx.