Transitioning to parenthood

I came across this EXCELLENT RESOURCE:

Phew! It’s Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids & Teens – And What They Need From Us

So true, whenever I get together with other mums of kids a similar age, we natter about what they’re doing and behold THEY’RE ALL PRESENTING THE SAME CHALLENGING BEHAVIOURS – and the same delightful endearing ones too. Because those behaviours are normal things they all do at this age. There little variations – biting vs pinching vs hitting – and then crazy similarities like, why are they all so obsessed with collecting stones?!

And parents too, we’re all experiencing a lot of the same stuff! Snapping at our partners about little things, etc. Feeling torn between wanting to connect with the kids and wanting space away from them. I thought it would be handy to have one of those guides for us. Based on zero research because when would I get time to do that, just my reckons, so please add in the comments if you’ve got thoughts. These are all things that I’ve experienced at one stage or another, and all things that I feel much much more strongly when I’m at home fulltime.

Developmental stage: new parenthood

  • May feel exhausted all the fucking time.
  • May struggle to figure out harmonious new relationship dynamics presented by the birth of each child and their big developmental changes.
  • May feel trapped by the house (especially if home fulltime) – may simultaneously want to leave the house and to bunker down in the house; to clean the house and to burn down the house; to throw everything away and to move to a much larger house with room for all the random plastic junk.
  • May become preoccupied with one particular parenting thing and get way too stressed about it – because it’s the Big Thing In Your Life. (Feeding, sleep, etc)
  • May feel like you’re in a bad sequel to Groundhog Day.
  • May feel like you’re not getting your rightful share of joy from the kids, because you have to do ALL THE STUFF.
  • May feel like you can’t talk about things with some of your old friends – not many childless people want to hear about how the kid tried to empty the potty by himself with disastrous results, etc.
  • May miss the freedom of your old life.
  • May get unreasonably angry or upset over something small, often something done by your partner, especially after a hard day where you’ve been patient with the kids in difficult circumstances.
  • May lose sight of the bigger picture, and get bogged down in the drudgery.
  • In the golden golden moments, may feel like this is the luckiest best life ever.
  • May feel like the day is an exercise in prioritising needs, and the parents’ needs always come last.
  • May find it really hard to know when to hold em, know when to fold em; know when to resettle the baby, know when to give up on the nap; know when to insist we leave the house, know when to capitulate to videos; know when to stick to the budget, know when to splurge on a bonus trip to a cafe.
  • May feel like your caregiving (especially if home fulltime) is invisible and unrecognised and taken for granted etc.
  • May forget things. All the time. May feel like your brain is full to the brim with minutiae that is actually really important, like how long til the big one needs to wee.
  • May feel overwhelmed with love for the children and fit to burst with the way they are so completely their own little people and you’re their parent.
  • May feel like you’re failing to meet your parenting and life standards. May feel unsure whether things need to change, or your perspective needs to shift – is it as hard as you think? Or do you just need to practice smiling serenely at the chaos? Is he eating too much scrambled eggs and watching too much Peppa Pig? Yes? Probably? But is that also ok?
  • May oscillate disconcertingly between joy and boredom. May feel guilty for not enjoying things more.
  • May want to ask for more help but feel like doing so is an imposition on others.
  • May find your views on some things change in ways you didn’t anticipate.
  • May feel your own experience so powerfully that you assume other parents feel the same, even though you know that’s not true.
  • May feel like the learning curve is RIDICULOUS and you’re just getting the hang of it and then whoa, new thing!

The support we need

  • We need to process the hard stuff. Let us talk about it. Don’t try and minimise it or fob us off. Validate our experiences of things being difficult at this phase.
  • We also want to talk about the good stuff! Tell us how much you love seeing pictures of the kids and hearing stories of their cute antics.
  • We need adult contact. Stay in touch. We might not always get back to you but we appreciate it. A link to something funny or interesting, a nice letter in the mail, commenting on Facebook updates. Especially for parents who are fulltime caregivers, being at home all day can be lonely and regular contact with the outside world makes a huge difference.
  • Provide concrete offers of support, and be persistent in your offers. It doesn’t have to be a major gesture – for example, my brother lives not far from us and sometimes he visits after work for half an hour and it’s always soooooo great, an extra adult in that end of the day stretch, even though it’s brief.
  • We need more realistic standards of parenting. We need solidarity and assurance and useful tips. We definitely don’t need anyone to tell us how we’re doing things all wrong. No matter what we do, someone is bound to think it’s all wrong. We’re fumbling for our version of good enough and it’s a bit of a process – we know the house could be tidier, we know it’d be nice to do sit down dinners as a family, we know that we’re over-relying on screentime, we’re just in the middle of it and trying our best. Please be nice to us while we figure out what works for our families.
  • We need time away from the children. It’s amazing how much more refreshed I am, how much more patient with the kids, even after a short break. I cannot emphasise this enough.
  • We need time with the children. If you work with parents of small kids, please let them get out the door quickly at the end of the working day, please be understanding of sick leave taken at no notice and meetings scheduled around creche drop-off times.
  • We need people to be nice to our kids in public. And to be nice to us. Today I was leaving the supermarket and bub was crying and little dude was kicking off his gumboots, and a friendly stranger got his gumboots for me and said “hang in there”, and it just levelled me out again. Thank you.
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