When You Don’t Love Parenthood
Mornings came way too early for Claudia most days. The overnight support from her postpartum doula was a godsend in getting full rest for the day ahead, and she found herself enjoying the nightcap conversation over tea before retreating for the night. It was something about the day the afternoons that shook Claudia. Evyn was a great nap-taker and nursing was gaining traction, so what was going on with her? Something about this stage Claudia was in was making her feel inadequate. She didn’t feel sad or depressed, but she also didn’t feel like herself lately. She questioned parenthood.
The Shift in Identity
The transition to parenthood is literally transforming. Never before were you a parent to the child that you hold before you. Mentally, emotionally, and even physically there are shifts within us. Mentally navigating the logistics of the family dynamic and HOW to juggle it all. “It” being anything and everything. Work-life, family-life, social-life, life-life. It can be quite a juggling act. Emotionally, navigating the hormones, new thoughts, new feelings, and eyes opening to the outside influences and the way of the world. You feel no longer in the driver’s seat of it all. Physically our bodies endure sleep deprivation, lack of nutrition, and the limitation of movement and activity that can take a toll on the physical psyche.
Our identity has shifted to that of “Little XYZ’s Parent”. We endure “how’s the baby?” and not “how are you?” Remember that YOU are still YOU! Your identity may have shifted, and you may feel like a deer on new legs, but you still have that foundation of identity that makes you who you are and what you love. YOU need to thrive and survive to endure parenthood with clarity and confidence. It will come, I promise.
The Loss of Self in Parenthood
There’s a common tendency to lose who we were and we question who we are when we step into parenthood. We cut our hair, we decline outings and events, convince ourselves that we have to adapt to an entirely new lifestyle. And while yes, that IS true in a sense, it doesn’t have to completely define the outlook. Nights may look different with sleep schedules, activities may not be as frequent, and the mind and body may function a little differently now. Finding things that take you back to the center of who you are is a great task.
Planning a date night, going out to eat with friends, enjoying a movie theater flick, dancing the night away, going away for the weekend, etc etc. The fun fulfilling things you enjoyed before becoming a parent, can be enjoyed after baby. You don’t have to jump into anything right away, and you may not want to pick it back up at all. Understanding that only you get to decide how you feel, what you do each and every day, and how you navigate parenthood. Beauty is knowing that parenthood is unique and defined by you. You matter!
Why it Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Love Your Baby
Just because you don’t like this stage or phase or moment, doesn’t mean that one doesn’t love their baby. In fact, it means that you are aware of where you are. Some people love parenthood and it suits them like a royal flush. Others find different aspects of parenting challenging and question every decision. Another may find that parenthood is not what they were expecting at all.
First and foremost, loving yourself is vital when in the midst of this realm. When you love yourself, the love will naturally overflow into those of your loved ones. When you care for yourself, you will feel like your old self. Identifying what aspects of parenting are not filling can help to identify where to focus the time and attention, and secure support.
Some love the baby stage, while others enjoy the toddler stage. Believe it or not, there are even parents that prefer the pre-teen and teen stages over the baby stage. ALL of these preferences are normal and healthy! We all have our own talents and navigate differently.
Resources for Support
Having support is a bonafide way to sail into the ocean of parenthood with pristine sails. The wonderful thing is that society has come to embrace the necessity of support. The stigma of needing help is diminishing and it’s beautiful to see. More and more avenues of support are available, and most importantly safe places.
With the support of a postpartum doula, instances of perinatal mood and exactly disorders can be decreased by up to 60%. Having postpartum doula support in the early parenting realm can be a safe place to confide. Promoting physical activity, providing rest, keeping nutrition in the forefront, taking away the overwhelm of mundane tasks all through enjoying the support of a doula.
The uprising of groups both online and in-person can be a saving grace. Meetup.com, Facebook Groups, NextDoor, etc are online groups to connect. In-person, MomsClub, MommyandMe, indoor play places, parks, and classes are great places to meet other parents. I remember being pregnant with my third child, and not feeling the connection and want that I did with my first two. My baby was due in December, and that gave me “something to look forward to” as Christmastime was always magical. I joined a moms group online, and throughout our pregnancy, we bonded, laughed, cried, meet up, and grew together. That group and I are STILL close to this day, eleven years later!
If you are experiencing sadness, disconnection, depression, anxiety, or any feelings that you do not care to feel, reaching out to a counselor or therapist is another avenue to feeling whole. Postpartum Support International is a nationwide support resource that can connect one to local resources and 24/7 telephone support. Remember, you are never alone, and should never suffer in silence.
You Matter in Parenthood
Claudia reached out to her therapist before noon. Being a middle-aged single mother was proving to be a little more than she felt she could tackle alone. Cognizant that she didn’t feel the newborn gushes of baby feels portrayed by society, Claudia felt alone. “I’m still me.” She told herself, “I matter, and I love Evyn with all my heart. I AM a good mother, and it’s okay not to love every moment of motherhood.”