Parenting may be a rewarding, exciting time but although there are many highs, there can be lows too. It is a new journey and you are learning ‘on the job’. Sometimes your baby becomes so much the centre of your life that his/her needs come before anyone else’s, including your own and your relationships with other people. This isn’t always intentional, for me it was about doing a better job than my parents, I desperately wanted to be a great mum; and I also wanted to be able to perform at this new ‘job’ that replaced the career I had left behind and been pretty good at.
Do you ever wonder why aeroplane emergency announcements always say ‘put your oxygen mask on first, then put your children’s on?’ Because if you did it the other way round, the chances are you wouldn’t be around to help out any further. The same rules can apply to being a mum, if you’re not looking after your own wellbeing – mentally, physically and emotionally – then you’re less likely to ‘perform’ as well.
The difficulty here is that we often put our own needs at the bottom of the pile, but we are important, and sometimes we forget that, and then so does everyone else.
Have you ever noticed that when your own needs haven’t been met and you feel overwhelmed and undervalued, you don’t cope as well? Everything feels like a big effort and you seem to cope less well with daily challenges? This is often a sign that your ‘cup is overflowing’, a bit like the expression ‘I’m up to here’ (imagine me with my hand to the top of my head!).
Imagine 3 cups of water, one for mum, dad/partner and baby, they are all half-full. Babies find it hard to handle their own emotions, their brains aren’t developed enough to cope (which is why tantrums happen), so they rely on us to help them to manage and regulate them. This means that the baby’s cup is often full or overflowing and this overflow needs to be caught by someone else’s cup, usually that of one or both parent(s)!
The parents may then have their own issues and stressors to deal with, which could be around money, relationships or a whole range of other things. If their own cup is already filling up, and then they have to help their baby regulate his/her emotions, their own cup begins to get fuller and fuller. On some days we can cope with whatever life brings, but on other days it seems so much harder. Yet this is NORMAL. It’s also the reason why mums often can’t wait for their partner to come home so they can hand the baby over, so they can take a shower and have some respite, so they can offload (empty their full cup) and pour it into their partner’s. This may be fine, unless the partner’s cup is also overflowing from work or other stressors, although it might be that they’ve had a great day at work and they are delighted to be spending some time with their baby and handling everyone else’s overflowing cup.
Brain isn’t developed enough to cope with a whole range of emotions
Helps to regulate baby’s emotions
Being a ‘new’ mum
Adjusting to motherhood
|Dad / Partner
Helps to regulate Mother and baby’s emotions
Being a ‘new’ dad or partner
Adjusting to fatherhood
• Don’t expect to know everything straight away, it’s a new job and you and your baby are learning together