One of the most common sources of anxiety in expectant and new parents we treat in therapy is the worry that they are doing it wrong. The markers of “success” in pregnancy and parenting are so vague, and it always seems like someone else is more connected with their new baby and doing a better parenting job.
There is so much comparing that goes on for parents in all life stages, but when you are adjusting to a brand new role, like the first time you become a parent, it is normal to feel insecure and wonder if you are doing it right, or as good, anyways, as other parents around you.
One of the most important things for you to keep in mind is that you are not alone.
Not knowing what you are doing is the name of the game. Trial and error is the way parents have been doing it for hundreds of years. Especially in US culture today, where most families do not live in intergenerational homes, you might need to figure out a lot on your own, including your unique parenting style and what works for you. And even if you are fortunate enough to have your family and parents close by, raising a new baby in the 21st century has unique strengths and detriments that were not present even a generation or two ago.
There is no way to get it around it, you are going to have to work through the discomfort of some wrong steps and feelings of insecurity as you build your resilience and confidence as a new parent. But listening, and mindfully attuning to the needs of your baby, your partner, and yourself will ultimately help you course-correct.
And arguments can be made for all parenting styles. And none is absolutely, definitively correct. Working with many different kinds of parents, I am acutely aware that there are no two pairs of parents that are the same. Just like each child is different, each family is unique and choosing a technique for any parenting issue (ie. sleeping, childcare, etc.) is going to need to fit the culture of your family, and your style and values as parents.
Some parents are inherently more structured and disciplined, others are more fluid and permissive. Some parents prefer routine, others prefer to have the flexibility. While the temperament of the child is a significant factor contributing to which approaches you take to different parenting issues, I have come to find that the parents’ temperaments play an equally important role in which parenting approaches will work best for you.
Finally, repeat to yourself over and over again, kids are resilient—surprisingly so. Kids are also very malleable. If you decide on one approach to feeding or sleeping that is just not working, don’t be scared to change your system for fear of inconsistency, your kid will adapt.
Take a deep breath in. Take a deep breath out. Try to resist beating yourself up over mistakes. In the moments of uncertainly and challenge remember you are building yourself into a more confident parent and building resilience in your child that will last a lifetime.
To learn more about how therapy works for new parents, click here.
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