When you are getting ready to have your first child, there is a lot going on for months. You are doing everything you can to prepare for the birth. You collect all sorts of gear and items for them, you read up on how to do things and you plan as much as you can how things are going to go. All of this culminates in that special day when you finally hold that bundle of joy in your arms. You have spent so many months anticipating what parenthood was going to look like. However when you are finally a parent, you find that so many things aren't at all like you thought they would be and that there are also things that do happen that no one told you about. For the month of August, I am going to write a series of blogs on Surviving Parenthood; all just from my experience. Things that helped me may not work for you and some things I experienced may be nothing like what you have experienced. My hope is that if anyone is struggling or feeling like the are alone in their experience, that they can either relate or find some outside help if it's needed. So here we go...I hope you enjoy the next few weeks!
When You are Home a Lot - Becoming a new parent (whether first baby or even just a new baby) means that your life stops for a bit. You find yourself at home more than you expected because going somewhere takes a lot! Even if you have had kids, you tend to forget how many things a newborn needs on a given day until you are thrown back into the lion's den, not to mention having to pack up everyone else as well just to go to the grocery store can be exhausting. I tried to limit too many people because I didn't want to expose my new little one to a lot of germs, and quite honestly I was exhausted so much of the time I just wanted to rest anyway when I could! But it can be a two edged sword. The more you are alone, the more the isolation can get to you and the harder it becomes to reach out. When you have a bad day, you may not have anyone to share that with and you suck it up because you have someone depending on you! But, that lonely feeling is still there. For me, the guilt settled in too, because I felt like I was so blessed with this beautiful little person that I should feel thrilled to be alone with them all the time. But I wasn't always thrilled at all. Sometimes I really didn't like it. But I got through it and you will too. For me when an older parent would share a word or two of help, I would try it out to see if it would work for me. Some of those tries were life savers. Others didn't work for me and I just had to keep pushing on. Before I knew it, I was out and about and handling a lot of things myself! That is when I would look for some other struggling parent and try to help them out too if I could.
When Things With Friends Change - Before kids, you may have lots of couples friends or even single friends that you still went out with, but having a baby can change the amount of time you spend with them. The less time you spend with a friend the more distant you can become. When you do get together, if they don't have kids, you will find that your conversations are very different. They may be talking about this or that at work and you may just want to share how happy you are that little Sarah is finally getting potty trained! Talk about awkward. Those are the times you just decide that things are just different and maybe you need to add some new friends to the mix that are in the same boat as you are. At first, though, it's a very sad and alone feeling that you have when things change with your friends. I am here to say that if they are really good friends, you will find yourself on common ground once again in the future. It will just take a bit for you both to adjust and with some that aren't those forever friends, well you find you move on just fine and may even find a new friend that "gets you" anyway.
When You Live Away From Family - Most of the time while my kids were pretty small, my then husband and I moved around a LOT. So many times we were hours from family and back then we didn't have cell phones where we could even call every day. I had no built in sitters or places I could run to with the kids on a day when it was rough. Even today with cell phones and FaceTime, we lead such busy lives that we still don't always use those family bonds to get through tough times. I am not sure why. I think sometimes we are desperate to prove how great of a parent we are that we can do it all, or other times we think it will take too much effort to go visit someone when you have so much laundry to do. However, a moment away from home or the kids, can do wonders for your mental health. So, if you are away from family, make someone where you are at like family. Visit them in the middle of the day and offer to help with something if they wouldn't mind keeping an eye on Junior when you do. If someone from church you know says they would like for all of you to come for dinner, GO. Take those moments with other families it will help you not feel so alone and you may find others that share some of your experiences as well.
When You Need Common Ground - The times I felt the least isolated were the times I found others that were facing the same problems, feelings or situations that I was. When you are going through a rough time with a teen, find other teen parents and get together and share war stories. You will find that you aren't alone. When you are trying to work and raise a young family, find someone at work that is doing the same thing and find out little things that help them get through the busy week and even crazier weekends. You will find others sharing the same things you are. You will not only find someone who feels the same things you do, but you may find out that there are others suffering even more than you and you can help them out. Helping others has a way of taking our focus off our own lives and showing us just how blessed we are.
Isolation can be awful. It can lead to serious depression. If all of these suggestions just aren't working, PLEASE talk to a professional and get some help. So many parents struggle with this silently and some don't come out of it OK without outside help. One other thing, this feeling doesn't last forever because raising children doesn't last forever. You may find you feel isolated off an on during the child rearing years, but it usually evolves over time and you find your own way of dealing with it as well. Before you know it it takes a moment to remember how rough and lonely some of those times were. Then when you DO remember, you write a blog about it and feel pretty darn good about how you made it through yourself!
Until Next Time!
Jen Lush--Associate Broker, Long-time Parent and Grandparent