There is so much pressure on parents from the very first day they find out they are expecting. For outsiders, all of the emphasis must be put on the needs of the unborn child, while moms especially are criticized for every choice they make and even the ones they don’t.
With no one right or wrong way to parent, yet lots of opinions both wanted and unwelcome on the topic, it’s little wonder that parents are feeling the added pressure and things are becoming increasingly difficult.
Surveys from the BabyCentre found that 3 in 5 moms felt under pressure to be the perfect parent. In contrast, a different survey by Stokke found that 71% of moms felt guilty for not doing something recommended by parenting experts or being able to do it, 57% of dads felt the same, and a massive 81% of parents felt guilty over their parenting choices.
All of this pressure can take its toll physically and mentally, and approximately 1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth; this rate can be thought to rise to 1 in 7 in some areas, while the increased stress levels of parenting in a modern age has seen almost half parent in the US admit to feeling stressed most of the time.
So how can you combat the physical and mental signs of parenting stress and ensure you are in the best possible condition to care for your family?
Mental Health Support
Mental health support can come in many forms depending on your issues’ severity. For some people, mental health support works like grabbing a coffee with a family member or friend to get things off their chest or heading out to do some form of exercise or activity that allows them to burn off stress.
For others, it is seeking help and guidance from medical professionals and considering different support options such as talking therapies, creative therapies, or medication. Your primary care physician will advise you on the right choice for your symptoms and circumstances.
Knowing the signs of postpartum depression and the difference between PPD and the standard “baby blues’ can help you figure out what is going on in your mind, and talking to someone you trust can help you to take the first steps in getting mental health support if you feel you need it. There is no shame in asking for help; everyone needs help; we just all need it in different ways.
Take Time To Focus On You
When you become a parent, all eyes will be on the baby and how you take care of the baby. As they grow into toddlers, young children, tweens, teens, and adults, they will still be watched, there will still be stress, albeit in different ways, and you will always be putting them first. No parent begrudges their child coming first in their life. But if you are neglecting yourself in the process, this won’t leave you with much to give to your family in the first place.
You are still important; you matter, and you must treat yourself with the same consideration you do for your family. You need to make sure you are eating a healthy balanced diet to support your health, drinking enough water to support bodily functions, moving around to keep your body supple, and taking care of your skin to avoid dry facial skin issues or eczema flare-ups from increased stress or sores that won’t heal because you are run down, paying attention to changes in your body and movements to get concerns checked out and allowing yourself time to relax and pamper yourself.
Always easier said than done. Parenting doesn’t come with time off, meaning you need to be strict about finding little pockets of time to indulge in self-care, even if this self-care is sleeping when the baby sleeps or taking a hot shower alone.
Social Media Isn’t Perfect
It really isn’t, but it is all too easy to get sucked into thinking others have it better and are doing better, and you are failing simply because you aren’t adhering to the standard others are. In reality, and many content creators are starting to be honest about this too, behind that perfect shot they show you on social media, it is generally a mess and chaos.
People show you what they want to show you, and social media just gives them the platform to do so on a bigger scale. It is the same thing as going to a friend’s perfectly tidy playroom and kitchen only to find out the rest of the house isn’t as neat on closer inspection; they are just trying to hide it. So don’t push yourself to be as perfect as social media influencers or even Karen from down the road. No one is perfect.
Another side of social media is the ferocity of “mom shaming” and how overwhelming it can be. Too many people are quick to judge and be vocal about it based on the picture, a moment in someone’s life, or simply because they don’t believe in doing things or living their life the way they do it. You cannot please everyone. Nor should you be trying to. Your efforts need to be on you and your family and doing what is best for you. Avoid getting sucked into the online drama when, in reality, these people aren’t perfect (again, no one is perfect) and are likely projecting their own thoughts, feelings, and worries into the world before others do it to them.
Parenting is all-consuming, and it will consume you if you let it, But the last thing you want to do is reach burnout because you are doing everything single-handedly (even as a couple). The more kids you add into the mix on top of your jobs and day-to-day life, the more hectic things will get and the more at risk you will be from drowning under parental stress.
Take help when it’s offered to you. However, it’s provided. Be it those casserole dishes from neighbors in the first few weeks with a newborn or the laws offering to watch the baby so you can nap or take a bath, right the way up to allowing your teens to help with chores with younger siblings, taking advantage of grandparents’ offers of help, or working with your friends to support each other and help out where needed.
You don’t need to do everything alone, and accepting help isn’t an assignment of failure; it is a sign of strength; knowing where your limits are and recognizing you need support from time to time shows great strength in character and a willingness to do what is best for you and your family.
Build a Village
The popular saying “it takes a village“ is so true for parenting; it does take a village, but who lives in yours? If it’s just you or your partner, things will get pretty lonely pretty quickly, and the chances of your becoming overwhelmed can increase.
The reality is that many parents don’t have the support network of days gone by. But we don’t live in that world anymore, so you must look at how you can build your village and what support it offers you. If you have people trying to destroy your village, you need to evict them or move them to the outskirts where they can do less damage. All the while encouraging others closer to your center.
You can find support from family, friends, colleagues, and online communities of the exact nature. While there is a lot of hate online regarding parenting, there is also a lot of love and support, and joining groups can help you find your village and get support how you need it when you need it.
Other options include joining baby groups, extracurricular clubs, helping the local community if you can, or being involved in your child’s school. This can open up many doors for you to meet like-minded people who can become friends and help support you when you need it, i.e., building your village.
Take A Break
This was touched upon earlier by accepting help, but if you can, even for an hour, take a break. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and that is understandable for people. Taking breaks isn’t a reality, especially if your children have additional needs. But looking at how and if you can make this work even for a short while, it can give you the rest you need to regroup, work through your stress levels, and get back on track. You cannot keep pouring from an empty cup, and you need to allow yourself the chance to refill occasionally, even if it’s taking an extended bathroom break at the doctor’s office while your child is cared for. Find the opportunities, take a break, and focus on youtube to get back to where you want to be.
Parenting is hard, so you need to be ready for everything life can throw at you. Sadly this includes increased stress levels too. And while you cannot avoid stress altogether in your life, you can work to reduce it and support your physical and mental health.