Amongst my memories of high school, some of my fondest are laughing so hard that I cried (mostly in inappropriate situations, such as Psychology class or Yom Kippur services). One of the people who was frequently responsible for this behavior is Alison, pictured below.
I was not at all surprised to learn that, as an adult, Alison had become a therapist. Her easy access to language that accurately describes feelings — something that most teenagers lack entirely — always stood out to me even back then. Today, she has made a career out of being non-judgmental and empathetic as a family therapist.
Here are the key things that Alison, herself a mom of two, wants every new mom to know:
- Stop beating yourself up. Recite a mantra such as “I am doing enough” or “I am doing the best I can” over and over again. Many moms feel that they should be doing it “all.” But holding, feeding, and changing your baby are all accomplishments that should be duly noted. And if you don’t get to house cleaning, laundry, and preparing the organic baby food, that’s O.K. because “You are doing enough.”
- Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. Be aware of your thoughts and statements that include the word should. There are very few shoulds that are actually shoulds. You SHOULD provide your baby with basic needs. But when you notice yourself feeling like you SHOULD feel happier or you SHOULD make a scrapbook to remember every milestone your baby reaches, try to remember that this word can be hurtful and make you feel worse. (See tip #1 Stop Beating Yourself Up.)
- Take time to do something (anything!) for yourself. Be mindful while you’re doing it so that it doesn’t go unnoticed. For example: “I am watching The Bachelor right now because I deserve it. This is a reward I am giving to myself for having worked so hard today and I enjoy this activity.”
- Avoid articles, books, or people who tell you the “right” way to parent. There is no “right” way. And I bet you there will be another book that comes out to contradict the first, only to leave you confused and frustrated. Trust your instincts and refer to mantra “I am doing the best I can.”
- Plan for your support in advance. Especially if you are typically high strung, or you do not have a lot of family or friends near by. Reach out to people, let them know you are having a hard time, attend support groups and moms’ clubs. Let your partner know that you need an hour each day to recuperate or that you just can’t be in charge of dinner. You may be surprised at how many people understand and are willing to help.
I bet at least one of Alison’s tips speaks to you. Which one was it?
She’s going to be back next week to tell us how to recognize if you need therapy and how exactly therapy can help.