5 Things You Need To Know As A New Mum

I see a number of women in my private practice who have moved from full-time work into full-time motherhood. Let's face it, it's a big transition and we aren't always well prepared for it. Motherhood is joyous and it's also hard work.

I have noticed that many mums have set expectations of what motherhood will be like. Sometimes these expectations are so strong that they prevent women adjusting to having a new baby and to enjoying the experience. I feel it's important for the survival of the species to debunk some of the myths associated with motherhood and to provide some simple, realistic tips on how to get through it all with your sanity intact.

Myth 1: Motherhood equals non-stop joyfulness

Yes, it's joyful. Non-stop, I don't think so. Many women have set expectations of what motherhood will be like. The media and clever advertising tells us that motherhood is sunny days, walks in the park and rosy cheeked babies who smile and gurgle on demand. Expectations that motherhood should be "easy" can be difficult if things don't go as expected. Many women at this point feel overwhelmed and in some cases incompetent.

It's important to have realistic expectations of yourself and your baby. One way to do this is to have an honest discussion with a couple of other mums you trust, who have kids the same age as yours. Find out what they are really experiencing, what are their highs and their lows and how are they coping. This type of discussion might help you feel your experiences are not uncommon.

Myth 2: Motherhood is innate

There is no such thing as a natural born mother. Motherhood is a set of learnt skills, like most skills in life. It's not innate and you don't immediately know how to manage this little newborn the minute you hold it in your arms. Put it this way, you wouldn't expect to be able to speak fluent Swahili without language lessons. Why would you expect to be able to parent without learning on the job first. Give yourself a break and expect that you and the baby are on a steep learning curve, at least for a while.

Myth 3: I'm the only one feeling like this

If you are finding the transition from work into motherhood difficult, you are not alone. Many women feel initially overwhelmed by the experience and it's not uncommon to feel competent and in control as a professional woman and suddenly out of control as a new mum. It's all part of the territory. Newborns don't come with an instruction manual and don't unfortunately respond well to project management techniques (design fault).

Take solace that you are not the only one feeling like this and it will get better. Be gutsy and talk to other mums about how you're feeling and they might admit to it too.

Myth 4: Postnatal Depression is a dirty word

Postnatal Depression effects 16% of new mums in Australia and is often a topic that is taboo. Many women find it difficult to admit they are not coping even to people close to them. Please put your hand up if you are not coping, there are many resources and avenues of help (have a look at beyondblue.org.au for more information and for the common symptoms).

Your GP or your Early Childhood Centre is a good first point of call and Medicare rebates are now available for referrals to a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist. Postnatal Depression responds very well to therapy and my experience is that some women start to feel better within a few sessions.

Myth 5: I'm OK, I'll look after myself later

Take care of yourself. It's so easy to find yourself at the bottom of the pecking order very quickly once a new born arrives. This puts you somewhere after the dog and the pot plants in the priority order. However, it will be very hard for you to nurture a baby if you aren't taking care of yourself.

I know you are reading this and thinking "She's dreaming. How do I do this for myself?" Well, the answer is you have to make time to take care of yourself and enlist as much support as is available to help you do that. This might include getting family or your partner to take the baby while you have a nap, do some exercise or read a book. Just make sure you put yourself up there on the priority list.

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Posted on 03 February 2010