How are you feeling this week? A bit overwhelmed? Trapped? Or blissful and serene? If you’re anything like I was, I felt completely overwhelmed and trapped when I had my first.
Becoming a parent is a huge transition for most. It’s not something you can really prepare for. Often the reality of a newborn is a complete shock. Your life doesn’t feel like your own any more, you are subject to the whims and desires of a tiny baby, and you are oh, so very tired. When people come over, they focus on the baby, and perhaps forget that you are tired, exhausted and unsure. You put on a brave face, and boast about how much you enjoy being a parent. Maybe it’s true, but maybe you’re just saying what you think you should say.
You might feel like you’re failing at being a parent. Perhaps you’re not enjoying breastfeeding, or finding it much harder than you thought it would be. Maybe you find yourself resentful or your baby, or you wish they were more like the baby you imagined you’d have. Becoming a parent is challenging and you’ll find that your life is never really your own again. At the time of writing this, I have a 9 year old girl and and 4 year old boy. While parenting has become a bit easier over the last few years, I’m still having to put my life on hold quite often, and work around their needs and wants. To a certain extent, that is how we as a society view women and mothers. We expect them to be carers and to put others first. Without wanting to generalize too much, it’s often much easier for men to compartmentalize and separate their needs from their family’s needs. I’m not suggesting that men are inherently selfish and that women are inherently selfless. There is, like much of life, a continuum and as human beings, we are all on the continuum, no matter what our gender is. However, if you are a woman reading this, the chances are that you feel this conflict between having your needs met, and knowing that your needs often come second to the needs of your child. To always meet your needs goes against this social conditioning, where we are expected to be self-sacrificing. Matrescence is the process of becoming a mother. We need to acknoweldge that that transition is difficult for us, as women.
What about dads?
I appreciate that my course is very much woman-centred and also very much focused on the traditional family, where there is two parents of different genders. To be honest, I’m not going to be pretend to write about the experiences of other families, because it’s not my experience. However, I also don’t want to exclude the very valid experiences of other parents.
Where dads are concerned, I’m going to recommend Mark Harris’ website Birthing for Blokes. Mark is a male midwife who has some really excellent articles for dads. I know Mark personally, and he trained me in the Rewind Process, which is a gentle technique for resolving birth trauma.
What about LGBTQ families?
There is some evidence that same-sex parents actually report better satisfaction, communication and cooperation than heterosexual couples. (Brown, 2020). However, these families may face other challenges which are unique to their situation.