New Parents
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New Parents

What are the main challenges to new parents?

New Demands

Both parents contend with new demands on their energy. For women, the difference is much more visceral and hormonal than it is for fathers. Men may feel new pressures to function as providers for their family.

Both parents have to face sleepless nights or waking up once or twice or more during the night. For some, this is not too difficult, and is even more adorable than when the cat wakes people up at 2am. For others, especially if it threatens work schedules or disrupts someone who turns cranky without enough rest, then that can be a real problem.

Feeding, changing, adjusting to the love triangle of having a child for a couple. For later children, the love dynamics only become even more complex. Cuddles, schedules and whether or not the mother needs to pump out breast milk for the father to use all take a little getting used to. Bathing, and teething and then brushing a baby's teeth as well as their hair all become integrated.

Identity

New mothers and fathers may even experience a significant change in their own sense of identity. The psychological effects of the inner images a woman has about what a mother is supposed to be like and whether or not she already is or can become anything like her own ideal of a mother may be a dramatic undercurrent to her psychology during the first year or two of parenting.

People confident in their ability to be good parents, but not 'overconfident' will suffer much less unease than people who are actually afraid or uncertain about whether or not they are really up to the task. Parents caught off guard, whether young or unmarried or just people who thought they were infertile and content childless can all experience some 'adjustment issues' as they transition into being parents.

On a personal note: In my own case I felt confident about nearly everything except the money. However, my motherhood came on as a surprise to me and so I lamented the loss of my pre-maternal life, of the timing (color me conventional but I wanted to get pregnant when I was already married and we had money but that wasn't what happened to me), and my personality actually changed. Either that, or I simply had never had it tested when I was the way I became 'more'. According to Meyers-Briggs tests I changed from INTJ to ENFJ. Later, it turns out that my personality is pretty balanced so it is just a little nudge one way or the other but there it is....In my own case luckily both my child and his father are close enough to introverted to grant me some time 'alone' - I only need a few hours of every 24 alone, but wow - married/cohabiting and mother of a baby = almost never alone. To cope, I just turned into an extrovert. A baby - became a feelings person more than a logic person. To be clear, even when operating as a T (thinking, versus feeling0 my take on that is: 'To take into account that people have feelings is logical.'

New mothers and fathers may or may not experience negligible or major identity changes when they become parents. In part it depends on how their own sense of identity is organized. I personally do not feel my identity changed even though my personality changed from becoming a mother. I did feel 70% again as different as I had felt when I went from being a child to a teen or from a teen over into being a grown woman.

Lifestyle

Being a parent normally changes peoples' lifestyles simply because a baby cannot be left alone - I mean, beyond maybe being in another room, without supervision for ten years. Some people go more like 15 to 20 years that way, but wow. That is actually very intense.

For those who are amongst the latter of their friends to marry and have a child, or who have been practicing as Aunts and Uncles for years before becoming a parent the kinds of changes will be quite different - on their own larger social scale, than it will be for those who are amongst the first or who'se friends were enjoying living in a way that parents tended to describe as either selfish or workaholic. Either way, the shift of all that to 'stay sober and never leave the bab alone for ten years' is a doozy even when welcome. If you are new to parenting, don't give up and don't worry about any weird feelings you may be having.

Emotion

Finally, I would like to make one point about emotion during the parenting years. During the first few years of motherhood the most important lesson I learned or relearned is that, "Every emotion every day is perfectly normal."


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