I had a baby, how not to lose myself?

Caring for a child can be exhausting for parents. Somehow, the moment we become parents, our needs are moved to the back burner and responding to the needs of child becomes more important.

In addition, although children differ in temperament, so some are more or less demanding, the period of entering the world of parenthood is almost universally stressful for all parents. Caring for a child involves adjusting to the child’s sleep rhythm, maintaining hygiene through frequent diaper changes and changing clothes, adjusting to the rhythm of feeding either through breastfeeding or later preparing special meals, responding to the child’s crying for which we often do not know the cause. As children grow older, their needs change, but the need for parents to adapt to children’s needs somehow remains a constant. We may have had difficulties in the first days of parenthood due to sleepless nights and attempts to put the child to sleep, while in another phase we may encounter difficulties in organizing time due to the child’s school obligations and activity schedule. But, what about us?

We can agree that caring for a child is primary and demanding for most parents, but how do you still take care of yourself? How to meet our needs for the interests we had before we became parents, how to provide time for ourselves, shared moments without a child, walking, reading a book, going to the hairdresser or to the cinema? Do we have the right to our own interests and time for ourselves? Am I a bad mother if I need to get away from the baby for an hour and go for a coffee with friends? Although most will agree in principle that parents need time for themselves and their interests, we as a society look at it with disapproval. Countless times I have heard comments and criticisms about a mother who left her child with a father, grandmother or babysitter and went to the hairdresser. At the same time, countless times I have seen mothers with grey cheeks, dissatisfied and exhausted from caring for a child, mothers who do not even think about what they need. Although this is a topic that applies equally to both mothers and fathers, it seems that mothers are still in the focus of the social magnifying glass that assesses whether they are good or not.

I ask myself when and how did it happen that once we become parents, we and our needs are no longer important and is it possible for both parties to be satisfied? Through personal experience but also many years of counselling work, it seems to me that it is possible and that one of the most important things we can do for our children is to be happy and satisfied. Children need happy parents. Often, we only need little things to make us feel better, it is just important to recognize what we need and allow ourselves that moment for ourselves. Most often, these are small pleasures that remind us that we are still important, small moments that are only ours and that do not endanger anyone. Reading a book while the baby sleeps instead of wiping the dust that has accumulated, taking a nap in the afternoon, having coffee with a friend when grandma is visiting, going to recreation or shopping.

It sounds simple and it is actually amazing how hard it is for us to allow ourselves to do something for ourselves. Someone has obviously been thrown for a loop when they convinced us that taking care of ourselves is no longer important when we become parents and started taking care of the child.

By taking care of ourselves, we do not stop taking care of the child. If we take care of ourselves, we will take better care of the child.

AUTHOR: Silvija Stanić, dipl.psih.univ.spec.iur.