A Problem Shared...Thursday 8th of November 2012 | Category: Baby Products | Written by: Siobhan Thomas
Stressed parent? Normal parent
Having a baby is often stressful. By 'having' I don't mean the giving birth part, I mean in the 'being responsible for' sense of the word. It isn't something that everyone freely admits; understandably there is a degree of failure that many of us associate with not breezing through the first twelve months. But stress brought about by caring for a little one is common and what's more, it is totally reasonable.
You might only experience baby-induced stress for a brief period, whilst they have a bad sleeping patch, they stop eating, or if they are ill. For some parents the worries and challenges of looking after a baby may leave them feeling stressed for long periods at a time, everybody's experience is different.
This month sees the 14th Annual National Stress Awareness Day. The main focus is stress in the workplace and the economic cost to society (we're talking hundreds of millions of pounds by the way). But stress affects parents too. Research commissioned by Ford Retail has just been released which concluded that mothers' most common causes of stress were all child related daily tasks. Many of these related to older children but meal times made the top 10 - and many parents with a weaned baby will be able to relate to that!
The common effects of stress are well documented: anxiety, frustration, difficulty sleeping, sweating, poor concentration and loss of appetite. Coincidentally some common side effects of having a baby include anxiety, frustration, difficulty sleeping, postpartum sweating and missed meals!
There are a number of activities and ideas commonly suggested for managing stress that parents can try. These include taking more exercise, identifying and removing our unhealthy habits such as alcohol and bad foods and taking some 'me time' if possible. These are all viable options but there might be an easier and more effective means of coping
Talk about it
One of the most effective coping techniques is talking to others who also have babies. Until you have experienced the weight of your worries being lifted by telling your story to others, you can't appreciate how helpful just talking can be. The series of events that eventually reduced you to tears at 2am becomes an anecdote that even has you laughing once you've told your friends the next day - particularly when you find out you haven't been the only one. Friends so often help you to find the humour in a situation that you can't appreciate on your own, yes it is a cliche but often laughter really is the best medicine.
Friends help you to find solutions, and their support is invaluable. What's more, the effect of your friendship is mutual and you both benefit from supporting one another. Being open with other parents encourages them to be honest in return, and realising you are not the only person struggling can be a real boon - not because you want your friends to find it hard, but because it helps you to realise that you are not failing, you are not abnormal and neither is your baby's behaviour.
Seven weeks after I had my first baby the adrenaline finally wore off. I was still recovering physically from the birth, I was exhausted beyond my (naive) expectations, and I was genuinely stressed by the pressures of caring for a baby whose demands I didn't seem to meet. I hit a wall, psychologically and physically and I quite surprised myself at my sudden emotional collapse. By chance, at that moment the phone rang and a close family member bore the brunt of my tearful outburst. I've never been one for 'having a good cry' in front of anyone, so initially I was mortified. Afterwards, however I was surprisingly relieved and felt so much better. I literally got back up and got on with everything I had been doing before, but with a better sense of control and confidence that I wasn't underachieving in some way. The humour part of the deal followed later when she told my husband what had happened, he thanked her and confirmed that he wouldn't let on to me that they had spoken - he put this in a text message which he then sent to me accidentally. OK, it was a breach of confidence but it was done with good intentions, and he brought home flowers and a takeaway as a result. Every cloud 'n' all that