Purposeful Parenting – One Year In

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, July 20, 2022
By Jenny Friedman, LCSW

A year ago, I wrote a blog post for the same July monthly theme, “Purposeful Parenting.” https://www.coralgablescounseling.com/purposeful-parenting-as-a-new-mom/) At the time, I was a brand new mom and my post was a list of lessons I had learned in that short time period. It’s funny, I remember writing that post as if it were yesterday! At that point I was surely in the thick of it, navigating new motherhood, learning about my little guy, learning about my own new identity and settling into new routines. Now that July is again here, I thought I would write a follow up post–lessons in “purposeful parenting” one year later, with a slight twist from a therapist’s perspective. So without further ado, here it goes:

teddy bear

1. Time goes by way too quickly. 

This is an important reminder for any stage of parenting. Days (and nights) can be long, difficult and stressful, but each stage goes by too quickly. Try your best to savor each moment because before you know it, blink and they’ll be one (I’m sure for the seasoned parents reading this, it’s more like, blink and they’ll be 25!). This lesson might be obvious, but it’s one I often repeat to myself, as it helps me to remember to cherish the little moments, take lots of photos and appreciate each stage.

2. When you’re with your baby, try as best as you can to be 100% focused.

As a working mom with minimal free time for myself, it’s hard to be 100% present with my son when I’m with him. I’m trying to read my emails, quickly play Wordle and, yes, Instagram often beckons. I am not proud of this, but at the very least I understand it and try to be mindful of it. Some of my best moments with my son are when my phone is away and I am able to be fully with and attuned to him. I even think my son notices this difference, and I can tell he feels more connected to me as well when I’m not on my phone (duh). Even though being on my phone can be tempting, it’s worth it to put it away for those moments, for the fun and the connection that comes as a result. That said, trying to find “me time” to recharge is equally important so that I can be able to devote undivided attention to my son when I am with him.

3. Your life as you once knew it will be forever changed.

I generally knew that this would happen, but I didn’t *really* get it. This has actually been one of the hardest parts about new parenthood, and an adjustment I didn’t expect to be so profound. There have been times in the past year where I have missed my “old life” and it has brought upon a whole mix of feelings, including shame and sadness. Shame because I love my baby and am so grateful he’s here–how could I possibly miss my old life? But I think this needs to be talked about more and normalized. New parenthood is not all cute photos and gummy smiles, and it’s OK to miss the days of spontaneity and having no other responsibilities besides yourself. I think if we can allow these thoughts and feelings to come up, and to have them be heard and validated, then new parents won’t feel so bad about having them. I also believe it’s important to “mourn” the past and accept that this is a new chapter, which also comes with its beautiful, meaningful, and, yes, fun, moments as well.

4. Your life with your partner will also be forever changed.

Similar to #3. And this also isn’t talked about enough. OF COURSE your relationship will change after a baby comes, how can it not!? Baby is the new priority; its survival literally depends on the parents. Gone are the days of spontaneous weekends away, sleeping in together and quiet car rides (IYKYK). BUT! It’s OK. This is a new phase of your relationship and hopefully you have a solid foundation from pre-baby to ride out the challenges of new parenthood. By the way, I do recommend prioritizing your relationship to some degree when you are able. That means making the effort to go on date night, to watch a show together, to eat a meal together. In whatever way works for you, I find it important to find time to connect with your partner that does not include the baby (and please, no #momguilt here). A quiet meal together really does wonders for your relationship and helps to bring back that spark and connection. And just like with #3, it’s OK to “mourn” the pre-baby identity of your relationship, and this does not take away from the love or gratitude you have for your baby.

5. “The love grows.”

I remember my therapist, also a mother, telling me this early on. Those three simple words were all I needed to hear. Sometimes there’s the expectation that as soon as your baby is born that the love is already there and is immense. The love was there, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t this overpowering love that I often hear about (and see written on baby announcement social media posts…can anyone relate?). I felt like something was wrong with me. But hearing those validating and reassuring words from my therapist soothed those worries, and time has proven her right: the love has grown.

6. There are many “dialectics” in parenting. Learn to embrace them.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), one of the main principles is “dialectics,” meaning two opposing things can be true at once. I have never felt this more strongly than when it comes to new parenthood. Some examples: I miss the freedom from before having kids BUT ALSO I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I sometimes count down the minutes until bedtime, BUT ALSO as soon as he goes to sleep I miss him and wish I could play with him longer. It’s sometimes confusing when these “opposing” thoughts happen, but I just try to accept that both thoughts can be true at the same time (nothing this complicated is ever black and white!). This helps to reduce feelings of guilt as well.

These are my reflections one year in. Can anyone relate? What comes up for you while reading these?

P.S. To schedule an appointment with Jenny, you can reach out to Carolina Navarro, our Intake Coordinator, at 305-445-0477.