When you tell people you are pregnant and then bring home a baby, most usually smile and proclaim something like, “Congratulations! Babies are so precious; this is such a wonderful time.”
It’s true, but sometimes, amid such good wishes, you can feel uneasy, especially when your heart is heavy with what is happening in the world.
How can you feel unbridled joy when others are suffering? And how to be a confident mom when everything feels overwhelming?
What do new moms struggle with the most, especially in our modern and complicated world?
Two years ago, our lives were rocked by the pandemic and the fundamental changes we had to make to keep ourselves safe.
I remember talking to pregnant and postpartum parents at the beginning of the pandemic who were frightened, overwhelmed, and unsure about what this meant for their children.
I often analogize that the pandemic was like steroids for new parents in that it quickly brought to the forefront how challenging becoming a parent can be. And two years later, it is not much more manageable.
The events that have been happening around the world weigh heavily on the minds of many people I speak with, both in my private practice and in my personal life.
Comparative suffering is trying to make sense of our pain by comparing it to someone else’s pain and then minimizing or maximizing our experience. Sometimes we deny our feelings altogether.
We can all become wrapped up in the news and consumed with negativity. I have seen the anxiety and have even felt it myself. When you see the fear and loss of others, most recently in Ukraine, it’s a lot to process.
We can even wonder if our daily frustration and overwhelm are worthy of complaint compared to what others are experiencing.
This can lead to feelings of comparative suffering, a term describing how we view our pain and compare it with someone else’s, leading to us denying our feelings. I believe this is one of the things new moms can struggle with the most.
It can affect you both psychologically and physically. You might ruminate on what is happening, become irritable, or even be depressed. You might have issues sleeping or eating. You may have headaches or feel as if your heart is racing.
And all of these feelings can make it harder to parent, let alone parent confidently.
Let yourself feel empathy for others, but then be sure you are taking care of your basic needs–showering, eating a balanced diet, and getting the sleep you need.
In my book, Happy With Baby: Essential Relationship Advice When Partners Become Parents, I address the importance of putting ourselves at the top of the list to be the best parents and partners we can be.
How do new moms stop being overwhelmed and become more confident?
So where do you begin when you, as a new parent, are not confident and calm but want to be? First, start with abandoning the comparative suffering, and then follow these six steps. That’s how to be a confident mom.
Step one: simplify
As a new parent, I know there’s so much to learn, and you are constantly bombarded with figuring out what your baby needs. Sometimes, the best self-care is simply taking things off your plate.
Look at your to-do list and ask yourself if this is an item you need to expend energy on. What can be postponed or delegated to someone else? Asking your partner, family, or friends is an excellent place to start.
Read next: Five Ways Your Partner Can Support You During Postpartum
Step two: limit your intake–of parenting advice
Try limiting your intake of parenting advice (especially the unsolicited kind) through social media, news coverage, etc.
We are constantly inundated with information and don’t even realize that news alerts can trigger a hit of cortisol (a stress hormone that prepares your body for the fight or flight reflex).
And when the triggers and alerts keep coming repeatedly, they can take a toll on you physically and emotionally.
Step three: listen to your body
I often ask the parents I work with to ask themselves, “How am I feeling? What does my body need right now?”
Tuning in with where you are and how you feel several times a day is critical.
Sometimes you need movement to help clear your head. Sometimes the best thing you can do is lie down and rest. Sometimes there is comfort in a cup of tea, a long bath, or a hot meal.
Pay attention to what you physically feel and know works for you.
Step four: appreciate all that you are doing
It’s easy to get down on yourself for all the things you feel are not getting done, but I want you to take a moment and acknowledge all the things you are accomplishing daily as you build confidence as a new parent.
This includes planning meals, preparing meals, doing laundry, clothing your child(ren), making appointments, attending appointments, working, and doing household chores.
Most of all, you are constantly figuring out what is best for your child(ren) and how to be in this new role as a parent. That alone is a lot to carry.
Step five: find success
When we become parents, we are constantly bombarded with new things to learn, and each unique experience comes with a learning curve. Often making us feel like our successes are minimal.
Remember, there are things you are good at, and it most likely took time and effort to succeed. I encourage you to engage in activities you are already good at to give yourself a break.
Step six: focus on now
As a parent myself, I know I can go down the rabbit hole of worrying about all that is to come, and if I make this decision or that decision, it could result in the worst possible scenarios for my children.
The truth is that one single decision will most likely not do that.
Focus on what is best for you to provide the best care for your child(ren). Deal with each moment as it comes.
Final thoughts on confidence in the modern world of motherhood
Having a baby is a unique and wonderful experience and can be a roller coaster of emotions. Making sure to prioritize taking care of yourself in ways that bring calm and clarity and empower you to be the best you can be for your family is most important.
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Catherine O’Brien is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of HappyWithBaby.com. She created Happy With Baby in order for new parents to discover the advice she wishes she could have had as a parent. Catherine lives in Sacramento, California, where she enjoys paddle boarding and rowing with her husband and two kids.