Thirty years ago, I was a first-time mom.
I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.
MY baby would be calm and happy. MY baby would sleep well because I knew all the things. MY baby wouldn’t fuss over silly little nothings. MY baby would play sweetly and coo like an angel.
One day, it hit me! Whoa, sister! Get off your high horse and face reality!
There I was, sitting on the stairs of my 1980’s townhouse, sobbing. Hair pulled messily into a pony, baby screaming in my arms. It was 6pm and I was still in pajamas. I was unshowered, unfed and overwhelmed.
Until that very moment, I had not known that I, too, would need more tools to “survive” parenthood. Thirty years later, after much trial and error, I’m offering you these simple tools so you don’t have scramble to figure it out yourself.
Here is my simple
Find the parents or friends or family in your immediate community with a like mind. This is not the local Mom’s Group on Facebook. These are real, tangible, pick up the phone and talk to you people…. that you trust. It is important that they not only align with your parenting style, beliefs, and choices, but that they are able to have a solid conversation with you and talk you off that “How-Do-I-Survive-This” ledge.
When you are in survival mode is not the time for ANYONE to argue with you about your core parenting values or call you out on your verbiage.
I never said they had to AGREE with you.
Sounds simple enough.
Trust me it’s not.
When your baby is screaming, possibly for hours, you find yourself breathing erratically, only adding to the tension….and possibly to your baby’s need to endlessly cry.
Set baby in a safe place within eyesight. Sit with your elbows on your knees and your hands cupped over your face. Yes…. that position. Although you are still within hearing range of your crying baby, you are giving yourself a second to “de-stimulate”. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and slowly….in through your nose, out through your mouth. Do this at least 10 times. Allow your mind to focus only on your breathing and tune out everything out for these 15-30 seconds. Allow this breathing to calm your body down even just a bit.
Now stand up, breathe deep and return to caring for your baby.
Today, we do not have the villages we once had. We may find ourselves alone, or on our own quite a bit, as our friends and family bustle with their own families, jobs and activities.
So, who do you have? Who can you call your “community” of support? Can you list a handful of names that you can call in a pinch? They don’t have to be the same people you align with. Perhaps they are your neighbor, the other new parent you met at the library infant reading group, or your co-worker.
We all have “community” but are terrible at reaching out to those people to ask for any help because we “don’t want to bother them”.
Am I right?
Trust me. They will respond because because they know you would respond to them, too.
Think about who your community is. Put their names and phone numbers in your cell phone. Now foster your relationships with these people. Come up with at least FIVE.
See, that wasn’t so hard!
Reaching out to your community will become easier over time and you will thank me for this reminder.
These ABCs are useful even when your baby is no longer a baby…. into adulthood.
You HAVE heard the term: “Once a parent, always a parent”, right?!? It’s all truth. You will forevermore use these newfound parenting tools.
Now master these ABCs!
Not only SURVIVE, but CONQUER parenthood.
Sheryl Cooksley is the mother of 4 adult children, grandmother to 6, and has fostered over 25 children. She is a former Family Partner with a local mental health agency. She is the owner of Family Tree Doula Services near Portland, Oregon, as well as, a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and Infant Feeding Specialist.