In the movies or on TV, new parenthood is often portrayed as a comedy or even as a romance – but Hollywood has it all wrong. Parenthood is more like an adventure. Birth is epic. The early weeks (and months) can be challenging. And I know as a parent I never really felt like I knew - for sure - what I was doing. It’s a journey into the unknown. We wing it.
So, like in any adventure, you’ll experience a multitude of big emotions as you travel on. Maybe if we created the image of wildness and wonder and woes instead of the "walk in the park" our culture makes parenting out to be, we’d see more couples readying themselves for the challenges – as well as the immense joys – that come with this incredible transition.
Once upon a time when families birthed into a village of support, parenthood was a rite of passage. Village elders and more experienced parents ushered the new ones in with songs singing the tune of real life and real expectations. These days, when parenthood is so much more complicated than it’s ever been (work/life/family balance anyone?), mothers and fathers are left to muddle through with little preparation, guidance or support. As unexpected hardships arise, the consequences for their relationship, and their family, can be lasting.
In fact, new research has found that couples who are unprepared for the changes to life, love (and laughter) which a first baby brings, and find themselves in struggle as a result, are less likely to have a second child. One particular landmark study (Cowan and Cowan) found 67% of parents experienced a decline in relationship satisfaction. Because we have little idea of what we’re actually signing up for when we chose to become a parent - or parenthood chooses us - maybe this statistic exists in part because partners often blame one another for the challenges that are actually normal and common to us all.
As author Leonie Percy points out in her book Mother Om, “Nothing can prepare you for the sleep deprivation after a tiny person enters your life.
Instead of saying goodnight,
partners should wish each other luck instead.”
This kind of honesty is essential as we take on the parenthood path. In fact, we deserve it! Since this isn't a made-for-TV movie, how do we pre-experience reality? How do we prepare? Where the village provided comfort and sustenance and soothed fears (so much more than just wishing us "luck"), most couples find themselves having to fill in the blanks.
New parents taking on too much, too fast, too soon, can lead to both little and big "bumps" in the road, where our relationship can get a bit bruised as a result.
But what if we "unexpected" thefairy tale, and prepared for an adventure? Perhaps, if we threw away the script, instead of feeling disillusioned or disappointed, it would free us up more to experience the wonder and awe of a tiny newborn creature and watch with curiosity as our new life unfolds.
Here are five ways to approach new parenthood with wonder:
● Be a learner and not an expert. As soon as your baby goes into a new stage of growing, you’ll be learning all over again!
● Support your partner in their learning too.
● Recognise that you’re both in this together and approach any issues as a team.
● If you’re expecting, consider hiring a Birth or Postpartum Doula so you can relax, be more prepared for any unknowns and focus on the most important things.
● Reach out for help when you need it – you were never meant to do it alone. It still takes a village!