Discovering the New Normal After Children
I was recently asked, “When does life start to feel more normal after having children, and when will I begin to start feeling like myself again?” It’s such a typical question, yet I was unsure how to respond. In truth, the answer is “never,” but when you are in the newborn trenches that answer can be difficult to hear. After having kids, life will never be the exact same again. It becomes so much bigger and better... and more exhausting! While at the same time you are celebrating the joys of parenthood, it can be normal to mourn the life you once had. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to experience grief of the life you once had. For instance, long brunches, time leisurely shopping, long happy hours with friends, and lazy Saturdays are often halted after kids. Those days will never be quite the same and now require juggling and planning to recreate. When you enter parenthood, those times are often replaced with parenting chores. For instance, instead of late night at the bars you have all-nighters rocking a baby, leisurely shopping trips are replaced by random Target trips to pick up all the things you might have forgotten to order on Amazon, and lazy Saturdays on the couch can be replaced with Gymboree and soccer Saturdays. It is completely normal to miss your previous life, while also loving your child beyond capacity. I haven’t even discussed yet how your marriage changes with a child! That can be mourned, as well!
The transition into parenthood can be difficult for many. Accepting that life will be different is often the best way to cope with the transition. Instead of trying to get back to the old normal, find a new normal for your family. For instance, leisurely walks through the park on Saturday, family bike rides, or trips to the beach as a family can be fun experiences. Find things that you enjoy that you can share with your entire family!
Even though life is never quite the same doesn’t mean that you don’t need to carve out time for yourself, your friends, and your marriage. Make sure you pick at least a night a month for a date night to connect with your spouse. The best thing you can do as a parent is model what a healthy marriage looks like. Additionally, try and pick at least once a month to spend time with friends. Whether it is a quick lunch, coffee, or happy hour, your friends will help you through this journey of parenthood. Make time to invest in those friendships! Lastly, self-care allows you to care for yourself, so you have more to give to your children. If you enjoy working out, try to work out 3 times a week, if you like having your hair done, continue to do it, and if you enjoy manicures, keep those up! You can care for yourself, friends, and spouse while also being a great parent!
Practice mindfulness in parenting. Instead of rushing from place to place, or stressing over the schedule, house chores, etc., take 30 minutes a day to just be with your family. Get on the floor with your child and be in the moment. Take it all in and notice how you are feeling and experiencing. Set down the phone during this time and make this your bonding time with your children. This helps with attachment, parent and child anxiety, and brings gratitude to the moment.
For all you new parents, know that you will find your new normal. One of our favorite things to do at Heights Family Counseling is to help individuals and couples reconnect and discover their values after entering parenthood. Give us a call if you would like to connect.
Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LPA, LSSP, LPC-S
Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing counseling and diagnostic evaluations for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, evaluations, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com and read more about her services http://heightsfamilycounseling.com/services-1/