6 Ways to Adjust Gracefully to Life as a New Parent
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Becoming a parent can feel at times like the aliens that kidnapped you have returned you to Earth -- except they actually placed you in a hologram that only looks like Earth so that they can make strange things happen to you while they monitor your reactions.
Here are some tips to make the adjustment to parenthood a little easier and to make life bloom in new and awesome ways.
1. Build a New Tribe
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If you find your moral compass or values shifting with the arrival of kids, seek out people who hold certain qualities that are newly dear to you. Friendships that encourage you to improve in healthy ways, both mentally and physically, are a good bet.
I’m not suggesting you ditch your old tribe. After all, having social support (lots of friends) is a major predictor of health and longevity. However, having kids can be isolating when you don’t want to cart them all over tarnation to visit far-flung tribe members. Life becomes beautiful when you can build a hyper-local tribe who are merely a door-knock away.
If you’re shy and wondering how to befriend locally, the holidays offer the perfect opportunity to break the ice: deliver homemade baked goods as a gesture of goodwill -- although there’s nothing stopping you at other times of year, too.
2. Reprioritize Your “Problems”
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Here are some things that used to constantly occupy my thoughts pre-kid: how to handle a particularly irrational colleague, how to deal with the constant, overlapping fire drills at work, and how my butt looked in my favorite pair of pants. It took me a little bit of spinning in circles to realign my priorities post-kid, but the key lies in aligning your priorities with your major life goals.
Worries about your appearance might morph into action steps towards living a healthier lifestyle in order to add more years onto your life. Consider changing your work to align with your values, life mission and passion so that you can live a fulfilled life, create a legacy you’re proud of, and help others at the same time.
3. Reinvent Yourself
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What personality traits can you stand to lose or gain? As our kids’ personalities emerge, it’s helpful for all concerned to make adjustments. Some parents might need to exercise a light touch, while others may need to up the attention levels. Two qualities we could all use more of are patience and compassion.
We also might hang onto immature habits that didn’t cause problems in our old life, but start mucking up the works once kids are on the scene. It recently came to my attention that I sometimes still frame my actions in terms of whether my parents will approve of them or not. It’s time for me to get honest, clear and deliberate that the choices I make are for the benefit of me and my immediate family. It’s a great time of your life to assess old ways of thinking and acting and see where you could use some updates.
4. Make Your own Happiness a Priority
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Emotions are contagious, both positive and negative. Whether a mother is angry, anxious, jolly or joyous, those emotions will spread to her children. Depressed moms often wind up with kids who have behavioral problems. If you bring happiness into your own life, it's way easier to raise happy kids. In order to pursue happiness, I’m not talking about pedicures and leisurely lunches (although those are fine). What I mean is to align your actions with a higher purpose that will leave you feeling connected and fulfilled.
Anyone who has a martyr for a parent knows that this is not in the best interest of the children. If you don’t have self-respect and prioritize your needs, then you’re hurting yourself, which will quickly trickle down to the rest of your family and relationships. It’s entirely possible to take great care of yourself while doing the same for those around you. It might take thought and planning to keep everyone’s needs balanced, but it’s not as impossible as so many of us make it out to be.
5. Develop a New Code of Ethics in Parenting
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I’m a proponent of gentle parenting; I would go so far as to say I do not believe in punishment, but in guidance and teaching. I believe that what you put in, you get out, and one of the most important things you can give your kids is kindness. When you treat children with respect, they will return the favor. Of course, I’m not perfect in my parenting, no one is. But here’s one thing I’ve noticed: whatever kind of parenting you’re into, there is someone out there who is dying to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
Take a stand for the kind of parenting you believe in. Know that you aren’t perfect, but you don’t need to be. Strive to learn what you can about modern parenting, and most of all, feel confident that you are doing the best you know how for your particular family. Don’t let others make you feel weird, bad, or guilty for the kind of parenting you believe in.
6. Start Being Honest With Yourself
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Whether it’s a struggle with addiction, mental health, a relative we don’t want around our kids, or something less boggling, we all have something that we’d really rather stayed swept under the rug. If you find yourself trying to hide an issue from yourself, mentally avoiding a topic, or ruminating over something without saying it out loud, start being honest with yourself.
Decide what’s working, as well as what needs to be changed. Be honest about what needs to happen to keep your kids safe. Be honest about what will make your family life better in the long run. If you can stay in touch with yourself and the truth, you’ll be better equipped to deal with the issues and get them behind you.
If you can tackle even one of these six ideas for adjusting to life gracefully as a parent, you will be both ahead of the game and primed to enjoy parenthood more than ever.
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