Would you consider yourself a high achiever. It may come as a surprise but being a high achiever when it comes to having a baby may not be to your advantage, so it’s great you are exploring motherhood beyond the conventional.
In my work as a clinical psychotherapist I see men and women who at times find life overwhelming, they are unable to self regulate and managing their emotions feels unachievable, what they often share in common is that they are considered high achievers.
The majority of these clients are parents, they also struggle to truly enjoy life or each other. We are a generation dependant on external experiences to make us happy and this isn’t working. High achievers do very well controlling their environment taking charge of the situation at hand. When they can’t control the situation this new territory throws high achievers into chaos and they can fall short of skills, further attempt to control the situation stirs up unmanageable feelings. You can see how having a baby can be a challenge.
It may not be like this for all mothers or all high achievers. But the majority of women describe utter shock at becoming a parent, they were just not prepared.
Being trained as a practitioner for the last 10 years in parenting and attachment was extensive preparation for motherhood. In order to share my years of experience I focus on the most effective tools I’ve learnt, processes that can help have an immediate positive impact. I break down everything that I have found successful and deliver it in bite sized chunks. From protecting the relationship, to knowing what it is exactly your baby is communicating when just days old.
Although becoming a mother didn’t hit me like a truck I did and still do have my moments. Sleep deprived and depleted like all mothers, my behaviour reflected this. I told my husband he was useless, thought at times I was useless, on one occasion I considered the delay in fetching me a glass of water a form of abuse I was so thirsty mid feed. So I’ve definitely been unreasonable, but never in the shock that I know to be so common. I was prepared to surrender to the role of motherhood.
So why do some mothers feel blasted by the experience and others not? The difference is in the MEANING. It feels somewhat under whelming to reduce the task of growing a human to what it means. But the meaning is about the most important thing you can hold onto when parenting. I hate that it sounds like a therapy cliche by saying ‘what does it mean to you’, but really what does it mean to you?
The meaning you apply to each experience day to day and in response to your baby will influence how you feel. The more conscious you are of this the more control you’ll have over your emotions.
These three steps to meaning can positively change how you parent.
To give you an example lets use the baby waking in the night for a feed. So baby wakes (the focus) then immediately there is the meaning you apply to this, I should be down stairs finishing my dinner, I should be watching my movie, I should be in bed, the baby shouldn’t be awake now, from these ‘applied meanings’ you will then react with an emotion. You may feel resentful, angry, impatient, maybe even a failure. These feelings then determine your state of mind then your mood, and as quickly as that you can feel crappy.
OR, baby could wake, and the meaning you apply is, its normal baby is awake, dinner can wait, my baby is solely dependant on me, everything I do is magnified in their world, soothing my baby is great for the immune system and brain development, I could go and watch the movie but I’m choosing to meet my babies needs. So how might you feel if you apply this meaning? Good about yourself? Relaxed,? Content with your choices? In control?
You can not change the event but you can change how you react to it. Most parents will fight the event and try to change the situation, through expanding your emotional intelligence you can avoid this detrimental approach. The baby just doesn’t have the brain capacity to adapt or learn anything as complex as self soothing, this higher part of the brain required for such complexity isn’t online until two plus. So surrendering to babies needs is not a failure but the willingness to adapt with flexibility and intuition. With this simple approach, you can change your state of mind, then your mood and how you feel.
How you feel can change in an instant, it doesn’t have to take years in therapy. But you do need to continue to practice new habits to create long lasting positive effects. There is a simple ritual you can start to practice each day preferably in the morning, not only will it change your state of mind in an instant you can imprint positive lasting effects, have a look at therapyproject.co.uk if you want to find out more.
The self care you provide to yourself isn’t benefitting only you, what a baby feels in the womb and in the early years really matters: her experience of you as a parent and her surroundings impacts brain development, it informs her view of the world , and it shapes her perception of herself for years to come.
Ultimately this is all about raising your emotional intelligence so your baby can reap the rewards and avoid sitting in a chair opposite me one day as my client.
A Guest Blog Post from Jerilee Claydon
Jerilee (UKCP, MBACP) is an integrative psychotherapist matching therapies to meet the needs of clients. She works holistically and clinically, considering diet, lifestyle and social supports. Her interest in anxiety led her to my work with Mothers as many parenting decisions are driven by future orientated fears – anxiety. After an initial session she is able to tailor a programme to the couple, providing skills to protect the relationship, learn what type of parent they’ll be and equip the parent with tools to follow intuition. Therapy Project has just launched bespoke blended essential oil therapy candles to support the 3 phases of becoming a parent. Jerilee is able to work with Skype as well as face to face, currently her furthest client is based in Bejing.
Outside of her private practice Jerilee works with the Katie Piper foundation, and a charitable counselling and psychotherapy service in West London. She is also invited as a guest expert on baby attachments and parenting for the Mothercare brand and various pre and post natal support groups.