1. Baby
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  3. New parents
  4. Managing the emotional and social costs of babies

Managing the emotional and social costs of babies

We’ve all seen the articles about how much money it takes to raise a child from newborn to a young adult, but how much faith can we really put into the figures? There are just too many choices to make along the way that will affect the final figure. For example, education can either be through the public system or you can go private, well there’s a $150,000 difference just there. Will your child attend every ballet, singing, piano, rugby and tennis lesson there is? Or will they be content to play in the backyard, go to the park and hang out with friends? Will they need braces? The alternatives are too great to quantify. Also, there’s no point suggesting that raising your children is going to cost you $450,000 or more if you’re never going to be able to spend that sort of money. That will only lead to us all feeling depressed and turn us off having any more children.

As a group of women, we’re all very resourceful and will successfully raise our children with whatever resources we have available. The reality is, kids don’t need to attend kindy gym, music and jazz classes from the time they can sit up, most of us never did and we’ve turned out just fine. What we did have was the basics for survival in the world that we live in, shelter, food, water, good health, an education, a good set of values and most importantly to feel safe, loved and wanted. Like most children and teenagers we tend to take it all for granted, it isn’t until you become a mum that you realise just how selfless and self sacrificing that your parents had been. So, to achieve the outcome of a well balanced, kind, considerate and happy young adult there are sacrifices that we have to make along the way and I suppose you could call these the real “costs” of raising your child.

  • The loss of your previous identity.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • A changing relationship with your partner.
  • The loss of your ability to work in your chosen profession with ease.
  • Being on call 24/7(and I mean on call, “Mum, Mum, Mum”).
  • Stretchmarks and a different shaped body.
  • And most importantly missing out on the last piece of chocolate cake just so your kids can have it.

I don’t for one moment suggest that Mums are resentful of these “costs” but the reality is these are the sorts of sacrifices we make when we enter the role of parenthood, and it’s nice to know that we’re all in the same boat.

When we consider these costs it is also helpful to consider practical ways of offsetting or coping with these costs. Often it is not about financial support at all, it is about getting the relevant social and emotional support structures in place. Sometimes the best way to cope with these ‘costs’ is by making a phone call and asking for some help and support.

Identity

Sometimes it is almost too hard to remember life before children. They are so totally consuming that it is very easy to forget that you were somebody else in another place and time. When you have a baby, your identity changes whether you like it or not. All of a sudden you are no longer just you, or a partner, you are now officially a mum and that role isn’t just while they are a baby, it’s forever. It can take a while to adjust to this new identity and over the years it will change as your children grow older.

Occasionally there are glimpses of the old you, usually when you are having some childfree time, if you’re lucky enough to have support around you that allows that time. Or perhaps you’ve waited until the children are at pre-school or kindy before finding some time for you the individual. You may be a working mum and find that is your time for your self and a great way to revisit your old life. Many mothers groups and friends establish a roster to help each other find the time to spend alone or with their partner. Going to the gym and using the crèche is a practical way to invest some time in you and feel better as well. Remember to be gentle with yourself and ensure you make time to focus on your needs as well as those of your baby. Some days will be easier than others when it comes to doing this.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is definitely a form of torture and it is particularly so throughout the early years of parenting. It is ironic at a time when you most need sleep that you will often have so little of it! Everyone has different attitudes and beliefs about sleep training their baby. It is important to go with what works best for you and your family. You can get some excellent advice about this here.

On the days when you are suffering from the after effects of very little sleep it is important to be patient with yourself and those around you. Often things can seem worse or harder to cope with than normal. Don’t be afraid to ask for support during these times. If your sleep deprivation is affecting your mental health then make sure to pick up the phone for support. You can find contacts for this here.

Changing relationship with your partner.

It is inevitable that your relationship with your partner will change once your baby arrives. Despite your best efforts, once you introduce a small, very cute and demanding individual to your family dynamics things will have to change.

They key to coping with this change is to acknowledge those feelings with your partner. It’s also important to know that it won’t be like this forever. The first few months of parenting can be all consuming as you both adjust to the changed in your family routines. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open. This can often be easier said than done, especially after a sleepless night of feeding and changing your baby. On days like this it is good to remember to start sentences with “I feel like this…” rather than “You didn’t do x.y or z.” It is all too easy to get caught up in silly arguments when you are both tired and worn out.

The loss of your ability to work in your chosen profession with ease.

Juggling your work life with your role as a new parent is not easy for everyone. While some people will have great access to childcare or a nanny or a family member helping out, lots of parents do not.

It is good to explore the options available to you before bub arrives. Research the options that are the most suitable to your family needs and have them in mind for when you return to work. Remember your feelings may change once bub arrives. You may decide to return to work full time, or part time or decide to take time out of the workforce indefinitely. The best thing to do is weigh up your options carefully.

It is also a good idea to have a backup plan in place for days when bub is sick or your childcare plans fall through. Have this organized as a ‘just in case’ scenario so that it isn’t as stressful as it may be on those days when things don’t go to plan.

Being on call 24/7 (and I mean on call, “Mum, Mum, Mum”).

Every mum will understand what this means. The notion of having a shower or doing anything uninterrupted becomes a luxury. It can be very easy to become resentful of the fact that your time to yourself is limited and that at the slightest cry from your bub you will be wide awake at night-time.

The most important thing to do is make sure to take time out for you. No one is going to give you that time. Focus on ensuring you get your partner to take charge while you shower in peace, or organize a sitter just so you can go and do the grocery shopping uninterrupted. Resentment at being ‘on call’ 24/7 can take its toll on your well being, so it is helpful to recognize when it happening and take steps to take time out.

Stretchmarks and a different shaped body.

Your body undergoes some phenomenal changes during pregnancy. Some women embrace them while others do not. The key wisdom when it comes to your changing body is to remember it takes nine months to grow a baby, so it usually takes nine months for it to change back. Even then, it may not be the same as it was before you fell pregnant. You may have stretchmarks as a reminder of the changes your body went through while pregnant.

There are plenty of creams on the market that will help minimize them but they won’t get rid of them completely. It is also good to start a gentle exercise routine once your doctor gives you clearance. This will help rebuild your muscle tone and strength as well as clearing your head. You can find some really simple and practical ways to incorporate this into your daily routine here.

Most importantly, missing out on the last piece of chocolate cake just so your kids can have it.

Obviously it isn’t just chocolate cake that you will forgo for your kids! However, it is an excellent example of the various sacrifices you will make as a mum in the coming years. As parents we want our kids to have the best life has to offer, but this shouldn’t come at the exclusion of our well-being.

So the next time your little one wants to share that yummy cake with you, think about sharing it with them rather than giving it all to them. This way you can both enjoy the cake together.