Managing Expectations & Flexibility
The transition to parenthood is a significant period in any new parent’s life. People often feel optimistic and excited as the birth of a baby is often associated with joy and celebration. Sometimes family and friends express more excitement than an expectant parent may be feeling. It often takes time for expectant parents to get their head around the new concept of becoming a parent.
The journey to parenthood is a time of great change and adjustment for everyone. Most parents need some time to adjust to their new role. Amidst the joy and celebration, new parenthood can sometimes feel hard. Life will look and be significantly different whilst the settling in occurs. It is good to know that for many parents this adjustment gradually happens over the first year.
People may have high expectations of themselves without realising it. These expectations may include:
- I manage 20 people at work, so I am used to a lot of responsibility.
- The baby’s routine will fit around mine.
- I am used to not getting much sleep so I will be fine.
- While the baby sleeps, I’ll be able to get all the housework and chores done.
- I will automatically fall in love with my baby.
- Parenting is natural so I will know what to do.
- I’ve wanted to become a parent so much; I know it will make me happy.
People who set high and often unrealistic standards for themselves may already be familiar with the term “perfectionism”. These expectations and standards can lead to feelings of failure and low self-esteem as parents are often unable to meet them. Research shows that in some cases this can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression after birth.
We all hold expectations about ourselves and about parenthood– it is normal. However, reflecting upon how realistic your expectations are in advance and seeing if you can adjust any and add more flexibility into your style or ways of thinking can make the transition to parenthood smoother.
Flexibility in planning and preparation for parenthood
Pregnancy and early parenthood is an exciting yet unpredictable time. To help parents manage unpredictability, it is important to include flexibility in planning and decision-making. Parents may need to change their plans around many things due to circumstances that are out of their control. It is normal to feel disappointed and worried if this happens. However, recognising that this is part of the new parenting experience can help new parents adapt to changes without feeling a strong sense of failure. It may even be good practice for parenthood as things can change daily!
Flexible thinking and planning is often useful during pregnancy when considering topics such as birth plans, parental leave, feeding and settling, routine and domestic duties.
If the thought of plans changing brings up feelings of distress, this might be a topic to discuss with a trusted person such as friend, family member or health professional.
Date of Last Review: August 2021
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