There isn’t a manual telling you how to parent

Here at Bubble, we know that being a parent can be really challenging at times.

We recently interviewed Natalie Costa who is a child and parenting coach about simple ways to help improve maternal mental health. In our session, she talked about how parenting is very much a journey: ‘Becoming a parent is life changing in itself. One minute BOOM you’re a parent and you have this little bundle and you’re responsible for them. It’s overwhelming. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There is no parenting school to prepare you. You are a learner and you are still learning about your thoughts and feelings. Our parents did the best they could but parenting looked different.’

It’s important therefore to not set your expectations too high when it comes to being a parent. You will make mistakes or have bad days and that’s okay.

1. Looking after your own mental health will impact on your family in a positive way

Natalie was clear on the importance of prioritising your own mental health because of the positive impact it will have on everyone around you: ‘It has a ripple effect on life. If you feel good about yourself then you’re more resilient and patient. If you’re not in a good place or are struggling then it impacts on the small stuff and we ‘flip our lid’ quickly because of something small. The more you push your emotions down or put your needs to the side, it then has a ripple effect on our relationships. Many families are insular now so we don’t have the village support group or family close by. The burden is heavier to carry. It’s easier to put aside your own needs but it won’t help your family if you do this.’

2. ‘Fill your bucket’ each day

Parenting can feel exhausting and often that’s because we’re putting the needs of others first. Natalie stressed the importance of scheduling one thing each day that is just for you and will help replenish your energy levels: ‘We need energy but it is only a certain amount that we have and sometimes there might be more or less. If we are always giving to others then the level in our bucket is going to come right down. Look at how you can fill your bucket today. It might look different every day. It doesn’t need to be prescriptive. Exercise is a good energy bucket filler even if it doesn’t feel that way. The endorphins are flowing and you have more energy. Or say that you are going to wake up earlier and make yourself a cup of coffee and sit in the silence or journal. These small things stack up over time. Think about what is realistic each day.’

3. Remember there is no such thing as being a perfect parent

Natalie elaborated on this point: ‘With children you need to understand that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. If you have flipped your lid and you have big feelings then you acknowledge it. How were you parented and how were you taught to regulate your emotions? Mainly we were told to ignore it. See it as a learning opportunity. Say sorry and acknowledge that you have shouted and tell them that you were feeling tired – what was underneath the anger? What were you trying to protect? Probably you were feeling vulnerable or you were feeling overwhelmed or judgement from others even. Dive deep and think about what was underneath it. Apologise or use a strategy.

4. Plan a strategy ahead of time

Choose a strategy when you know you may be triggered: ‘Think about what you can do in that moment to stop yourself. Often with children their emotional hub is more developed than their rational side. They are having a tough time. It may feel like they’re giving you a tough time but remember a mantra like ‘I soften into this moment.’ The breathing strategy is important too. When our stress levels are heightened we breathe from our chest and that causes us to feel more angry or anxious. We need to breathe more deeply and also check you’re lowering your shoulders. Imagine breathing out the angry feeling.’

5. Provide a role model for your children by showing them how you navigate big feelings 

Sometimes we may lose our temper and that’s normal. Natalie talked about how important it was to apologise when things go wrong: ‘Don’t be afraid to say sorry. It will help them understand what they should do when they have big feelings. Use a feelings chart and show what you do when you mess up and how to repair it. Also admit to other parents that you’re not perfect and you will find a connection as everyone feels the same way! Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. You would be compassionate if it was a friend telling you the same thing so make sure you treat yourself the same way. Is it something I would say to a friend of mine?’

How Bubble can help with maternal mental health

We believe that it’s really important for parents to take time for themselves. Booking a sitter through Bubble can be a great solution to give parents a few hours off, whether it be for work, friends, or just a bit of time for you.