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Surviving the Early Years of Parenthood

I am a parent to three children 7 years and under. I am also a Clinical Psychologist. Does this mean I have it all together and I’m a perfect parent with a perfect family?? No! In fact, being a Psychologist added more pressure as I had higher expectations on myself to know what to do, and I realised quickly I had to learn the hard way like everyone else.

What being a Psychologist as well as a Dad/Husband has meant to me is how I can learn to practice what I preach. Psychological theories can act as a guide through the unknown territory of parenthood and childhood, giving us the confidence and comfort we need during times of uncertainty. But it is also helpful to discover and learn from our own experiences as parents, and let our kids and family life be our biggest teacher. Some say that life throws us what we need to learn, and things will keep repeating until we learn what we need to.

I have identified 3 states/growing pains that I have experienced as a parent learning on the job. There is the Defeated state, the Surviving state, and the Thriving state:

  • The Defeated state is when you lose your energy and drive as a parent, and retreat back into yourself where you block out the world and feel beaten up by life (thankfully for me, I have not had many long times in this space, but I feel for those who sink further into this space).

  • The Surviving state is when the growing pains of parenthood and childhood development beat you up and you lose energy, becoming somewhat robotic and automatic in managing the parenting responsibilities. This state is focused on managing your duties, but what you lose is the closer connection to your children, partner, and self as all your energy is in staying afloat.

  • The Thriving state, in which you feel appreciative and connected to your family, along with having some flexibility and creativity in your approach (we all wish we could have more of this, right?!).

Whether these states that I have observed in myself at times resonates with you or not, the more important question is how you are developing the NON-JUDGEMENTAL OBSERVER in yourself that watches how you and others react in everyday life, and maintain your learning/growth mindset.

What has helped me avoid long periods in the Defeated state is putting energy in calming my body and mind, looking after my relationship with my partner (it’s so much more manageable when you are both in it together), finding pause buttons throughout the busyness of the day, and consciously making effort for gratitude and looking at your kids deeply enough to be amazed at what you have created.

I will be adding another post soon that provides a few useful tips from psychological theories on how to survive the first few years of your child's life, so stay tuned in.

Be kind to yourself...

Dr Mark

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