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Posted: 29th January 2023

Parenting and Mental Health

Written by Freya Flaherty, Corporate Fundraiser at York Mind

Becoming a parent is simultaneously the best, and hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

Whilst I was pregnant with my son, I attended multiple antenatal classes and read countless books, preparing myself for birth. But as my due date approached it suddenly dawned on me that although I felt prepared to give birth, I hadn’t given much thought to what life would be like once my baby arrived. 

Turns out, parenting is hard work 

Sleepless nights 

My baby slept like a dream for the first 6 months of his life, I was ever so smug and thought we had won the sleep lottery. One year on and my little boy still wakes up multiple times a night and almost exclusively sleeps in my bed. Contrary to popular belief, this is totally normal toddler behaviour and unfortunately if you have young children sleepless nights are something you’ll likely have to deal with. 

Lack of sleep is tough and can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. It’s really important to make sure you have some strategies in place so that you can cope with sleep deprivation:  

  • Ask for help. Make sure you have a strong support network and have some trusted relatives or friends who can watch the baby during the day so you can have a well-deserved rest.  
  • Forget about the housework. Of course, you need to maintain some level of hygiene, but don’t worry if the house is a bit of a mess. I’m 18 months into parenthood and my house is still untidy 99% of the time! 
  • Get outside- pop your baby into their pram or invest in a sling (hands down my best baby purchase) and go for a walk. Even a short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking has been shown to increase our mental alertness, energy and have a positive impact on our mood.  

Lack of time 

One of the main things I have found tough as a new parent is lack of time for myself and currently, I spend most of my child free time working, running errands or keeping on top of housework. 

It can be hard to find time for yourself when you have a small person to take care of and a seemingly never ending to do list. But it’s important to take care of yourself too, and making a little bit of time for yourself each week could make a huge difference to your mental health. 

  • Re-set your expectations. Babies are demanding and you probably won’t be able to do all the things you used to do pre-children but remember it’s not forever and one day you’ll have more time again. 
  • Put time in your calendar just for you, arrange for someone else to look after your little one (your partner, family, friends or a childcare provider) and do something for yourself. Go to a gym class, book a massage or just relax at home.  
  • Adapt your favourite activities. There are loads of activities that you and your little one can enjoy together.  
  • Go for a walk. Children tend to love the outdoors- whilst they are little they’ll love being in their pram or being carried, and as they get older, they’ll have so much fun exploring (though you may not actually walk very far!) 
  • Go for lunch/coffee with friends 
  • Use their naptime to rest and catch up on your favourite TV shows. If your little one is anything like mine, then they’ll nap best in your arms. My maternity leave involved a lot of Greys Anatomy! 

Parenting can be such hard work, especially when you are tired and have a never ending list of things to do, so remember to be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. You are doing great. 

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