Negative thoughts have a way of creeping in from time to time, which can make us doubt our capabilities as parents. From “I miss my old life” to “I don’t know how to parent”, these thoughts that get in the way of parenting can be niggling. Follow our tips on how to rethink those negative thoughts so you can get on with what you’re great at. If you find these thoughts troubling or even quite upsetting, reach out to your healthcare professional for advice.
Our tips for reframing your thinking as a parent
Reframe this negative thought: “I don’t know how to parent”
When you have your first baby, it’s common to feel a bit shell-shocked as the enormity of your new parenting responsibilities start to sink in. Plenty of parents worry that they’re not a ‘natural’ parent. An Australian survey* found that 62% of local parents found becoming a parent more difficult than they thought it would be – with Mums (70%) finding it harder than Dads (48%). The thing is, with every baby born, so is a parent—and you wouldn’t expect your baby to know how to walk or talk as soon as they enter the world, so why should you know exactly what to do when it comes to parenting? The reality is that while some of it might come down to intuition, a lot is going to be learning on the job.
Tip: Give you and your baby time to get to know each other and remember there is no such thing as perfect parenting—making mistakes is all part of the learning process. We’ve got some tips which will help you build confidence as a parent in no time! Speak to your healthcare professional if you’re concerned about anything specific and to other mums and dads, who you may discover share similar thoughts and concerns.
Reframe this negative thought: “Asking for help is a sign of weakness”
It may help when reframing negative thoughts to remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it shows strength. Ever heard of the old saying, it takes a village to raise a child? Well, that’s because parenting can be tough and in many cultures throughout time, it has been a shared responsibility.
Tip: It’s important to find a support network that empowers you to feel good about your parenting decisions. If the offer of help is not in line with how you like to do things, don’t be afraid to say. If you haven’t already, reach out to your midwife or maternal and child health nurse about local mother’s groups you can join. If you need additional support for either yourself or your baby, contact your healthcare professional who can point you in the right direction.
Reframe this negative thought: “I don’t feel an instant connection with my baby”
We’ve seen it in the movies, but not every parent falls instantly in love with their newborn. Give yourself a break if you don’t feel an instant connection. Bonding will come gradually over time as you adjust to your new life together. These feelings can also happen a bit later on, when sleep deprivation and the pressures of parenthood kick in.
For parents who have experienced a difficult pregnancy, traumatic birth, fertility issues, or previous baby loss these feelings might be more intense. If you’re worried that these negative thoughts might be turning into intrusive or obsessive thoughts, speak to your healthcare professional.
Tip: Skin-to-skin contact with your baby may help with bonding and feelings of wellbeing. Try popping your little one close to your chest in a baby sling or carrier, or why not give baby massage a go? Spending quality time with your baby by singing, dancing or reading together can help you connect.
Reframe this negative thought: “Breastfeeding is hard, when I should be enjoying it”
For some women, breastfeeding just comes naturally, for others, it can be hard work and take a lot of perseverance, which can turn into feelings of guilt if you’re not enjoying it.
Did you know? In just five days of breastfeeding, you’ll burn about the same number of calories as it takes to run a marathon. For some, breastfeeding can feel like you’re running a marathon, you need to take it step by step, and it can take some practice and coaching to get to your end goal.
Tip: Breast milk is the ideal nutrition from birth. The Australian guidelines (NHMRC) recommend exclusive breastfeeding until around 6 months and continued breastfeeding with solid foods until 12 months or beyond. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding , it could be that a breastfeeding support group or a session with a lactation consultant is just what you need to help you find your stride.
Reframe this negative thought: "I miss my old life"
When you’re battling sleep deprivation and exhaustion it’s perfectly understandable to feel nostalgic about your old life—and the eight hours of sleep you used to get—as well as regret how tough some elements of motherhood are. In addition to thinking, “I miss my old life”, you might miss the person you used to be too, in all your various identities—partner, colleague, friend, daughter—and feel that being a parent has overshadowed all of these. But feeling the loss of your old life doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or that you’d give up what you’ve got now. The key to reframing this negative thought is to keep reminding yourself of this.
Tip: There’s a taboo around admitting any form of regret when it comes to parenthood but suffering in silence can lead to feelings of isolation. Sharing your struggles with fellow parent friends will help you to feel less alone as they may be feeling the same way too. If you can, find a way to carve out some time for yourself to re-connect with the things you loved to do pre-baby which you haven’t done in a while – a 20 minute nap sounds good to us!
Reframe this negative thought: "I’m putting my needs before my baby’s"
Although it might not always feel like it, you are still your own person with individual needs and desires. You’re not alone if you feel that you need an hour to yourself, but this can also leave you feeling guilty for putting your needs first. It’s important to take care of your own physical and mental health because your wellbeing matters too. Ultimately, feeling revived after a break will help you to take better care of your baby, so everyone’s a winner.
Tip: If you have someone to watch your baby use the time to do something you love —take a bath, go for a walk, read a book— set aside some time just for you each week. Read our postpartum self-care tips for more ideas.
Reframe this negative thought: "I wish my fussy baby was easier"
You might think your baby cries more than other people’s or that they are a “bad sleeper” or “bad eater” and therefore use labels like “fussy baby” or “high needs baby”. There’s no doubt about it, coping with a crying baby can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Don’t worry, many parents feel this way.
Tip: Try not to compare your little one to other babies and remember that the picture-perfect snapshots of parenthood that you see on social media are not showing the whole truth. Speak to your healthcare professional if you’re worried about persistent fussiness.
Reframe this negative thought: "We’re behind with our baby milestones, something must be wrong"
All babies are unique and develop at their own pace in how they move, speak, learn, play, and behave. Some may be chatting away from an early age but may take longer to master skills like walking, or vice versa. Although it’s easy to worry if your child seems to be developing slower than others, try not to fixate too much on milestones or comparing your baby to others.
Tip: If you’re worried, speak to your healthcare professional. Keep in mind that developmental progress is not always steady—they may just surprise you and take that giant leap when you least expect it! And remember, for every first-steps video you see posted on social media there will be many other babies struggling to pull themselves up, so try not to compare.
Reframe this negative thought: "I feel guilty for returning to work"
Sometimes returning to work is a necessity for family finances, sometimes it’s just something you need to do for yourself—whatever your reason, it is valid. Lots of parents feel guilty for returning to work and not being at home with their baby—but you can only be in one place at a time, and there’s only so much that one person can do.
Tip: Ask your employer about the possibility of flexible working if you think that would help with the work-life juggle. Do your research to ensure you feel comfortable with your childcare decisions and know that your baby is in an environment where they will thrive.
Reframe this negative thought: "I’m feeling lonely after having baby"
New parents are generally tired and time-poor. There are many reasons you’re probably not socialising as much as you used to. So it’s not surprising you’re feeling lonely, even with a baby in your arms. Seeking more adult interaction doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the time you spend with your baby.
Tip: Feeling isolated as a new parent is quite common. But the good news is there are many ways to tackle this, whether that’s by joining a mothers’ or parents group, going to an exercise class with a friend, or just popping to the coffee shop and having a chat to the barista!
*Local survey conducted by McNair Yellow Square, December 2020. The research study included 206 Australian parents with a child under 2 years of age