Parent Mental Health Day: Four tips to avoid new-parent loneliness
Ahead of Parent Mental Health Day, Bolt Burdon Kemp Digital Communications Executive, who is also new mum talks us through what she’s learned to protect her mental health after becoming a parent.
Can you ever fully prepare for having a baby?
No, you definitely cannot.
You can however give yourself the best chance at being mentally prepared for what’s to come.
Before I had my son, I often looked at my own mum and wondered, how does she do it? Manage a house filled with four kids, work full time as an NHS nurse and still have the capacity to make us feel loved? How does one expand their bandwidth?
As a teenager, I would study hard for my exams and think, ‘no way could I look after a kid and do all this work’. Turns out, I can – but it takes organisation, patience and time. Your mental health plays a huge part in balancing work and home life as a parent.
The theme for parental mental health day, which takes place on January 27, is ‘creating positive relationships’ which I liken to the well-known phrase – ‘it takes a village’. It takes a village to not only raise a child but also to stop you as the parent from losing yourself and/or feeling lost. All of this plays a major part in keeping your mental health in check.
What is a positive relationship?
A positive relationship is a connection you have with a person that enriches you.
They contribute to your happiness and help make the weight of the world lighter. They bring you joy and even peace and will help nurture a safe environment for you to offload and vent in.
A positive relationship goes both ways so in this exchange, you should also be a light in that person’s life, and you can have several of these relationships. This can come in the form of your partner, friend, colleague, the local fish and chips lady, midwife etc. It’s positive because it has a positive effect on you.
Why do I need a positive relationship?
Decades of psychological research has definitively proven that humans need to create strong connections and those connections play a significant role in our mental wellbeing.
Most parents will tell you that they felt isolated in the first year of their child’s life, felt lonely and maybe even sad. This is normal because the truth is, although you have just experienced such an overwhelmingly beautiful event, everyone else still must get on with life as they know it. This can often leave you feeling stuck in a lonesome bubble and this is where those positive relationships come to save the day.
Research shows that “when people are socially connected and have stable and supportive relationships, they are more likely to make healthy choices and to have better mental and physical health outcomes.”
Research from Nottingham Trent University shows that “at the same time, having strong social connections offer different sources of support and direction.”
How do I create a positive relationship? Where do I start?
- If you’re feeling lost the first thing to do is tap back into your circle. Talk to your partner, your sibling, your bestie, your work mum, whoever you trust and like then ‘pull them for a chat’ (as they say on Love Island). Tell them how you’re feeling, what you’re struggling with. Sometimes just talking can take a lot of the stress and weight away.
- Think about how to utilise your work to help improve your mental health. What perks does your employer offer? At Bolt Burdon Kemp, one thing I’m grateful for is flexible working which we have been doing since 2003! Flexible working means I can manage my time according to my life schedule – (of course if meetings and obligations allow).
To break it down, if I needed to start my day a little later for the school drop off, I can. If I need to work from home and escape taking two trains and a bus on my jam-packed London commute, I can. Having this flexibility really helps remove the mental gymnastics I’m often doing in my brain to manage being a working mum, wife and…well person.
For most of us, post-pandemic life has meant no longer being confined to the four walls of the office and chained to the desk. We can have a little more wiggle room which can positively impact our mental health.
- If you’re needing some fresh faces, join a parenting group.
There are so many local groups free of charge with like-minded parents going through the exact same stage of parenthood. It feels good to know you’re not alone. Going through sleep deprivation made me feel like I had unwillingly volunteered to be tortured and although my mum did this four times, it was 20-odd years ago so I wasn’t getting the validation and the on-the-ground advice I needed.
I went to a parent group locally and was greeted with the same miserable but understanding smiles with a wealth of good tips and reassuring nods. This really helped burst my bubble and gave me a little community that created a sense of comradery.
- Speak to the other parents at work.
They know stuff. They really do.
You will find that people really get you when going for your fifth coffee and are exchanging war stories!
I think you get the picture, keep and make friends! At Bolt Burdon Kemp, my colleague Hannah Travis started BBKids – a social group for parents and children at our firm. It’s a great hub to share stories, gain perspective and general fun for the kids with our get-togethers in the office. My son really liked the soft play area at our recent BBKids fun day, and I enjoyed talking to my colleagues about any and everything to do with our kids and life generally.
The most important positive relationship is the one with yourself
I know we’ve all heard about self-care but becoming a parent is when I really learned the value of it.
Rediscover your passions or find new ones and just do them. If you can, find a couple of hours or preferably a day in the week whilst your partner or loved one looks after the baby and do something for you.
For me, it has been as simple as getting my nails done, going to the studio to write and sing or even actually going into the office. Yes, I spend a good portion of that time scrolling through pictures and videos of my son but it gives me a good energy boost to go back home and be the best parent I can be for him.