Fear 1: Having a job will have a negative effect on my child
Having some sort of job, even if it’s only part time can give your self esteem a real boost, but many women worry about the effects of being a working mum on their child. “The important thing is to make sure that when you’re with your child you’re spending quality time together,” says Sharon Charlton-Thompson, managing director of the parent coaching company. “Work hard at work, and then really focus on your child when you get home.” Here are some more back-to-work tips to make life for your baby happier and life for yourself easier:
- Be realistic about childcare. Find something regular and reliable, and make sure you give yourself plenty of travelling time to get from your baby carer to work and vice versa.
- Find out about family friendly practices in your work place. Up to 60% of employers say they allow their staff to work flexible hours and nearly half offer stress counselling. For more information on your rights as an employee, seek advice from ACAS (www.acas.co.uk)
- Talk about your working day when you get home. Spend a few minutes chatting over your day to your partner or a friend to get it off your chest, and then forget about it! You must be able to switch off from work once you get home.
- Make the most of your time off and make sure you do something as a family at the weekend.
Fear 2: Being a single mum will short-change my baby
Being a lone parent means having to take decisions and face challenges by yourself – a scary but ultimately rewarding prospect. It’s important to try and discuss any parenting issues with someone you can trust – another parent or friend. Avoid sharing you worries with your children – it can be confusing when they see you as capable and confident. If you’d like more advice, try a helpline such as Parentline Plus or Gingerbread, a lone-parent support group. And make sure you take some time out regularly – it can seem like a real luxury when you’re a single parent, but is really important. Spending time with other adults will bring perspective and balance to your life, when you may feel too focussed on your children.
Fear 3: I’ll lose my temper and get angry with my baby
It is really very normal for a mother to get cross with her child – however young and helpless her baby might be. “Don’t be afraid to get angry,” says Sharon, “just learn how to deal with your anger in a less destructive way.” Remember not to set your expectation too high – if you’re determined never to raise your voice at your child, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s very important to have realistic expectations of yourself as a human being – only the most saintly (and dull!) among us never get annoyed. And in the meantime, focus on making life easier for yourself – a bit of self-care will reduce your likelihood of getting angry dramatically.
Fear 4: My mum wasn’t a good parent, and I’m worried I’ll be the same
It’s easy to fear that you’ll repeat the same mistakes your parents made with your own children. “Many mums-to-be worry that they will have the same negative parenting qualities as their own mothers,” says Sharon. “Although this is a natural fear, we encourage them to focus on the positive rather than the negative. In other words, to focus on what sort of parent you’d like to be, rather than what sort of parent you don’t want to be.” So, for example, if your mother was neglectful and showed little interest in you, decide that you want t be very involved in your children’s lives – use your bad experience in a positive way. “When you’re pregnant, it’s a great time to think about the sort of parent you want to be,” says Sharon. “Have fun and remember you can learn positively from the past.”
Fear 5: I won’t bond with my child
“This is a very common fear,” says Sharon. “We try and reassure mums-to-be that they will experience a complete mixture of feelings when they first meet their babies – shock, grief, amazement – and bonding doesn’t happen straight away for a lot of mums.” Sharon’s advice for mothers is to keep talking through any fear of not loving your child: when you’re pregnant, the consequences of fear – stress and anxiety – are potentially harmful to your unborn baby, and voicing worries will really help you conquer them. “And if, a few months down the line, you still don’t feel like you’ve bonded with your baby, don’t feel guilty – talk it over with someone you trust, a health visitor or a good friend.”
Could parenting classes help?
You may feel that parenting should come ‘naturally’ but this isn’t the case for many new mums and dads. And, even if you do take to it like a duck to water, classes can help you hone your parenting skills and make you the best mum you can be. According to the BBC, evidence from the US shows that parenting classes help to improve children’s schoolwork and academic success as well as reducing bad behaviour.
In most parenting classes you’ll learn how to cope with, and learn what to expect from, every stage of your child’s development, as well as ways to deal with behavioural problems. You’ll also have the chance to meet other parents and talk over techniques, as well as being taught stress and anger management skills.
Some courses are run by local authority or health trust providers. These may be free, but for most a fee is payable. Other courses are run privately and will also charge (prices vary wildly and can be from around £40 for an online course, or more than £200 for a block of group sessions). To find a course try your local library, GP, Citizens Advice Bureau or school. Some classes offer specific problem related programmes so make sure that you find the right class for you if you have particular requirements. And don’t think pregnancy is too early to start seeking support – according to Sharon Charlton-Thompson, about 20% of her clients at the Parent Coaching Company are mums-to-be and they are well equipped with coaches who work specifically with this group.
Will I be a good enough parent?
If you want to be the best mum possible but don’t know where to start, have a think now about what sort of parental qualities you’d like to have. A useful exercise for mums-to-be is to consider the following questions and write down your answers as a ‘template’ for parenting once your new baby arrives:
- What have you learned about being a parent so far in your life?
- From that learning, what do you want to ditch and what do you want to use for your family?
- How would you describe the kind of parent you want to be remembered as?
- What are the emotional legacies you want to leave your child?
- What strengths do you have that will help you as a parent? How will they help?
- What expectations of yourself and your child do you have? How realistic are they?
- What do you need to think and feel or do in order for you to be the parent you really want to be?