You may be stuck in traffic after an unusually long meeting at work and late to pick up your child. Or you may be exasperated over why the baby is resisting yet another nap. The stress that comes with schedules and commitments are not to be dismissed easily, and sometimes, it can be positive in that it drives us to maintain some kind of order in our daily lives.
But stress can work against us and render us in states of anxiety if we are not conscious in managing it well, and that is when we need to take a step back, breathe a little and remind ourselves that if everything else fails, it is all about the big picture.
This is, of course, easier said than done.
New day, new challenges
Being a first-time mum, each day presents new parenting and caregiving obstacles that baffle me, some of which are more easily handled than others. I have accumulated a grand total of zero experience in tackling each new challenge and naturally, I get flustered when certain situations appear to escalate in severity.
For example, when my daughter was younger and still being exclusively breastfed, I would fret over how much she drank. She refused the bottle and I had no way of measuring the quantity she was taking in. This frustrated me quite a bit, especially when I had conversations with parents who could quantify how much their babies drank until I realised that the numbers did not matter, so long as she was healthy, reaching her milestones and happy.
That was the big picture I needed to see when I was so caught up in the absence of numbers. Once I grasped the big picture, breastfeeding became so much more enjoyable and I grew a lot more intuitive about her nutritional needs.
Even though my daughter is 2.5 years old now, the chase to overcome challenges in parenting has no end because the obstacles simply take on different forms as she grows older. For instance, my daughter generally had no problems in the eating department save for a few one-off episodes in the past. But it has been two weeks since she went on a meal strike.
It came swiftly, caught me off-guard and she would not eat, no matter what I offered her, even her favourite foods and snacks. She has barely eaten anything for the past fortnight and I cannot help but wonder out loud to my husband if she has the capacity to even feel hungry. I have, truth be told, been so worried on a few evenings that I lost sleep over how best to nourish her. Whilst I tore my hair out over her recent meal strike, I do, however, know that she is not ill, appears to be happy and is very much herself.
The kids are all right
This big picture is an excellent indication that she is alright and that the meal strike is likely to be a phase that I need not worry about unless it affects her health and development. This big picture brings me back to the here-and-now and reminds me of what is important and what I should not get hung up on.
These are just two of the countless things that bothered me as a first-time mother; I am certain that there will be more to come. And I know that however minuscule the problems are, they can wear us out and bring our confidence as parents to a new low if we do not let go of certain details to focus on the big picture. Naturally, we want to give the very best to our children and that is why we tend to obsess over the microscopic aspects of whatever we do, but the point is there is no cookie-cutter approach to doing the parenting gig right.
I know for a fact that my friends and I take care of and parent our children in vastly different ways at times, but the kids turn out alright, regardless. The big picture is what matters at the end of the day, and if we can take a step back to have a look at it, being a first-time mum may just be a lot more manageable than what we think the role entails.
By Rachel Tan
This article was first published in The New Age Parents online magazine.
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To read the rest of our First-time Mum series, click on the articles below.