With new research coming out this week saying that mums spending time online were more anxious than those that didn't, it got me thinking about how I used the internet when I was a new(ish) mum.
More importantly, it got me thinking what I'd do differently.
This is great advice for parents (mums and dads) and parents to be.
I was not one of those people that breezed into parenting and found it simple to be at home with a baby, although really, who is that person?
The first sign that being at home with a baby might be hard for me was maternity leave – the first week I was practically hanging from the ceilings!
For someone who relished feeling ‘productive’in the way our culture defines productive, it was hard to feel soooo ‘unproductive’ as a new parent.
It was such an adjustment to run by my baby’s body clock (‘nature time’) rather than the industrial clock our world now abides by.
It was so frustrating to get one thing done a day, if I was lucky. To not know what the next day or week would hold. SO MANY FREAKIN’ WONDER WEEKS!
I was tired and lonely. I missed being with my colleagues and socialising with friends that were now on different time schedules.
So I went online. A lot.
Being on the phone made me feel like I was doing SOMETHING all those hours when I was feeding and I was online every time I breastfed her.
Seeing the online world made me feel more like I was out in that world and a part of it, like I was socialising enough for me.
On the big plus side, being online exposed me to some cracking parenting blogs (I can highly recommend Janet Lansbury) and meant I could share the highs, lows and puzzles of early parenting through my Baby Centre birth month forum. The Raising Children’s Network gave me access to evidence-based information to relieve anxiety in decision-making. I shared photos and videos with people I loved around the world.
These are all the beautiful parts of being online, the parts that make life that much better and easier.
The thing was though, that I wasn’t just online for reasons of fun, interest or purpose.
I was online because it was easy, because it was habit and because I could numb out all the frustration, loneliness and boredom of early parenting through that handy escape.
This is fine for every now and then, but when ongoing it starts to interrupt the critical self-care and makes life that much harder.
Instead of problem solving and fixing or adapting to what we are struggling with in our lives, we just keep checking-out online.
In particular, always reaching for the phone when I wasn’t interacting with my baby* meant that I slept less and found it harder to get to sleep.
We all know how well we go with crappy sleep. Everything becomes really hard.
Being online a lot also meant I wasn’t proactive about easing my isolation and really wasn’t in touch with how difficult I was finding things. This meant I spent a lot of time without the support I needed, and could have found, had I reached out.
Lastly, it meant that my life wasn’t where it could have been in terms of getting the day to day stuff done which makes it run more smoothly.
So for me – and I’m not saying we’re all like this – being online a lot made me more tired and stressed, more out of touch with my needs and less inclined to make my life the way I wanted and needed it to be.
So what would I do differently next time, should I be so lucky? (There are a million things, but here are a few relevant snippets)
· Go online when it was the most loving choice for me – for actual fun, connection or for a purpose, not to escape or numb.
· Seek out as much connection and support as I need, in whatever form I can, whenever I can. Shamelessly!
· I would turn off the phone and have good quality rest or sleep whenever an opportunity arose.
· If I’m having a problem with something, I’d write about it, talk about it and try to work it out, rather than assuming that now I’ve got a baby I just have to put up with everything. We really do have a lot of choice, even with the new constraints.
· I’d be more careful with my thinking and language (crazy sleepless brain willing). I hope I’d look more at what is happening e.g. I’m tired and the baby is crying, and jump less to my old dramatic thoughts that make me feel AWFUL, like ‘this is a nightmare’ ‘I can’t cope’ and ‘this is too hard’.
Above all, I would endeavour to choose things that create joy in my life and leave me feeling better than when I started, wherever possible.
Choosing things that are easy but leave you feeling crappy, is a recipe for blahhhh.
So those are my reflections, I hope that they validate your experiences and/or help out people living this now and in the future. For those of you that didn’t experience any of this, you can just feel really smug ;)
If you’re feeling blah for more than a week, do tell your maternal and child health nurse and your GP, look up Beyondblue , COPE and call PANDA. Funding has been cut but there is still a lot of support around.
Lots of love to all
* Don't worry y'all, I spent LOADS of quality interaction time with my wee gal, I just grabbed the phone any time she was asleep, in the pram, not looking... She actually didn't get any screen time except through Skype until after two. So yeah, I was all about the ol' double standard!!
Hi, I'm Dr Lara Corr, life coach and researcher in work and wellbeing. I coach successful 30 and 40 somethings who want more fulfilling or bigger careers but doubt themselves and their options. I help them get out of their own way, find direction and go for what they really want.