Updated: Feb 24, 2020
There has been a lot of discussion flying around recently about de-cluttering. My newsfeed is full of friends who are emptying their handbags or decimating their wardrobes. The argument is that it can help you feel joyful and free and enhance your mental well-being.
Being one of life’s natural hoarders I am quite sceptical about all of this but, to be fair, it did get me thinking. What de-cluttering could we usefully do as parents? Especially as new parents? What should we be letting go of which would give us a sense of release and positivity?
So here you go...
My top 5 items for a Newborn De-clutter (in no particular order)
(p.s yes I cheated a bit but a mental de-clutter is just as valuable as a physical one)
#1 Previous Experiences
Okay, so this one might not apply to everyone but I bet it applies to quite a few of you.
This baby is different to every other baby on the planet. What you (or your family or your mate) have experienced before might not happen again (for good or for bad) so churning it over and over is probably not helpful.
I see this quite a lot from a feeding point of view – “I had no milk last time so I won’t have this time” for example – but it also happens commonly with pregnancy and birth.
In order to clear out this type of clutter you may find it helpful to talk over your experiences and fears with a knowledgeable professional. Many hospitals offer a birth revisit type service for you to explore and understand what happened. Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) can be very useful for unpicking negative feeding experiences so that you can put them to rest and move on positively.
#2 Unhelpful Comments
You know, things like
“is he feeding AGAIN? Are you sure he’s getting enough?”,
“she’s manipulating you to get you to cuddle her”, or
“he doesn’t look much like a boy”.
Probably the single biggest cause of people booking to see me when actually nothing is wrong. They can come from any direction, from anyone, at any time. They crop up when you least expect them and can send you sprawling. It is hard to know why some comments can slide effortlessly over your head while you nod and smile to look grateful for such pearls of wisdom. Others, however, stick in deep and can really affect your confidence. They can also build up behind your back – you think you’re okay and laugh each one off but the cumulative effect is not so easy to ignore.
Don’t hoard these up in your head because you’ll keep revisiting them over and over again. If you have a concern then look into it actively with a suitably qualified professional.
Then LET IT GO!
#3 Unrealistic Expectations of your Baby
These can often come from people around us as we are social beings and learn from each other.
Is it likely your baby will be sleeping for 9 hour stretches at 3 month? No!
Should they be able to deal with everything that is going on around them, and in them, without pretty much constant support from their parents (ie lots of cuddles)? No!
Should they hit milestones at exactly the point the book says they should? No!
Seek out a source of reliable, evidence based information and educate yourself about what is biologically normal. It will reduce your stress level, I promise.
So what if Julie’s little boy is running around the room while yours is sitting lumped in the middle like a pudding. They all learn different skills at different times. Any they are all learning. All. The. Time. Even if you can’t see the results immediately.
We all do it at some point but holding on to those comparisons could ultimately damage your relationship with your child and your ability to see what truly shines from them. So aim to chuck out those unhelpful comparisons as soon as they pop up.
#5 Unrealistic Expectations of Yourself
Yep. I need this one. Big time!
You are not superwoman (all the time!), you cannot be perfect, you are going to get something wrong or not as good as it could be on a regular basis. That is called being a normal human being.
We all want to do the very best for our children and the tendency to beat ourselves up if we don’t quite reach our expectations is extremely common. So maybe you could just lower your expectations a bit? And give yourself more than one chance to get it right?
It is your very first time parenting this particular child on this particular day in this particular combination of circumstances. A new skill takes time and practice to fully master so it isn’t really surprising that we slip occasionally. Could you try treating yourself as you would like your child to be treated in school when they are learning a new skill? Aim to be sensitive, supportive, understanding – as well as encouraging yourself always to keep getting better bit by bit.
I'm sure there are many, many helpful things I could have chosen for new parents to chuck out from their mental baggage. Feel free to comment and suggest some more!
Hopefully this has given you a bit to think about and given you a nudge towards looking to do some self-care for your poor brain and mental state.
Peace and good health to you all!