Transitioning to Parenthood
By: Bryann Bausch, LCSW
Recently, I read an article that spoke about having children as being one of the most complex transitions in a person’s lifetime. As a clinician who has worked in maternal mental health for over a decade and also in my third trimester of my third pregnancy, I can honestly say I completely agree with this concept. The transition into parenthood brings forward significant change in our roles, identity, individuality, relationships, professionality, and other important areas of life. And as it is with most changes in life, it presents with a rainbow of mixed emotions that range anywhere from happiness to fear. In hearing this, one might expect the transition to be hard, but as a society it seems we often minimize this experience which under prepares parents for the complexity of the transition and to the contrary it can cause significant shock for many parents.
So how do we prepare for this life altering transition? Well, let’s first acknowledge that there is no true way to be fully prepared for the future, but people can start by just opening up the conversation and getting curious. How does your world look now before having kids? What roles and responsibilities do you have now? Will they change? The answer to that question, if you are wondering, is yes. We cannot bring another life into this world as parents without some change in roles and responsibility. Time is another topic to get curious about. What does your available time look like now and how do we incorporate these new responsibilities into our existing time? In general what might change? What might look different? If we have a partner through this transition, what roles and responsibilities do they have and what might that look like for them or your relationship?
Opening up the conversation allows space for individuals to express needs, concerns, and expectations. Be mindful to manage expectations by keeping them within reason. I would recommend naming our expectations with the understanding that these will evolve over time. Again, it’s most important to expect that change is inevitable and is challenging for all people in one way or another. By communicating with a partner, friend, family member and/or counselor, individuals can help to reduce the shock of the transition, gain comfort and familiarity in discussing the transition and create a pathway for ongoing conversations in the future.