Why new parents are reluctant to ask for help – and what to do
The moment you’ve been waiting for nine months has finally come. Your baby has arrived, and you’re ready to start your life as a family.
While this is all exciting news, the stress of taking care of your newborn can really take a toll on your physical and mental health. Amidst changing diapers, breastfeeding, and soothing your baby, your personal needs and the outside world often remain neglected.
Parenting in the first weeks can be incredibly overwhelming, yet many new parents are afraid to ask for help. UK baby brand, Nuby, delves into the psychology behind that and how you can gain the courage to ask for the support you need.
Why are new parents afraid to ask for help?
A survey of 2,000 parents by the Norwegian children’s solutions company Stokke found that 71% of the respondents were reluctant to ask for help during the first weeks of parenting. But what are the motives behind this new parent psychology?
It mainly comes down to fear of failure and how parents are perceived by the outside world. 40% of the respondents feared that others would think they couldn’t cope, while 23% didn’t want to be labelled as a bad parent.
Self-judgement also plays a major role in parenthood and can impact one’s perception of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are, thus becoming even more unwilling to seek external help.
The survey showed 81% of mothers are more prone to feeling self-judgemental about their parenting style and choices, with 66% of fathers feeling the same way. When it comes to following parenting experts’ advice, 71% of mothers said they were feeling guilty about not being able to do what they were advised, along with 57% of fathers.
The consequences of postnatal stress
We all know that stress can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. That is especially true for new parents overwhelmed by the complexities of parenthood.
Alongside pressure to be a perfect mum or dad, new parents experience a variety of frustration, as shown in the survey conducted by Stokke. These include not being able to fulfil your personal needs, such as sleep, eating, showering, and never getting anything done but soothing a crying baby.
All of this built-up stress can lead to postnatal depression. According to the NHS, it affects one in 10 women within a year of giving birth, and it can also affect men. The symptoms include a persistent low mood, lack of energy, problems concentrating, and a general lack of enjoyment and interest in the wider world.
How to ask for help
Luckily, there are ways you can alleviate postpartum stress and prevent depression. Asking for help is one of them. The NHS advises getting most of the help you can because you can’t do everything by yourself.
And even if you can, being a strong and capable parent, why would you risk your personal and your baby’s wellbeing?
The first people to turn to for help are your friends and family. They can take over some household chores for you or look after your baby for a few hours while you have some ‘me time’. They can also give you great mental and emotional support, as you share with them your concerns and the difficulties you’re experiencing. There is nothing better than a mum’s warm cuddle or a friend’s genuine advice.
Being well-prepared for a life as new parents can also help you alleviate some of that stress. Do your research about raising a child while you’re pregnant, set-up the nursery room, and make sure you get all your newborn essentials before your baby arrives.
There are also a lot of groups that can offer you great peer support. You will meet people who are in the same boat as you, so you can exchange valuable parenting tips while enjoying a nice picnic in the park for example. Check your local social media to find such groups.
As a new parent, you want to do the best you can, and that’s wonderful. But getting too stuck in your own ways and being too self-critical of yourself can cause you stress and can even lead to postnatal depression. In order to take some weight off your shoulders and regain your energy and vitality, don’t be afraid to seek help. Your future self will thank you!
Photo by Kelly Sikkema