Feelings versus reality
For many people, maintaining a balanced view of their own parenting ability can be a struggle, resulting in a severe lack of confidence.
Adam Ferronato from St John of God Raphael Services, which provides community-based emotional support for new parents, said new mums and dads were often surprised by the difference between their expectations of the first year of parenthood and the reality.
The Psychologist said people from all backgrounds could experience big emotional challenges as new or expectant mums and dads.
"People come to us to talk about the impact that antenatal and postnatal depression, anxiety or other mental health issues are having on their partners, their children and their relationship with their partner," he said.
"We see people from white- and blue-collar backgrounds, some with large supportive families, and some with limited support networks. Some have been to counselling before, while others have never stepped into a psychologist’s consulting room.
"What unites them is that most never would have imagined that they, or their partners, would need to use the service.
"Most are blindsided by the anxiety and depression that can sometimes be part of the journey."
Adam said it was important that parents recognised there was a difference between their feelings of fear and insecurity, and actual reality – something that can be very hard to do when they are sleep-deprived, anxious and juggling many roles in their lives.
"The people who come seeking help are capable of being great mums or dads, but for many reasons they don't feel like they are," Adam said.
"Our clients at Raphael Services often tell us about the things they think they are doing poorly, but in reality, they're forgetting about the many valuable things they do each day that make them good parents.
"Helping parents to have a more balanced view of their role as mum or dad is quite powerful."
Raphael Services can help parents to recognise when they find themselves ‘over thinking’, worrying or trying to avoid their feelings related to birth or parenthood.
"There is likely going to be a time where, for a while at least, you and your partner are stretched beyond your limits," Adam said.
The good news is, help is available.
"Being a new parent is the time to lean on your friends and family. It is time to ask for help when you need it," Adam said.
"If you are not feeling ok emotionally, make an appointment with your GP and ask for a referral to a service that specialises in perinatal mental health."
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