We look at tricky new-mom situations and give expert advice and strategies to cope. By Xanet Scheepers
Sometimes, as a new mom, you’ll find yourself in difficult situations, when you aren’t sure what to do or say. We look at five scenarios and give expert advice on how to take each one in your stride.
Unsolicited advice from grandparents
Dilemma: You are at dinner at your parents’ house and your baby gets overstimulated because there are so many people and so much noise. Your parents tell you not to shield your baby from the noise and that she needs to get used to it. How do you handle this situation effectively without hurting their feelings, but also making the point that an overstimulated baby is difficult for you to deal with?
Solution: Author of Parenting with Panache, Dereck Jackson, says it’s important to remember that grandparents are a great source of support, but not always the best source of advice. “Grandma thinks she remembers what it was like to raise a child 30 years ago, but in reality she can’t. The world has also changed.”
“Clearly, your baby is upset and she is expressing this by crying. You need to tend to her needs to understand what she is trying to communicate,” says effectiveness training instructor, CEO of Parent & Educational Training in South Africa and representative of Gordon Training International, Heidi Malan. She advises talking to your baby and letting her know that you can hear she is upset and frightened by all the noises. “Pick your baby up and leave the room with her until she has calmed down. You can then try to re-enter the dinner area.
“As for the grandparents, tell them you appreciate their help and guidance, but that it’s important to you to address your child’s behaviour with your own set of skills, as it will help you to learn and grow from the experience,” says Heidi. “Chances are, once your child has settled, your parents won’t feel the need to comment.”
People wanting to pick up your baby
Dilemma: You are at a braai with friends and people are having a drink or two. How do you say no to people who just want to touch and hold your baby?
Solution: You have to communicate assertively and honestly, says Heidi. “Take your baby from the person and say, ‘I can see you like babies, but she gets upset when she’s suddenly picked up, and it makes me anxious because then I have to deal with her.’ By effectively describing the behaviour (what the person is doing) and communicating how you will be affected (soothing a crying baby), you are confronting a person without being rude, attacking, or being submissive,” explains Heidi.
Going back to work
Dilemma: You don’t know whether you should go back to your job after maternity leave.
Solution: “The best place for a child for the first two years is with his mother,” says Dereck, “but you need to think about what is going to fulfil your needs.”
Some moms prefer staying at home with their kids, while others prefer going back to work because they enjoy it. “Don’t stay home with your baby if you think you might resent your child later on,” says Dereck. If you enjoy working, go back to work and ensure that you have a reliable child carer or nanny to look after your little one while you are at work.
Heidi adds that many factors play a role in this decision – what works for one parent doesn’t necessarily work for another. “Firstly, ask yourself what makes you doubt the idea of going back to work. If there is something that makes you feel uncomfortable, explore your wants and needs before making a decision. Also, put aside everyone else’s opinions and ask yourself what will be the best for you.”
The search for perfection
Dilemma: You’re on maternity leave for four months and you’re at home all day. You think you’re going to have plenty time to make sure the house is spotless, the laundry is washed and folded and dinner is on the table when your partner gets home, but you soon realise this isn’t going to happen and you’re feeling a sense of failure.
Solution: It’s natural to have expectations before becoming a parent, says Heidi. “For nine months, you’ve been picturing yourself as the perfect mother who has time to handle a baby and household duties, but then reality hits. Your baby has brought change into your life and the only way forward is to adapt by managing your expectations and aligning them with reality.”
Heidi recommends including your partner in the problem-solving process. “Let him know that you aren’t coping and communicate to him that you would like to have a discussion about how you can solve the problem together. Write down all the ideas and pick one that works for both of you. Give the solution a timeline and if that doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board.”
Dereck advises hiring a domestic worker to help with the housework if you are financially able to. However, if you have a nanny looking after »
your little one during the day, she can’t take on the housework too and you need to get a second helper to take charge of that. “You don’t want your nanny’s attention to be on the housework when she needs to take care of your baby’s needs.”
Parenting against your values
Dilemma: Your toddler’s behaviour is out of control and none of your discipline methods seem to work. Your friends say you should smack her, or she’ll never learn and grow into a decent human being. What can you do to enforce discipline without smacking and how do you deal with the situation if you smacked your child and feel guilty about it now?
Solution: “My belief is smacking should be reserved for life-threatening situations only, and only for children younger than four years,” says Dereck. “Only one smack on the bum without using an instrument of punishment like a wooden spoon or a slipper – only your hand,” he stresses. “The object of the smack is not to cause pain, it is to reinforce your verbal command.”
A child older than four years shouldn’t be smacked, as they are old enough to understand verbal instructions. Regardless of your child’s age, never smack your child out of temper.
If you have smacked your child out of temper, apologise to her once you have both calmed down. “It is important to honestly tell your child why you smacked her and why the behaviour was unacceptable to you. Tell your child you want to discuss the unacceptable behaviour and you would appreciate her input on how to handle the matter differently in the future,” says Heidi. “By allowing her to be part of the problem-solving process, you will make her feel important and responsible for her behaviour in the future.”
She adds that it’s important to effectively disclose and self-disclose information about what to expect when visiting grandma’s house or going to the shops, or anywhere else for that matter. This will eliminate the element of surprise for your child as she’ll know what you want and need in advance. Knowing what to expect will also help her feel secure and confident.
“Physical punishment or the threat thereof only works because of fear. As a parent, you are bigger, stronger and smarter – you have the power. However, as your child grows older, your power diminishes. The more power you use to control a child when he’s young, the less long-term influence you will have in your child’s life,” explains Heidi.
Discipline means to set the example. Try and see discipline from a perspective of ‘Be curious, not furious’, as this might help you remember that all behaviour meets a need. When we can understand and validate a child’s behaviour, we can help them change it out of consideration rather than compliance, fear of punishment, or receiving rewards,” says Heidi.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.