What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

The internet helps new parents feel less alone

By Janet Michelmore

The internet helps new parents feel less alone

There were so many aspects of my life where I was confident, but being a new parent definitely wasn’t one of them.

As a teacher, I could command the attention of hundreds of teenage girls but then I gave birth, severing my confidence nerve in the process.

In those first few months, I misplaced my self-esteem in the chaotic mess my life had become. I was both totally in love with my new son and paralysed with fear. I felt like I was completely out of my depth.

When I read the posts written by new parents on the What Were We Thinking (WWWT) blog, all these memories instantly come flooding back in such a real way. The feeling of being alone, feeling like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and feeling like “I broke my baby!”.

30 years ago it was taboo to admit to not coping. Women put on a brave face which only reinforced my sense of failure. If only I had had access to something like the WWWT blog back when I first became a mother. This is evidence based, e-mental health initiative supports the emotional well-being of new parents through shared experience, education and immediate access to expert advice. The blog shares the honest experiences of new parents, from the loneliness and complete confusion to the joy that a beaming smile brings.

I had gone from a successful and rewarding career, working as part of a team, to being alone at home with a baby. The reality was that I thought I was prepared and that I’d know how to manage. How wrong I was. Almost instantly, I was confronted by a world where sleep is precious (and extremely limited), a crying baby and feelings of total inadequacy. To be honest, I was floundering.

One of the biggest problems was the conflicting advice I was receiving.

From the Maternal & Child Health Nurse to the Midwife, from friends and family to my paediatrician, everyone had a different opinion on how things should be done.

It was extremely difficult to know what to do. Being confused, however, was not the only issue. I felt like a failure, like the only one who couldn’t get it right. This really knocked my confidence. The truth was that my experiences were totally normal. If only I had known.

Sharing experiences of parenting, in an open and honest way, can really help to build confidence and tackle the feelings of loneliness. The WWWT blog lets parents know, by reading the experiences of other parents, that they are not the only ones.

This is so important.

The stories and experiences have not changed, new mothers are still lonely, confused and lack confidence. The difference is that now they have a place to share their stories, learn from each other’s experiences and know that they are not alone.

The WWWT blog aims to equip new parents across Australia with practical and emotional skills to transition smoothly into their new roles as mum and dad. Skills like settling and wrapping, gaining confidence as a parent and dealing with the inevitable judgemental comments (“what have you been doing all day?” and “why aren’t you dressed yet?” come to mind). We invite new parents to blog about their experiences. These blog posts are then responded to by either our Maternal and Child Health Nurse or our Psychologist where they provide a “teachable moment”. This format helps to support both the parents and the blog’s audience.

Janet Michelmore (AO) is the daughter of the late Dr. Jean Hailes, a passionate advocate of women’s health and the mother of three children. Executive Director at Jean Hailes for Women's Health, she was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2001 for her service to women’s health and has held a number of positions on committees and working parties such as the Victorian Government Ministerial Advisory Committee on Women's Health (1997 to 2003).  This post was originally published on mamamia.com.au

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