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Why Every Parent Should Have a Therapist

If you are anything like me, you probably spent a lot of your free time as an expecting mother reading as much information as possible about how to prepare yourself for parenthood. I actually read my older sisters’ copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” several years ago before I was even married or even engaged for that matter. During my own pregnancy, I subscribed to parenting magazines and read them religiously. I borrowed books about breastfeeding from friends. I scrolled the internet reading reviews and recommendations for every possible infant product, from car seats to cribs. I even made my husband attend a class at the hospital to help us prepare for labor and delivery. Honestly, I felt ready. I knew how to care for an infant. I was ready to meet my baby. But as I’m sure every parent will tell you, there is no possible way to prepare for what to actually expect when it comes to parenthood.

For the most part, I think expectant parents understand that things will change once that baby arrives. There are quite a few sacrifices to be made – like the freedom to come and go as you please, the ability to go out every weekend with friends, the opportunity to sleep as much or as late as you like. Obviously, caring for children is a full time responsibility and doesn’t come easily. For someone like me, who has always dealt with some level of anxiety in normal life even before having children, being a parent was far more overwhelming than I had originally expected. Trying to balance my extremely demanding full time job while caring for a newborn when my husband was traveling for work without any family nearby to help quickly took a toll on my sanity. Even the smaller details of parenthood were stressful. Leaving the house with a child felt like a full marathon – packing the diaper bag, getting the kid in clean clothes, changing the diapers, getting myself somewhat presentable, strapping the car seat, packing the stroller, and so on. It gets easier, they tell you. And in some ways, it does. However, for every minor detail that gets a little bit easier as your child gets older, something else becomes more challenging. For instance, I no longer need to pack a stroller because he’s big enough to sit in the cart. The problem now is that he’s also old enough to throw a tantrum because he wants to walk in the store and pull items off the shelf instead of sitting in the cart. You get my drift? It’s exhausting.

One of the things that I struggled with the most was the lack of time alone. Time to sit by myself and catch my breath for a few short minutes without anyone hanging on my legs or a list of chores hanging over my head. After leaving my job last summer, I had a difficult time adjusting to caring for my child (and two other children, to supplement our income) around the clock.  It wouldn’t be abnormal for me to have two weeks pass without ever having left the house by myself. I started to feel as though the responsibilities of motherhood were closing in on me, slowly stripping away the things that I used to enjoy as a childless adult.

Around this time, someone suggested that I try seeing a therapist as a way to manage the stress and anxiety I was dealing with as a new parent. And so I did. On the way to my first appointment, I sat in the car alone thinking about what I was going to say to this lady. Was it going to be awkward? Would she think I was crazy? Do I really need to see a therapist?? A moment passed and I sat there, in the driver’s seat, and realized how quiet it was in the car without my son in the backseat. By the time I reached the doctor’s office, I was already 50% less stressed after the 15 minutes of alone time that I had just enjoyed on the drive over. Maybe therapy wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.

I walked in to the therapist’s office and it was totally cliché. She invited me to sit on her comfy couch while she pulled out her notebook and pen. I was sure that I wasn’t going to be able to fill an entire hour of talking about my problems to this lady. But low and behold, the minute I sat down, it was like 18 months of pent up parenting anxiety just spewed from my mouth. My therapist, Marguerite, was an older woman. She was totally understanding and very conversational. She just listened, commenting here and there with some objective thoughts on what I was saying. She didn’t ask me about my feelings and didn’t make me feel weird. I swear, if I had been holding a glass of wine, I would have thought I was having cocktails with an unbiased, super supportive girlfriend.

By the time I got home, I felt refreshed. I made another appointment for a few weeks later, and therapy became a part of my regular routine. At the very least, therapy forces me to schedule one hour (albeit an expensive hour) every few weeks to spend without my son, without my husband, just working on myself. Some women get a massage to relax. I go see my therapist (although a massage sounds pretty awesome, too). My advice is this – if you are like me and the day to day details of parenting are starting to feel like they are interfering with your ability to be yourself, find a way to schedule some “me” time. Whether it’s going to therapy, getting dinner with friends, or just a trip to the grocery store alone, it’s important not to lose your identity as a person just because you became a parent.

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