When I became a new parent, I thought it was going to be the most magical time of my life. It turned out, however, that it was a lot different than I’d imagined. The lack of sleep, the sense of isolation, the fact that everything was a major production, all made new parenthood difficult.
There’s been a lot of press coverage lately about a recent study on new parents and their levels of happiness. According to the study, “Happiness: Before and After the Kids,” published by Mikko Myrskylä and Rachel Margolis, “For mothers and fathers in Germany, the drop in life satisfaction during the year following the first birth is even larger than that caused by unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner.” (Read Washington Post article)
I can understand that study up to a point. Yes, new parents have unrealistic expectations. But, if you get divorced or are fired, you will most likely have a support network. When you have a kid and you’re unhappy, you might get some support, but not the same kind.
In a TIME Magazine interview, Myrskylä said, “We don’t ask parents about happiness with relationship to parenthood, because there is a strong implicit pressure to be happy. If I go and ask a new parent these kinds of questions, they feel a pressure to put a positive picture of what a new parent is ‘supposed’ to feel.”
What can new parents do to make sure they don’t get overwhelmed? Here are my top three tips:
1. Acknowledge to yourself and your partner that parts of being a new parent are not going to be great.
2. Accept help when it’s offered.
3. Get as much sleep as you can, when you can.
Don’t worry, though. The good news is the same authors found that despite feeling unhappiness after the first birth of a baby, having up to two children increases overall happiness in life. (see Children Make Parents Happy . . . Eventually)