Having a child is one of life’s most incredible experiences. It is also one of the most challenging situations that come with mood swings and psychological changes.
If you’re a new mother who has been experiencing low self-esteem, you’re not alone. A group of researchers recently took a look at why new mothers experience low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with their romantic relationships.
Analyzing data from over 80,000 Norwegian mothers, the researchers uncovered some significant patterns that represented how pregnancy and motherhood changes a woman’s attitude about herself and her partner.
The Self-Esteem Roller Coaster Ride
The study found that women’s self-esteem comes and goes. During pregnancy, a woman may experience a dip in her self-esteem. However, once the baby is born, her self-esteem begins to rise again. But only for a short time, then it dips again, only this time the dip is more gradual but prolonged.
Relationships Take a Hit as Well
New mothers don’t seem to be excited by their romantic relationships either! The researchers found that during pregnancy, first-time mothers tend to be very satisfied with their romantic relationships. However, once the baby is born, these same mothers experience a gradual decline in relationship satisfaction over the next few years.
The pattern is fairly similar for mothers having their second, third or fourth child. Though a bit less pronounced than new mothers, experienced moms gradually become less and less satisfied with their relationships once the baby is born.
The biggest takeaway from the study is that self-esteem and relationship satisfaction are definitely linked. While the researchers did not uncover exact mechanisms for these mental health changes, we can safely surmise a fluctuation in hormones and a big lack of quality sleep most likely contribute.
Having said that, motherhood is hard enough without having to battle low self-esteem and relationship dissatisfaction. Here are some things you can do:
Have Realistic Expectations
New mothers have an idea of what motherhood will be like, Sadly, they’ve gotten this idea from Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The reality is, motherhood is not one big bouquet of flowers. In fact, at the very beginning, all you may really notice are the big, prickly thorns. Later, once the baby sleeps through the night and stops waking you every two hours, you may notice how lovely the roses smell.
All of this is to say you have got to have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding may not come naturally to you – and that’s okay. You may not like your baby at first – and that’s okay. You may not feel like you know what you’re doing most of the time – and that’s okay. In fact, all of these things are perfectly normal.
Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself as a mother will only cause your self-esteem to take a nosedive. Don’t try and be the perfect mother, they don’t exist (sorry Mom). Just try and do your best and enjoy the experience as best you can.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Mothers
Nothing pokes at our self-esteem quite like unfair comparisons. If you’re a brand-spanking-new mother, it is hardly fair to compare yourself to someone who’s been doing it awhile. So what if your sister, who’s on her third child, makes motherhood seem like a breeze AND bakes her own scones? She’s had time to practice, you haven’t.
While it’s fine to seek advice from other moms, never make comparisons or you’ll just set yourself up to feel badly about your own mothering abilities.
Consider Couples Counseling
If your relationship has taken a hit, it’s important that you and your partner try and reconnect. This is sometimes easier said than done, which is why seeking the guidance of a therapist is often the best way to heal the relationship.
A therapist can help the two of you communicate respectfully and effectively, something that’s not always easy when you’re both averaging 3 hours of sleep per night!
If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.