What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?
Staying organised when I’m tired! My phone has been a lifesaver and is always bleeping at me to tell me to remember ‘dress up day’ or put out the bins. Life is so busy when children are involved. I can’t believe I thought I had no time before I had them!
What do you think are the biggest challenges new parents face?
A common theme that comes up in my client work is that new mums feel that they have lost their old self. The role of mum is so all encompassing, clients often go through a type of grieving process for their old self. As parents we evolve and change and that’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when things don't turn out quite as you predicted.
Check out our blog on Finding Yourself Again.
What inspired you to move into the work you do?
I wanted to empower women to feel confident and proud of themselves, in a world full of comparison and unrealistic expectations.
If I can help someone look at themselves in the same way their child does, with unconditional love and acceptance, just as they are, I have given them the most precious gift a person can give.
What advice would you give any couple before they think about having children?
I was told this once by a friend and it stuck with me: don’t wait until you feel ready. If you wait until then you’ll never have them!
Catherine Beach is a BACP registered counsellor based in Sittingbourne, Kent. Her work can be described as 'person-centred', which allows people to choose their focus and work at their own pace.
As a teacher and parent, Catherine has a particular interest in supporting mothers and providing advice for children.
Do you think social media gives unrealistic images of parenthood and children? Or do you think that is changing?
Oh my goodness yes! If I start on this one I’ll be here all day. If you want to read my honest perspective, have a read of my blog ‘The Mum Guilt Epidemic!’ I love and hate social media in equal measure.
What would be your one piece of advice to any new parent?
This is an easy one. Remember that you are good enough and that’s all you need to be. You have signed up for the toughest job on the planet and you’re doing it. You deserve to be proud!
How did you adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic?
It’s been so tough hasn’t it? On a personal level, adapting for me means adapting my expectations of myself. When you have to squeeze so many competing responsibilities, roles and relationships under one roof without a pressure release, the only way to survive is to set manageable expectations for yourself.
You can’t be superwoman and actually nobody needs you to be, so for me, it’s been mostly about being happy with being good enough and celebrating each small achievement.
Professionally, I have moved almost entirely to online and telephone counselling and my clients have managed the transition well and have actually found there are some perks to having their sessions at home.
Did you notice people facing any particular challenges during the pandemic?
I think everyone is feeling the pressure. Many of my clients are struggling with the balancing act of living life in lockdown. I think we can be very tough on ourselves. Much of my work is spent helping my clients explore feelings of self doubt and manage stress and anxiety. Counselling gives you precious time and space to focus on yourself and bring about positive change, even when the world is challenging you.
Resilience is key and we sometimes forget how much of it we really have and how well we are doing. Sometimes it takes a safe space and a friendly counsellor to shine the light on that so you can find the strength to keep going.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to the new parent who is struggling?
Talk to someone about things you are finding difficult. It is so easy to believe that you’re alone in finding it hard to cope without sleep, feed your baby and manage a home and relationships all at the same time.
But you are not alone and if you find the courage to share your worries and difficulties with someone else it makes things a million times better. To hear someone say they felt exactly the same in your position and that they understand what you are going through will take a huge weight off.
My second piece of advice is to ask for help when you need it and accept it when it is offered. It takes a village to raise a child so please don’t feel that you are a better parent for flying solo. It’s important to look after you.
Do you think partners face any particular challenges as parents?
I think any major life transition can put a strain on a relationship and parenthood is one of the biggest. Parenthood is a rollercoaster and it’s easy to lose touch with each other as you manage your new responsibilities together.
Don’t forget that you are part of a team; keep communicating and build in some time for togetherness. Leave the washing up and collapse on the sofa together once in a while.
At times we are the ‘village’ for new parents. What advice would you give to friends and family who see new parents struggling?
Just listen. I think that is the best advice I can give. Listen without judgement, create a space for your friend to offload. Sometimes we presume we know what our friends need and offer lots of advice. Mums are often overloaded with the rights and wrongs of parenting and don’t always have the capacity to hear any more advice.
The best thing to do is just to listen and accept their feelings without trying to fix them. A simple ‘What can I do for you right now?’ can also be really good to hear, even if your friend isn’t sure how to answer it just yet.
What aspect of motherhood have you enjoyed the most?
The best feeling in the world is when I see my boys show kindness and compassion to others.
When I see that, I think to myself, ‘You’ve done well there'.