A common theme that I hear from my clients who are new parents is the struggle to establish a routine or sense of control in their homes once baby arrives. I hear these struggles the most from my clients who describe themselves as “Type A” personalities. You know what I am talking about if you are one and you know what I am talking about if you know a “Type A person”: The high achiever who often is a workaholic, impatient, and has a hard time relaxing.
There is nothing more disruptive to a Type A personality than having a baby. Every routine, sense of control and expectation is challenged to the max. There is no other experience that challenges an individual’s life on literally every single level than having a baby. Your relationships, your body, your sleep, your job, your money, your spirituality are all impacted by this tiny little human (or humans if you have multiples… and if you do…You ROCK). “It is the hardest but the most rewarding job” is true for many, the path to reward is paved with obstacles that require the opposite of how Type A’s operate.
I know this well as I often joke with my clients that I am a “Type A in Recovery.” Even when I was pregnant, I had to remind myself that it was OK to relax on the couch and not always being “productive” (like work or cleaning) because I was in fact doing the most productive thing ever: growing a human being. As a mother to a very busy and very “assertive” toddler, I consistently need to keep my Type A in check. Instead, I strive to be a Type A-. To be a Type A- means that I don’t lose all sense of structure, routine, or need for achievement, because after all, those qualities also lead Type A’s to be successful and leaders in their fields. To be a Type A- means that I actively take inventory on what is working and what is no longer working and then make changes as needed. For the Type A parent, a change in thinking such as this is needed to survive parenthood.
If you are reading this and thinking — “Yes, Erica, I know what you are talking about! I am sick of the battle of the wills with my child or the stress brought about by trying to get to the end of my never ending To Do List while also being a parent” — then pay special attention to what I am about to share. It is my recipe to sanity in parenthood for any personality type, but especially for Type A parents. (Side note: If you think about recipes, even if you are not a good baker, if you follow it exactly, it will turn out the same every time, right? So even if you a super sleep deprived and not on top of your parenting game, if you follow this recipe, you will get it right every single time.)
1) RE-ASSESS: Take an inventory of the expectations for you and for others and determine if they are REALISTIC. Is it realistic to get three errands done with a newborn or have your house clean all of the time? NO! Is it realistic to expect your partner to read your mind if you are not communicating your needs? NO! Is it realistic to look good and take a daily shower when you have a newborn? NO! Is it realistic to be the top performer at work if you have a baby at home? NO! (Getting the idea?)
2) REVISE: If your expectations for yourself and others are not realistic, the next step is to make necessary adjustments. For example: If my child starts to have a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store, instead of getting overly flustered about it, revise your expectations and give yourself permission to abort mission. (When you see abandoned full shopping carts, now you know why! These parents were following the 3R Recipe!)
3) RECALIBRATE: After you have reassessed and made appropriate revisions, it is now time to refocus your intentions and create meaning out of your experience. Give yourself permission to not be on top of things ALL of the time. Stop guilt-tripping yourself for your perceived short comings as a parent and give yourself the affirmation and credit you deserve. Think forward to move forward. Redirect your energy to what is WITHIN your control. You Got This!
Erica L. Wilcox, MS, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has a hunger for health, happiness and healing and ignites change by utilizing i-Therapy ™ strategies to help transform her client’s lives. Erica graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and earned her M.A. in Professional Mental Health Counseling from Central Connecticut State University. She has over a decade of experience working as clinician, supervisor and program developer in hospital, residential, and community based settings. She has received extensive training and certification in both Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Perinatal Mental Health.