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Why It's Hard to Live Your Values as a New Parent

You’re clear on your values, but when it comes to living them out… you just feel stuck.

You’ve spent time clarifying what matters most to you as a new parent. Maybe you’ve even set some values-based goals. You have a clear picture of where you want to go, but every time you try to take a step in that direction, something gets in your way. If that’s you, you’re not alone.

Here are 3 reasons why it can be hard to live your values as a new parent.

You’re in survival mode.

Despite the cotton-candy-filtered stories you may have heard about becoming a parent, this season of life can be really, REALLY intense. Even in the best of circumstances, you’re most likely sleep-deprived and adjusting to the demands of a small human who is counting on you to meet their every need.

This is a lot on its own. But, of course, that’s not all you’re responsible for right now. You’re adding it to your already full plate of every other adulting thing you were already managing (like cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, life admin, work, etc.).

This change — even if it’s wanted and meaningful — is stressful. At times, you may get the sense that all of your mental bandwidth is focused on just surviving the day. Without intentionally creating the time and space to do so, you may not be thinking much about whether your daily choices are aligning with your values and the kind of life you want to be creating for yourself and your family.

You’re feeling controlled by your thoughts and feelings.

We all experience a wide range of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations triggered by those emotions. Some are pleasant and wanted. Some are unpleasant and unwanted. They’re an unavoidable part of life (and becoming a parent).

These experiences on their own aren’t a problem. And actually, they can offer you a lot of data about what matters most to you. They can even HELP you live your values. BUT… when you’re feeling controlled by intense thoughts or feelings, it becomes much harder to live your values.

For example, let’s say you’re feeling anxious about leaving your baby with a trusted caregiver. If that anxiety is “in control,” you may choose not to leave your baby with that trusted caregiver, even for things that are really important to you (like spending a couple hours away with your partner or going back to work).

When you believe that your thoughts and feelings are in control, you will likely make decisions that reinforce this story. You’ll give up any sense of agency and choice in hard moments. When you’re knee-jerk-reacting to your thoughts and feelings instead of thoughtfully responding to them, you run the risk of that knee-jerk reaction moving you away from your values instead of towards them.

You’re trying to control your thoughts and feelings.

Just like allowing your thoughts and feelings to control you, trying to control your thoughts and feelings is risky if you’re wanting to live your values as a new parent. One reason for this is that it just. doesn’t. work. It’s like trying to change the weather. Sure, you can prep and do your best to manage the inconvenience of a stormy day. But if the sky is dark and cloudy and rainy, you’d be wasting any time, energy, and other resources you spent trying to change or control it.

To be fair — it’s totally normal and natural to want to get rid of painful experiences. Being the creative person you are, you’ve likely tried all sorts of things to avoid, numb, minimize, or distract yourself from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. If you tried any of those things more than once, it was probably because it did work on some level to help you feel better in the short-term. The problem is when your chosen strategies sabotage you in the long-term.

For example, let’s again say you’re feeling anxious about leaving your baby with that trusted caregiver. If you’re trying to control your anxiety, you may end up going to do the important thing (like the evening away or going to work), but spend so much energy trying to NOT feel the anxiety that you can’t be fully present in the important thing.

You will experience discomfort whether you’re living your values or not. So, if your intention and hope is to live your values, you might as well redirect your time, energy, and other resources to strategies that will help you create the life you want — holding both present you AND future you in mind.

If it’s hard to live your values right now, therapy can help.

Whether you’re feeling stuck in survival mode, controlled by your thoughts and feelings, or unsure about how to manage those thoughts and feelings in a productive way — therapy can help. If you live in California and would like to work together, you can reach out to me here. Or, check out this post where I outline how to find perinatal mental health support near you.

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