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We’ve all had lots of experience working with a newborn mother — i.e. first child, or a brand-new child that’s 2/3/4/5 in the family. Being a new mom, even if you have repetition at it, is obviously one of the most challenging things under the sun. And while we all have our theories, what really makes a good mom to a newborn?
There’s an interesting article on that topic from Psychology Today. It kind of unfolds in three parts, and I wanted to outline those parts quickly here — because they’re all interesting in their own right.
The basic qualities of a newborn mother
Those would be:
- Organizational skills
- Ability to exert control from chaos
OK, so that’s a slightly depressing list. We haven’t gotten to anything about caring or compassion yet. At the same time, this list is largely accurate.
Here’s the flip side: motherhood is a job. It’s certainly a bigger deal than any marketing manager role you might have at the same time as you’re a mother. (Hopefully we all believe that.) What makes motherhood a job, aside from the basic responsibilities, is that the tasks shift all the time.
Look at these bullets above. If you apply those bullets to your daughter when she’s 15, the reaction is very different — she might push away — then applying those attributes when she was a newborn.
So remember that always: no one does this perfectly, and the role always shifts.
The negativity bias
This section isn’t about how to be a good mom to a newborn, but it’s still interesting.
Basically, research holds that people who have bad mothers often think, as they get older, that they’ll be good mothers. But they only know from a bad mother. How can this be?
Simple. It’s called the negativity bias.
We evolved in a way that we need to hold negative thoughts closer, so that we can deal with threats. Because we can recall negative maternal behavior faster (that’s why therapists exist!), we can also overturn it and realize “She did X with me, so I will do Y when I have kids.” This is how generations evolve. Some people actually believe we are more similar to our grandparents than our parents because each generation tries to reverse a little of what the previous one did.
OK, so back to what makes a good newborn mom (the emotional stuff)
Stay attuned: This paragraph from the article was powerful:
Unloved daughters speak of not being “known” by their mothers, and what they are talking about is “attunement.” Beginning in infancy, an attuned mother, as Daniel J. Siegel M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. explain, aligns her internal state with that of her child. Note that this action goes from mother to child—you are lining up your feelings and thoughts with hers. Much of this takes place without words, and is accomplished through gaze and touch. Think of comforting a crying baby or small child: You pick her up, look into her eyes, and the child internalizes that attunement, and begins to make sense of her feelings and the emotional world. Children who grow up with mothers who scream at them to stop crying learn something else entirely. Put into a sentence, lack of attunement says this: “ Your feelings don’t matter. And neither do you.”
Mind your boundaries: This is more as your child grows up. Obviously with a newborn there are specific boundaries that need to be set and reinforced. But as we noted above, you can’t hold those boundaries for the newborn’s entire life. That will eventually engender resentment. Eventually you need to let them free up a bit. (Not at six months, though, no.)
Avoid the low road: When your child gets older, that means avoiding the emotional outbursts with them. But this is important: when your child is a newborn, there will definitely be struggles with your partner/spouse. Lack of sex, lack of sleep, lots of work, lots of office work, etc. Don’t take the low road with the partner. You’re in this together. If your partner isn’t in the picture, well, don’t take the low road with whoever is helping out (friends, parents, etc.) It’s a struggle but millions get through it annually. You will too.
Have fun: This is supposed to be a joyful time, right?
What else would you add on being a good newborn mother?