We are delighted to publish this guest blog by one of our Board of Advisors, Elly Taylor. In this article, Elly outlines the importance of supporting parents during the transition to parenthood and her work in this field through Becoming Us.
Becoming Us – Preparing parents for beyond birth
It’s a common complaint from parents that “preparation for parenthood” classes cover birth and maybe basic baby care, but stop well short of what really happens after you get the baby home…
Even though I was studying psychology and counselling at the same time I became a new mother, I was blindsided by all the unexpected issues my husband and I began experiencing as new parents.
Wondering if we were the only ones struggling, I began to research the “transition” into parenthood (“shove out of a plane without a parachute” is more like it!) and was shocked, and to be honest a little relieved, to find that the vast majority of other new parents were struggling too. Most of them in silence. Just like us.
According to research, a whopping 92% of parents reported an increased conflict in their first year of family and 67% a decline in relationship satisfaction in the first three.
Working as a Relationship Counsellor for over 15 years, I further found that relationship problems were one of the leading causes of both perinatal depression and anxiety, with up to 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men struggling with mental health and marriage issues – at a time they expected to be happier together than ever.
Parenting is about your relationship with your baby. Parenthood, on the other hand, is about you.– Elly Taylor
I wondered what on earth was going on. Most of us were struggling, but why were some couples struggling more than others?
What were the factors that were contributing to this? Were any of those factors preventable? And how could I, as a helping professional, help?
Because clearly, something had to change.
And then I kept coming back to this…if relationship and mental health issues are both so very common, why the heck aren’t expecting couples being prepared for this as part of their prenatal education?
Fast forward 20 years and Becoming Us is born – a world first relationship-strengthening approach to the transition/shove into parenthood. Becoming Us breaks the period from pregnancy to the first few years of family down into 8 more manageable stages, with each stage supporting mothers’, fathers’ and partners’ mental, emotional and relationship wellbeing.
The model can be used to prepare and equip expecting parents for all the stages to come. They learn how to be supportive
partners and nurturing parents at the same time.
I’m honoured to have presented the Becoming Us stages of early parenthood at national and international conferences, served on the advisory panel for a number of Australian universities research projects and to be on the board of the International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy.
And now life has come full circle. New Becoming Us classes for expecting parents – the classes I wish we had been able to take over 20 years ago (but don’t panic, we have three children and we’re doing great now) – are being piloted in parts of Australia, North America, and Europe.
Perinatal professionals in these communities are equipping parents with realistic expectations of parenthood, foresight for the normal and common changes and challenges that they’re likely to experience, and, most importantly, the skills to avoid or overcome them together. Parents go away, not only with knowledge and new tools but with new friends too – and connected into professional supports should they need them for their family in the future. It will always take a village, after all.
I’m excited to be speaking about the Becoming Us approach at various events in the UK in October and hope to meet as many of my colleagues as possible while I’m there!
For more information about Becoming Us, please see ellytaylor.com.
Elly Taylor’s book: