Five Simple Tools to Survive Life as a (New) Parent

mom holding help a help sign

There is so much focus on pregnancy, birth, and even the first 8 weeks of your baby’s life. These stages in your life are fleeting. Parenthood, on the other hand, is a marathon that, on occasion, requires grit, stamina, and some solid survival tools.

I usually bring up conversations about managing and surviving parenthood at the end of a Newborn Care class or near the end of my time supporting a family and their baby as a postpartum doula. Often these conversations are had in the middle of the night when the world is quiet on an overnight shift. It’s a necessary conversation and one that helps create a strong foundation for parenthood—not just new parenthood.

We’re going to call these the ABCs (and bonus D and E) of surviving parenthood. Let’s get started!

A- It’s ok to need time ALONE.

In fact, I encourage new parents to make “alone time” a daily occurrence. Your time alone can be a few minutes or, with the help of your person found in “B” some quality time AWAY from everyone needing you, talking to you, and touching you. Postpartum doulas can give you that opportunity during their visit. Take their offer and run!

B- Send out the Bat Signal!

When you need human support: a babysitter, a listening ear, some extra help with “all the things”, send out the “BAT SIGNAL.”

This is a term I borrowed from Batman™ and the people of Gotham City. When things were awry in Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon would call the Bat Phone and Alfred would put out the Bat Signal letting Batman know he was needed.

How does this pertain to parenthood? When you are in need (see “A”), you send out a text (Bat Signal) to 5 friends or family members in your contact list. It can look something like this: “Hey ____, The baby hasn’t slept in 3 nights, and I desperately need a nap. Can you come over from 1-5 today?” Copy and paste to your 5 people. Trust me….at least one person will text back with a yes or at least an offer to help at another time during the day–or even tomorrow. This technique is a lifesaver!

C- Create a Cocoon

As humans in today’s world, we tend to race around through our day without a break between point A and point B and points C through Z. We really need to build in breaks to breathe and replenish our energy to get through these marathon days. As parents, once we pull into our driveway and our kids or partner…or the dog…sees us it’s game over and you’re “on” again or still.

As a parent of a child with extremely high mental health and developmental support needs, I often felt drained, touched out, and overstimulated so CAR COCOONING became my go-to coping strategy.

Here’s how to Car Cocoon:

Find a safe parking spot out of the sight of everyone who regularly “needs” you. I like a shady spot in a quiet neighborhood. Turn off the sound on your phone. Set an alarm for 15 minutes. Typically, phone alarms bypass your sounds volume control. Close your eyes, recline the seat if you choose, and the silence and warmth envelope you like a cocoon. Turn your brain off. Allow yourself to pause throughout the day. Work it into your schedule.

D Destimulate

Raise your hand if you have ever felt so overstimulated and overwhelmed that ONE MORE SOUND/TOUCH/LOOK might push you over the proverbial ledge! Me, too.

This is your indicator that you are in dire need of shutting out as much stimulation as possible by finding, and using, your own designated DESTIMULATION STATION.

Most homes have a bathroom without a window or a walk-in closet. Even a coat closet works. Hand off all the essential responsibilities to another trusted person, excuse yourself from the chaos, close the door behind you, lean against the wall, or sit on the floor and close your eyes–no lights, no sounds—as dark as you can get it. Noise-cancelling earbuds are helpful to tune out the “outside” world. This isn’t easy as a parent, but as you practice this technique, you’ll recognize the value far outweighs the guilt.

And lastly (for this blog anyway)–


Give yourself permission to ask. Say YES when someone offers. Accept with grace and say thank you. That’s all.

Remember—parenthood is a marathon, and that sweet baby will always need their parent in some way for the rest of your lives together.

Sheryl Cooksley is the founder and owner of Family Tree Doula Services. She has provided support to children and families for over 30 years as a parent, foster parent, family partner walking alongside parents with children experiencing mental health crises, and as a postpartum doula.

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