Middle School. Those two words can stir up a lot of feelings and emotions. You honor that time in your life but really wouldn’t want to relive it all over again. It’s an awkward, often difficult, in-between time. A struggle of ups and downs, tears and laughter, and a yearning to feel comfortable in your own skin. Having gone thru both being a new mom, surviving middle school, and being a psychotherapist who specializes in postpartum mental health and wellness, I couldn’t help but notice similarities between these two phases of life.
Here are some noteworthy parallels between being a new mom and being in middle school:
1. Fluctuating Hormones
In middle school, your hormones were all over the place as puberty was in high gear. Your emotions could change like the wind depending on what was going on in your day. And your poor skin was an absolute mess. You experienced feelings more intensely, and the slightest disappointment or embarrassment seemed like the end of the world.
From the moment you give birth, your hormones plummet drastically. And within those first few weeks, they seem to be all over the place. You feel like an emotional roller coaster. You cry at the drop of a hat. Just when you feel your hormones beginning to stabilize, your hair starts coming out in clumps. Oh, joy!
2. Feeling Insecure
Middle school was a time when you often doubted yourself. You weren’t a kid, but not quite an adult. You needed reassurance from others and often compared yourself to peers. You never felt quite smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough. As a new mother, you size yourself up to other moms all the time. And then there are those moments when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and wonder who that woman is. You wonder what happened to her body. You wonder if you will ever feel confident again.
3. A Desire to Fit In
In middle school, you wanted to fit in and be liked. You wanted to belong. As a new mom, you feel slightly alone and isolated. You desire connection with other mommy friends, but realize it’s harder to make them now that you are older. Making new friends takes energy. And at this point, energy is something you seriously lack these days. You feel awkward at that mommy and me class, or you don’t want to come across as too needy. Inside, all you want is to find your tribe of mommy friends.
4. At Times You Feel Lost
In middle school, you really started to think about who you wanted to be in life. The future was exciting but a bit overwhelming with all it’s possibilities. As a new mom, you feel as though one chapter of your life has closed, and another has just begun. You are trying to adjust to this new life and figure out who you are now that you are a parent. You have moments where you feel like you have no idea what you are doing. At times it is overwhelming.
5. Opportunity for Personal Growth
New challenges and difficult circumstances provide us with opportunities for personal growth. If we never pushed ourselves, if we were never outside our comfort zone, we would never bloom and grow. It took those struggles in middle school to figure out who we weren’t and who we wanted to be.
As a new mom, we need to fall. We need to mess up. We need to pick ourselves back up. We need to discover our strengths. We need to forgive ourselves. We realize pretty early on in this parenting gig that our children have so much to teach us. We are willing to learn. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.