Why do professional women find it harder to adjust to motherhood?

Apr 2, 2015 at 8:16 p.m. ET
Image: Kevin Liu/Moment/Getty Images

However sorted you are in other areas of your life, when it comes to parenting a newborn, it's easy to feel out of control. And that goes for all new mums, regardless of their background. In fact, it may come as a surprise to learn that "highly professional" parents are more likely to struggle.

According to Marie Clifford, the Centre Manager at Tresillian Wollstonecraft, where thousands of families go for parenting advice and support every year, women from "professional industries", such as lawyers, doctors and teachers, find it most difficult to adapt to motherhood.

Describing the early days with a baby as a "potent cocktail of sleep deprivation, social isolation, fear of failure, and long hours of crying", Clifford explained the reasons career-driven women often need the most support.

"There's a number of factors," she told news.com.au. "Often, they're older. They've followed a career, and they've got high expectations about how they're going to cope. They're usually on big salaries. They've had lives where they have done what they wanted to do — go out for dinner, travel, have a nice life with their partner. They've held jobs where they are very much in control. They see a problem, they have a strategy, and that usually works to fix the problem.

"But when they have a baby, their world is completely different. The carpet is pulled from under their feet. One day might be great, and the next day there might be a complete loss of control. It's a complete contrast from their old life."

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Another issue, which comes from the most well-meaning of places, is that some women may prepare too much for a baby's arrival, which can increase expectations.

"There's so much information now — every parent wants to do a good job," said Clifford. "They put so much pressure on themselves to achieve — sometimes it's a bit out of their control and that's hard for them to accept."

That all makes a lot of sense. But here's the thing: All new mums find a new baby a challenge. While you can prepare for all the practical aspects of parenthood, you can't predict how you'll feel, how you'll cope and how your baby will behave. Perhaps there are many, many mums out there who aren't "highly professional" and are too embarrassed to ask for help or who just don't know that help is out there.

If you're a new mum and you think you need advice or support on any aspect of parenting, visit Tresillian or call their helpline on 1300 272 736. The Raising Children Network has more information on support services for parents.

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