Question: I am expecting my first child this winter. How do I prepare for the emotional challenges of motherhood, when I lacked nurturing and reliable role models growing up?

Dear Mom-to-Be:

A wise teacher once told me “you can never prepare for what is new.” It’s unknown to you, you’ve never experienced it before, so naturally some level of anxiety, discomfort, or fear may be present in any new experience. And with parenting, there’s also a lot of responsibility involved. That is, you are taking on the responsibility for a human life, which can be quite daunting.  

You can however, be clear, set intentions, and be open to this new experience with humor, humility, and grace.

So, what is the best thing you can do to prepare for the new experience of parenting? The very best thing you can do to prepare for becoming a parent, is love your Self well.


Yup. The very best thing you can do as a parent - and in preparation to become a parent - is love your Self well. I am aware that this runs contrary to what many people believe, so please bear with me…

When you love your Self well - every day - you are in the very best place to be present and fully available to your child.

In other words, when you take care of you well - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – you are then most “available” to your child; ready to engage, experience, and explore the adventure of life with them.

And when you love your Self well - when you experience joy and fulfillment in your own life - you model that behavior for your child. If your child does not learn enjoyment and fulfillment from you, where will they learn it? From society? Television? Social Networks?

The most powerful place for children to learn to love themselves well is from their parents (or care takers). Period. Other relationships and institutions may support them, but what they see and experience every day with the people they live with and love, has the most impact on them.

If your child is learning and experiencing with you the self-love, self-acceptance, self-trust, and self-respect required for you to be a happy and fulfilled person, not only will you be a better parent, but they will learn first hand from you how to provide that for themselves.

So what does that look like, in practical terms, for a new mother and newborn baby? To start with include Dad (if he is in the picture) as much as possible. The more dad bonds with baby, the better for mom, dad, and baby. When baby has two caregivers (or more) that he/she bonds with that’s more love, learning, and experience for baby.

Shift your priorities as much as you possibly can the first several weeks – and months, if possible - so that you, baby, and dad (or partner) are your focus. Try to let go of everything else for a while.

That means choosing a nap, a shower, or reading a good trashy magazine rather than having perfectly fresh, folded laundry. That means a walk outdoors, or some form of light exercise, rather than cleaning the fridge. That means simple meals or take out food if you can afford it, so time together as a family can be as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. That means “looking good” might need to be set aside in deference to doing what makes you feel good.

Although it may feel as though it is the absolute last thing you want to do, exercise is key for a new mom. So long as your doctor gives the okay, light exercise as soon as possible after the birth is essential. Not so you can get back into those skinny jeans, but because exercise not only supports the physical body, but it soothes the emotional body and clears the mental body. All of this assists you to feel grounded, content, and fulfilled about this new adventure with baby…and to keep your sense of humor!

Most of the time the better you feel, the better baby feels. Babies don’t emerge from the womb appraised of your qualifications as a parent or your professional resume. Babies respond to – feel – the energy of you. So, the more relaxed and happy you feel, the more that energy is shared with your baby. That’s why babies like to lay on your chest. It’s not simply because of the sound of your heartbeat, it is because your heart is actually emanating the love you feel for baby. And babies want to “be” with that energy.

That’s what baby’s want. That’s what children want. That’s what we all want…to “be” with one another. It is…intimacy.

While indeed, there is so much to “do” for a baby now - and more as he or she grows – I guarantee you what your child wants now - will always want from you - is simply to “be” with you.

“Be,” as in you being wholly present with your child. “Be,” as in being your authentic Self with your child; who you are, what you feel, what you are experiencing, what you know, what you don’t know.

And so, if you do not love you well, if you’re not taking good care of you, if you’re not creating your life so that there is enjoyment and fulfillment every day - even in the face of responsibilities and challenges - then you can’t really “be” fully present with your child in a relaxed, open, and loving way.

I had a babysitter when I was a young mother; she was a wonderful, wise, older woman who helped our family for years. She said to me, “they’re not going to put on my grave stone that I kept an immaculate house, had an organized garage, cooked gourmet meals, or made a lot of money. But they are going to put on there that I loved my children well.” And she did.

Loving your children well begins with loving you well. Why? Because you cannot share what you do not possess. Contrary to popular opinion, love is not about suffering and sacrifice. And love is not about give and take. Love is about sharing. Love is about sharing the love that you “be” with others. And you cannot “be” love, if you do not love you well.

So, love you well. I promise you, it will be the greatest gift you ever share with your child.