Think On This: 9 Illuminating Questions to Ask Yourself When Preparing For Motherhood

Think On This: 9 Illuminating Questions to Ask Yourself When Preparing For Motherhood

By Angela Tafoya

When you get a positive pregnancy test, an avalanche of questions tends to spring to mind. Where will I give birth? Do I need to start shopping for maternity clothes? When should I get the room ready? In addition to all of those details, it’s also important to dig a little deeper and pinpoint your overarching values and priorities as a parent-to-be. After all, building a foundation you can come back to through thick and thin will help you in the long run—as well as aid in settling some of the anticipation that comes up beforehand.

We recommend taking a beat, grabbing a paper and pen, and jotting down some prompts that will assist in centering you in preparation for motherhood. To help get you started we chatted with Perelel Panelist Dr. Sarah Oreck, MD MS, a Columbia-trained reproductive psychiatrist and therapist and founder of Mavida Health, a network dedicated to supporting parents with access to mental healthcare, to share why it’s wise to ask yourself certain questions before you become a parent. “It’s key to separate fantasy from reality,” Dr. Oreck shares.“Asking yourself these questions is a great exercise to identify and perhaps even begin to correct the ways in which you were parented.”

So, whether you’re six months along already or simply toying around with the idea of becoming a mother, these questions will help pave the way for parenthood and all of the twists and turns that come along with it.

Think on this: What kind of parent do I see myself becoming?

“You can have ideals, but flexibility around this is so important,” shares Dr. Oreck. “What we typically see is rigidity when thinking about what kind of parent we imagine ourselves as. So, don't get too stuck on the details and think of the bigger picture here,” she says. For example, what were the things you could have had more support with as a child? How will you validate your child’s feelings? Map these things out and stay focused on the overarching themes and let go of the discrepancies or labels attached.

Think on this: How will I prioritize rest and my well-being—especially in the early days?

“We need to disrupt the myth of martyrdom,” Dr. Oreck says. “If you’re not doing well, your child won’t get the best of you.” And, it’s true—as mothers (especially in those early days)—we tend to put rest and well-being further down on the list than it should be. 

“It’s also time to let go of some of these judgments we have around what rest should look like,” says Dr. Oreck. “Rest can look very different across the board. Maybe it means less playdates and overscheduling or something as simple as taking a really long shower. Dedicating even a small amount of time that feels intentional is significant. Identifying what you need and how you will make time continues well-beyond the infant days and is an ongoing practice.

Think on this: How can my friends and family support me?

Oftentimes, family and friends want to support but might not be totally clear on how. Knowing what you need will only help things run smoother. Maybe you need your super organized pal to plan a meal train or another friend to take your older children out for the day—whatever it is, knowing how they can show up is the first step. “Support should always be part of the equation,” shares Oreck. “It should not wait until you can't take it anymore to start asking for help. When you can tap into community help, it releases a lot of tension and pressure. If you are without family nearby, it’s about figuring out who your community is. Having these connections built from early on gives you time and space to get the self-care you need.”

Think on this: How will I communicate my needs and boundaries?

Figuring out your needs and boundaries is step one—but after you’ve done this, understanding how you will communicate them is just as pivotal. “There are ways to say from the beginning—when pregnant—what the expectations are,” says Dr. Oreck. “For example, you can say—I could use help with meal prep or I’m going to want alone time with the baby, and I'll come out when I'm ready. Communicating these needs should come from a place of humility and vulnerability,” she adds.

Think on this: How do I envision my lifestyle changing after having the baby?

No matter where you’re at with your pre-baby lifestyle, taking time to paint a picture of what you want and how life might change after the baby is a good call. This will help you be gentle on yourself and establish what it is you want to shift or preserve. “Each stage in parenthood is a completely different world from the next—and it all brings a new set of challenges,” shares Dr. Oreck. “Embrace the ebbs and flows and stay true to the things you value but also know that it might require flexibility,” she shares.

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Think on this: How much time will I take off and how will I approach the transition back to work after?

Maybe you own your own business and are trying to suss out how much time you’ll actually be able to take, or perhaps your current workplace provides leave. Whatever the case, Dr. Oreck advises thinking through those things before the baby. Make a list of the action items you will need to tackle before and think about what the long-road looks like when you go back. “I see the most changes here between what is desired before and after and a lot of this has to do with changing expectations once the baby arrives,” shares Dr. Oreck. 

“It’s important to have some kind of plan, especially if you want to go back to work because you will have to think about childcare sooner.” She also suggests talking to your employer about flexibility when transitioning back to work. For example, if you work in an office, maybe you can go in twice a week versus full-time. “This allows for a bit of a softer landing,” she adds.

Think on this: How is my current well-being and mental health right now? Do I need to make any changes to my habits?

Dr. Oreck says this is a great question because oftentimes when people think about having a baby, it's a window into making a lot of fantastic changes to their lifestyle. Maybe you finally want to get a exercise routine going or want to ditch an unhealthy habit. “Do I think you need to be in a perfect place ? No,” says Dr. Oreck. “But, I think you can grow and change throughout the journey.” 

Think on this: How do I expect finances to shift after the baby and how do I prepare for that?

There’s no question that having a baby will definitely change your spending. “People are surprised by how much things like gear, childcare, and diapering all cost,” says Dr. Oreck. “Finances can cause strain, which is known to increase the risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.” Because of this, Dr. Oreck recommends laying out a budget and being realistic about your spending before you give birth.

Think on this: How will my partner and I handle the division of labor?

“This is one I also think should be asked well before you have a baby,” says Dr. Oreck. As women, we often take on the lion’s share of invisible labor that involves making doctor appointments, taking care of household duties and tasks, and much more. Before you head into the throes of parenthood, take a look at the existing tasks and the ones you anticipate coming down the road and delegate accordingly. “I tell my patients to be clear—write it all down, including what you want to change.”

Now that you have a jumping off point, we encourage you to take some time and sit with these questions. Your answers might surprise you—and hopefully, help you prepare for one of the most transformative chapters of life. And, if months or years from now you find your reality veering from your well-set intentions, don’t forget to grant yourself some grace and patience. It’s a journey, after all.

Connect and find support with other moms and moms-to-be in your stage by joining our community, Village by Perelel on Geneva, or read more about adapting to the new identity of “mother.”