Much like the new mama trying to learn how to mom from Google, as friends and family, most of us don’t have the guide book on how to help. Especially for those of us who don’t have children of our own, we may draw a big blank when it comes to knowing what to do, but we can show up the best we know how by offering specific support.
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We’ve all heard it before.
You have to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby.
Take some time for yourself - it will help!
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
But how in the WORLD is the mother of an infant supposed to fit self-care into their already busy routine of feedings, housework, diaper changes, and the constant worry that we are doing everything right?
Well, ladies, I’ve got good news. Self-care is possible for anyone. You just have to look at it differently now that you have new responsibilities and less time. You have to ask yourself, “What energizes me?” Just as having a baby has changed you, it has also changed your needs.
Those things you used to do that made you feel good may not be the things that will fill your cup right now.
Before we go any further, you have to let go of one thing. Guilt. That feeling that taking time for yourself is taking time away from your family - let it go! Taking care of yourself and your mental well-being is just as important as changing a diaper. Remember that.
Also remember that self-care is not only good for you, but it sets an amazing example for your kids to follow. When your child sees you taking care of your self, they will learn to take care of their own mental health. It’s a beautiful circle.
START WITH THE BASICS
Before we dive into the hundreds of ways we can take care of ourselves, let’s revisit our Introduction to Psychology class and talk about our good friend, Maslow. Now Maslow had this awesome idea that we have certain needs that have to be met before we can move “up” his hierarchy. Starting with physiological needs (eating, sleeping, etc.), and moving to safety, then love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.
Let’s break it down. If we are hungry or tired, we will do what we can to fulfill those needs before we can think of moving up to the next tier of being safe. If we are safe and our physiological needs are met, we can move to being concerned with our relationships with others. If all of our needs are met, we can finally look into our self-actualization, which is essentially finding our purpose in life.
When I think of self-care like this, it makes things easier. You’ve gotta take care of your basic needs before you can expect yourself to feel better and be able to participate in life like you used to.
Now, you say easier said than done. I know. Here’s where it gets good.
CREATE YOUR SELF CARE ROUTINE
Take care of those physiological needs
You are rushing around the house like a chicken with it’s head cut off.
Dishes, diapers, dogs need to go out, baby is crying.
But, have you eaten today? Have you taken a break to go to the bathroom? Did you drink that big glass of water first thing this morning?
If you can’t seem to remember to do these things, set a reminder on your phone to do so! Or put post-it notes around the house to remind yourself - eat a snack!
Now, I will say, sleep can be difficult to tackle. So if you can, catch up on sleep when others can help take care of the baby. But in reality - we are mamas now. Sleep is really hard to come by. So try to focus on all of the other physiological needs. You’ve got this, mama!
Know that your time is limited now
Being aware of the fact that you won’t have 3 hours to kill watching your favorite movie is important. Here is where we learn to find self-care acts that don’t take much time but fuel us to be better moms! For example, taking 2 minutes to brew your favorite cup of tea or grabbing a sparkling water from the fridge and enjoying it may be enough to give you the little boost for you to keep on going for a few hours.
Another one of my favorite short self-care acts is taking a few minutes to be mindful and live in the moment! Stop thinking about what you need to get done today or how terrible your toddler was acting in Target. Just breathe, look around you, and appreciate something about where are in that moment.
Really take these small moments to heart - you may only get a total of 15 minutes to think about yourself throughout the day, but that’s 15 minutes. Make it count.
Revisit your old self-care habits
Let’s start with the things that you used to do in the past that made you feel good! Whether it was taking a long bubble bath, going for a run, or painting. Whatever it was, make a list of 5 things you used to love doing. Give them a try!
But remember, if you finish with these self-care acts and you get home, just as frustrated and burnt-out as before, that is your sign that you may need to find another way of taking care of yourself for now. You have to ask yourself the golden question - What energizes me?
Not that you won’t ever enjoy a long, hot bath again, but maybe your head is racing with thoughts - I should be cleaning the kitchen; What am I going to do all day tomorrow alone with the baby; why can’t this mom thing be easier.
Sitting still in a bath for 15 minutes just makes you anxious. And that’s OKAY! Try again with another method of self-care, and make a note that this one may not serve you at this time in your life.
Make a list of YOUR self-care acts
Your list is going to look different from even your best friend’s list. Because you are different people! One person may love getting a pedicure, while it may be stressful and anxiety-inducing for another. This is why it’s important to follow your heart.
Really dig deep into what makes you feel BETTER when you complete it.
As weird as it may sound, my favorite self-care act is cleaning my filthy house. When I’m done, I feel so good - like I’ve completed something and I can now move onto the rest of my day with a clear head.
So whether it’s getting a fresh new haircut, or weeding your garden, find this things that fill your cup. Make a list of these things either on your phone or post it on your fridge - somewhere that you can access easily when you have a few minutes to kill. Look at this list, pick an act, and do it! This will save you time and energy of thinking of something to do.
Know when you need ME-time and when the kids can be involved
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to complete the self-care acts that make you happy, so try involving the kids! Doing yoga together, or painting a picture, or going on walk - doing these things with the kids can be self-care!
But also know when you need a break.
Know that self-care is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to mothers how are also struggling with their maternal mental health. Going to therapy or a peer support group may become part of your self-care routine that you never have done before.
Remember, your life is different, and so is your self-care.
RESOURCES AND IDEAS
Some great self-care articles and ideas:
https://www.mother.ly/life/25-self-care-ideas-for-exhausted-parents - My FAVORITE
It is my sincere hope that women feel strong and encouraged by their doctors and their families the INSTANT they feel uneasy, and more importantly, it is absolutely vital to have strong support systems in place.