How do I take care of myself while caring for my child and all the other responsibilities in my life?
After the many months (maybe years) you've spent dreaming of holding your precious baby in your arms, the time has finally arrived! Congratulations, mama!
The explosive, powerful, purposeful love you are most likely experiencing right now is unlike anything you've ever felt, right? It's amazing! And the mama bear instinct to care for and protect your baby is pretty overwhelming.
The postpartum phase is not the same for every mom, but most often the above-mentioned euphoria sends a new mom into caretaker action without much thought or effort. Until... the exhaustion, residual pain from childbirth and the sometimes abrupt realization that you do in fact have other responsibilities outside of the baby set in.
This can feel like someone dumped a ton of bricks on your already-tired back.
This conundrum is the beginning of the looping question that nearly every mother grapples with throughout most of her life as a mom:
How do I take care of myself while caring for my child + all the other responsibilities in my life?
As a veteran mom of four children and author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother's Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, for which I interviewed hundreds of moms, the most important mantra for every new mom who is in the throes of making this life-altering transition and trying to figure out the answer to the above-mentioned question is this:
I will be KIND to myself.
Many moms, myself included, find many of the postpartum days and nights to be a blur. I remember feeling as if I were walking wearily through a very dense fog and sometimes I accidentally stepped in some quicksand.
While there are certainly moments of euphoric bliss while gazing at the amazing miracle you created who is resting in your arm, the postpartum time is not for the faint of heart.
And self-care is not high on your list right now.
Not rolling over on top of your baby when you pass out while nursing her in your bed is.
BUT I am here to offer you a lifeline.
A lifeline that you will need throughout your entire life as a mother.
From this point on, the responsibility of taking care of your child will take up a great deal of space in your heart, mind + body. In turn, the time + energy you need to take care of yourself will be more scarce.
Your self-care needs to be driven from a strong and secure place within you—a place that is fueled by self-love, self-worth and self-advocacy.
Sometimes it may seem that you have to fight for your self-care. And often you will. And sometimes you won't want to fight and will feel like it's too hard to fight for your own self-care when you have so many other responsibilities.
But remember that, as Brené Brown tells us,
We are wired for struggle.
Think about how your baby arrived in this world. His first sound was a cry. His first audible self-care signal that says,“Feed me hold, me, warm me, touch me, soothe me…"
As a mother, you must not only be attuned to your baby's cries, but pay attention to your own cries for self-care as well.
And you are in charge of honoring and tending to both.
In the months after your baby is born, in addition to honoring your baby's needs, keep this self-assessment nearby as a daily reminder of your self-care needs.
- I will aim to take a hot shower or bath today or tonight.
- I will eat at least one nourishing meal while sitting down at a table.
- I will keep myself hydrated throughout the day and night.
- I will make sure I laugh today. I may need to call a friend who can find humor in anything or watch a funny show or video.
- At least once today, even for just a few moments, I will ground myself by connecting with gratitude or making a spiritual connection—maybe through meditation, prayer, yoga, deep breathing or a centering exercise like writing or reading.
- I will move my body today by taking a short walk around the block or up and down the stairs, doing 10 minutes of stretching or yoga, or dancing in the kitchen while heating up a bottle.
- I will connect with my partner about something other than the baby. Maybe I will send a thoughtful text, hug or kiss him/her at least once during the day or night, or share a glass of wine or cup of tea after kids are in bed.
- I will do something for myself today that makes me feel special and ignites inner joy? Maybe I will treat myself to a manicure when grandma watches the baby, buy a new fun-colored lipstick, or meet a friend for a walk or lunch?
- I will honor my body's need for sleep by forgoing cleaning, laundry, emails and cooking (dinner will just have to be later or I will ask my partner to cook) if I can grab an extra hour of sleep when the baby is sleeping.
Would you deprive your child of eating healthy foods, moving their bodies, getting enough rest, playing with friends, drawing, painting, reading, exploring, signing, dancing or spending quiet time alone?
Of course you wouldn't. So why would you deprive yourself of those things?
Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is the belief that you are worthy of a healthy and joyful life.