When you become a mom, it feels like the weight of the world has been placed upon your shoulders and you’re expected to just deal with the burden alone.
At least, I feel that way sometimes. I especially feel that way because I’m the one that wanted a baby. I’m the one that started the conversation about having a kid. I’m the one that cried over every pregnancy announcement and baby shower invitation and birth announcement and onesie I wanted for my future littles. So it’s my own fault that I’m in this mess, right?
Well, no. It took two to make the baby, and it takes a village to raise one. Like, for real mommas, you may be the superest of supermoms, but you can’t do it alone.
Not only can you not do it alone, but we all need to quit being so hard on ourselves! We need to quit comparing ourselves to other mommas. We need to quit bottling up our frustrations and needs, and set them free!
We need to ask for help when we need it, and not wait until we’re at our wits end, about to rip out all of our hair and throw down in a temper tantrum of our own.
Keep in mind, I am not a professional and I have no formal training in parenthood or psychology or medicine or anything that qualifies me for anything. The following, however,are some of my suggestions for how to make sure you get in some self care, an much needed mommy-time. Take what you want and leave the rest.
Ask for help before you have a breakdown!
If you’re anything like me, I feel like I have to do it all on my own. Like I said before, I was the one that wanted to have a baby, I should have to deal with the not-so-fun parts of being a parent.
It’s not true!
My husband is just as responsible for the little life we made (see: we made) as I am. Why should I carry the entire burden of caring for our child? I shouldn’t! The thing is, nobody is making me carry that burden but me! My husband offers to help all the time, but still I try to do it by myself.
I am no good to my son if I have a mental breakdown because I’m exhausted and starving and aching and lonely.
I can’t remember exactly where I heard it, but it’s like I’m a teapot and my baby is a teacup. I can’t fill him if I’m running on E. I can’t take care of him properly if I’m not taking care of myself as well. One of the biggest ways to do that, is to ask for help, and realize that you cannot do it alone.
Ask. For. Help.
Even if it’s just for someone else to change a dirty diaper, or to have someone order pizza for dinner, or even literally to scratch your nose while your hands are full with trying to feed the baby.
Quit holding yourself to an impossible standard!
Stop comparing yourself to any other mother out there. You and your baby are unique, and regardless of what you see on social media, all mommas are hot messes and just barely holding it together. We’re all flying by the seat of our pants. We’re all screwing up.
If you think about it, whether you’re on baby numero uno, or you’re working on a baker’s dozen, you’re always a first time mom.
Hear me out.
With baby number one, you’ve never had a baby before and you’re learning what to do and how to do it.
With baby number two, you’ve never been a mom to two kids before, and you’re learning how to juggle two little ones at the same time.
With baby number seven, you’ve never had seven kids before and while you’ve probably got diapers and bottles pretty much down, each of your babies are different and you have to figure out what baby number seven likes, and how to juggle taking care of a baby with six other kids.
Take a deep breath. As long as you are trying to do right by your family, you’re being the best mother you can. Ignore the impossible standards and recommendations and psychologist suggested blah-blah-blah, and do what you can do for your babies.
Can’t breastfeed? Fine!
Don’t have patience for cloth diapers? Me neither!
Going back to work as soon as your maternity leave is up? Great, make those big bucks!
Making homemade, organic baby food instead of buying pre-made food in the jars or squeeze tubes? Fantastic!
You do you, and raise those precious babies as well as you can.
That is the standard you need to hold yourself to: your best.
Don’t bring your baby everywhere with you!
Sometimes, you can’t get out of taking your kiddo with you to run errands, and that’s totally understandable. However, you don’t need to bring them every single time.
A “quick run to the store” is never a “quick run to the store” with a screaming, hungry child in tow.
When you can, try and run your errands when your kids aren’t with you. This may be easier for some than others, but I think it’s really beneficial for me anyway.
As I’ve mentioned before, I work as a sign language interpreter. That means, sometimes I have two or three (or more) hour breaks between job assignments. Rather than rushing to the daycare to see my munchkin, I’ve started using that time to get errands done! Of course I miss my son, and my heart is pulling me to his daycare, but I know I need to get these things done and I know it will be easier when he’s not with me.
I can’t quite buy temperature sensitive groceries, but I can pick up a loaf of bread, or exchange a package of diapers that my son outgrew, or buy some more laundry detergent.
My husband and I don’t go grocery shopping every week, but sometimes we run out of things like cheese or yogurt, or maybe we forgot something we need for dinner. Rather than both us us going to the store and bringing our baby boy along, I’ll run to the store by myself to pick up what we need.
Sometimes just getting out of the house without your baby on your hip can really help you feel recharged.
Now this one, my husband and I haven’t done well, I’ll admit.
Since my son has come home from the NICU, we’ve gone on one date. We had seen all of The Purge movies in theaters, so we went to see the latest installment and left our son with some friends.
I don’t know that I would call it a date, because we literally dropped off our son, went straight to the movies, watched the movie, then picked up some sub sandwiches on the way back to get our baby. It was a little bit rushed, and we really didn’t enjoy one another’s company like we used to.
It’s hard getting to spend quality time with your significant other after the baby comes, but it’s important to do so still.
I am the first to admit that we have not been doing a great job of this, but I plan to take my own advice and try better in the future.
Hubby, if you’re reading this, let’s plan a date! Our wedding anniversary is coming up, after all!
(September 17th we’ll be celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary, if anyone was wondering.
Also, side note, I always want to add an extra “r” to anniversary, anyone else?)
Don’t ignore your emotions!
This one is a biggie for me, because I (like a lot of other NICU/preemie mommas) went through some serious postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I probably shouldn’t say went through in the past tense, because I’m still working through my depression, and the anxiety comes and goes.
A lot of people shy away from talking about depression and anxiety, as if they are contagious diseases or naughty words that would get your mouth washed out with soap. I was guilty of that for a long time, but depression and anxiety are a lot more common than you’d think, and we need to talk about them.
Hiding how you feel, at least for me, makes things worse. I tried putting on a facade and pretend that everything was alright, when it wasn’t. I’d lie and say I was fine, when in reality I had cried myself to sleep for the last three nights.
Depression doesn’t make sense, it isn’t rational, it’s a bully, but it’s so hard to ignore; and you shouldn’t have to.
Talk about what you’re feeling, or write about it! You don’t have to openly share like I’ve decided to do. You can write in a private journal, or talk to a therapist, or confide in a friend. Regardless, bottling it all up won’t do you any good.
Also, depression and anxiety are not synonymous with medication. For some people, medication works and that’s what they need and want. I do not want medication and I am working to find alternative ways to work out my feelings (including, by blogging).
Do what works for you, just don’t ignore or discount your emotions. You’re feeling them for a reason and hiding them away will just do more damage than anything else.
Doesn’t it seem like exercise is the answer to every problem? It really does help with a lot though!
I started a 30 day yoga challenge once I got home from my trip to California, and I think it’s been really beneficial for me!
Not only is it helping me lose some baby (and NICU stress) weight, but it’s helping my mental health, too!
Some days I think “Ugh, literally the last thing I want to do is a yoga session” but I’ve never regretted doing it anyway. I’ve been following one of the Yoga with Adriene 30 Day Challenges, and the longest session I’ve done so far has been 41 minutes (the rest are closer to 20-30 minutes).
Usually on the days I really don’t want to do my yoga session, I need it the most. I’ve broken down crying several times, because I was going through something or I was overwhelmed that day, and I didn’t let myself experience my emotions until I surrendered to my yoga mat and let it all out.
It’s been really hot around my neck of the woods recently, so I haven’t been able to get outside as much as I’d like, but the other day I went for a walk around my neighborhood with loud music blaring in my headphones and a pep in my step. I wasn’t trying to get in a certain amount of steps or go a certain distance, I just walked around and took in the fresh air. It was incredibly rejuvenating, and I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I got back home and felt brand new!
You don’t have to go out and make some new personal best, or honestly even really break a sweat! You don’t have to leave your house even, just do something physical and get your blood pumping!
You can go for a walk with your dog, or put on some music and dance with your baby! A few weeks ago, I put on iHeartradio and danced around my living room with my son in my arms, and I had a blast!
You don’t have to do anything structured, just get moving!
Mommy self-care doesn’t have to come in the form of mani/pedis and massages and hot soaks in the tub or jacuzzi and getting your hair done and drinking wine and eating chocolate. I mean, don’t get me wrong, all of those things are also important and I could seriously go for a pedicure right about now, but that’s not what it’s all about.
Mommy self-care can be as easy as calling a friend or family member over so you can take an uninterrupted hour long nap. It can be deciding to order Chinese takeout because you’re exhausted and can’t stand the thought of cooking a healthy dinner. It can be learning to ease up on yourself and not beat yourself up when you cave and let your little one watch two movies that day instead of being crafty and breaking out the glue sticks and glitter pens. It can be knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and asking someone to help when you need it instead of collapsing into a puddle on the floor when you just can’t take it anymore.
Take care of yourselves, so you can best take care of your precious babies.
They need you to be on top of your game, which means they need you to practice self-care.