Reconnecting With Yourself After Becoming A Mum
A couple of months after my first son was born, I was really craving some ‘me’ time. I’d worked my way through the first few excruciating weeks of breastfeeding, and I had mostly recovered from birth (physically, at least!); the fog was starting to clear. Finally, the moment arrived: he’d been fed and was asleep, I was free. My husband excitedly said something along the lines of, “Go! Go and take some time for yourself!”. Excitedly I grabbed my bag and skipped to my car. But when I got there I was stumped. I realised I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. What was going to make me happy? What would ‘fill my cup’? So I did what any new mum in my position would do: I burst into tears and called my best friend. “I don’t know who I am! I don’t know how to make myself happy! I’m wasting my first block of alone time!”. She calmed me down in the moment, but it took a lot more than that conversation to ‘get myself back’. In fact, it’s still a work in progress. But, four years and another baby later, here are a few things I’ve learnt that might help other new mums.
Make a list of five things that make you happy.
Easy? Here’s the catch: this must be about what makes YOU happy. Not what you do to make others happy or make someone else smile. What lights YOU up? Is it quietly reading a brand-new book? Is it buying yourself a coffee and a treat? Is it going for a walk on your own? Really think about it so that when you DO get some extended time to yourself, you know what to do with it.
Aim for three, ten-minute blocks daily where YOU are your primary focus.
For new mums especially, setting aside half an hour for ‘self-care’ every day is overwhelming (and, let’s be honest, not really possible). Instead, break it down into manageable portions that feel achievable. Can’t manage a bubble bath? Chuck on a face mask while baby is in the bath. Can’t find time to work out? Squats and lunges can be done holding a baby. Can’t find time to read that book? Get an audio version you can listen to while you’re feeding. If you think you can’t manage 10 minutes, try being a bit more mindful when using social media – the ultimate time-drainer. All the small chunks of time add up.
Take your supplements and nurture yourself with good food.
There are things about being the primary carer of a baby that are out of your control: broken sleep and continuous feeding demands among them. What you CAN control is what you put into your mouth. Spend 10 minutes once a week cutting a bunch of raw vegetable sticks and make sure you’ve got some hummus in the fridge. Put some almond butter on apple slices. Have some ‘ready to go’ snacks like felafels or fritters in the fridge. Fill up a drink bottle with water. Eating well and nourishing yourself doesn’t have to take hours but it does need to be a priority.
Know your team.
Who can you call when things get too much? Who will answer your call and be there with what you need in a challenging moment? Have a think about this: do you want to call someone who will jump in with solutions and suggestions? Would you rather a sympathetic ear who will just listen? Do you need someone to jump in on a rant-session? For me, these phone calls go to different people.
Change the rules.
What ‘rules’ have you set yourself around parenting that are making things harder than they need to be? Finish this sentence: “to be a good mum, I must…” For example, “to be a good mum, I must be the one to put my child to bed/get up to my child overnight/read 10 books per day/serve the perfect meal”. Quite often, these rules are things that exist only in the mind of the mum. Challenge the rules. For me, the biggest one has been “I must complete all the jobs before I can have a rest”. Do I feel more relaxed if the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean? Of course. Will not doing the dishes and putting my feet up instead cause more harm than good? No way!
Becoming a parent is one of the most significant moments in a person’s life. The world is quite literally changed, as you’re no longer at the centre of it. What you used to do for self-care may not be appropriate or even possible for a little while. Life will eventually regain some sort of equilibrium but until then it’s up to you to redefine how you can fill your own cup. The little person or people you’re responsible for will only benefit from a mum who finds time and space to revisit who she is, what makes her happy. As they say, you must put on your own oxygen mask first – what does that oxygen mask represent to you?
As always, if you need extra support there are excellent options using both herbal and nutritional medicine to support stress, mood, and energy levels. Naturopathy can be a very safe and effective option both during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding, when directed by a qualified practitioner.