How Can New Parents Actually Practice Self Care?
When it comes to buzzwords, “self-care” is enormous. They have a saying that goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Another common piece of advice is to “put on your own oxygen mask first.”
All of this advice is quite sound. However, as a new mother, I’ve found it to be sometimes ridiculously difficult to put into practice. After all, how am I expected to fill my cup when it’s four in the morning, I’m so fatigued that it aches, and my brand-new baby is wailing his little heart out.
I can’t exactly put my headphones in my ears and lay in bed all cozy and warm. How am I expected to unwind and enjoy myself in the shower while my little child is pounding on the door and calling out, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
Taking care of yourself when I already have a toddler and a new baby is challenging at best and outright difficult most of the time.
How am I supposed to take care of myself in addition to caring for two small kids and one rowdy dog, not to mention being a good (I’ll settle for respectable!) spouse, friend, writer, editor, and person in the world?
How can I accomplish all of that? It’s a question with a lot riding on the answer since when I’m exhausted, I’m not much use to anybody. The stakes are high.
The previous year, while I was getting ready for the birth of my second child, I gave a lot of consideration to this topic.
What kinds of care for me are really possible to provide? When I need to feel better, it’s sometimes as simple as taking a few baby steps in the right direction.
To make the baby snuggling zone as opulent and comfortable as possible, I went out and purchased some nice loungewear as well as the plushest blanket I could find.
(Unfortunately, we can no longer retain the blanket since it has been puked on too many times. It was enjoyable for the time that it lasted!)
Because I consume a lot of coffee, I always make sure to prepare the coffee maker the night before.
If I have to be up nursing long before morning, it helps to have a steaming cup of coffee with a liberal pour of half and half by my side. This makes the situation seem a bit more doable. (For me, cream = self care!)
What are some ways that we can take care of ourselves as new parents? I posed this topic to recently minted parents, and I’m going to share some of the responses here in the hopes that they’ll spark your creativity.
Just give me a moment…or a second
Alison Anuzis, who already has one child and is expecting her second, is a mother of one and says she realized early on that children can acquire knowledge.
“After a few of weeks, I came to the realization that I was better able to take care of my child if I had both my breakfast and my coffee first thing in the morning.
That was vital. After completing one round of feeding and changing, I positioned her in her swing and attended to my own needs. She sobbed for the first few days, but then she learned to console herself by telling herself, “Oh, mom is just getting her dinner ready, and she’ll be back to hang out with me in a little while.”
For me, practicing self-care these days may consist of doing something as simple as pausing for a moment to take a drink of water, use the restroom, or just taking a few slow, deep breaths before attending to my fussy infant or hyperactive preschooler.
Get some non-kid time
Winn Bolton Baucom is a mother of three children, the youngest of whom is just six months old, the oldest of whom is seven years old. We have located a babysitter, and we are going to make an effort to schedule a night out on the town either once a week or every other week. This should make things easier.
“My husband also takes the kids out on the weekends, either to the grocery store or the park, so that I can have some time to myself,” she said to me.
Even if it’s only for an hour, having a babysitter, family member, or friend watch the children may provide newlyweds and new parents with the much-needed opportunity to catch their breath.
The first time I went out with my husband was seven years ago, and we celebrated the anniversary of that date last week.
(How can so much time pass so quickly?) I had the want to simply roll over and go back to sleep, but I’m very pleased that my boyfriend insisted that we get out of the home and go out to dinner.
The children were looked after by my parents. I felt a lot more connected to other people after having a few drinks and some lamb chops with some friends, laughing and reminiscing about the good old days.
Treat yourself with compassion.
Even though your postpartum photos may appear picture-perfect on Instagram, the reality is that being a new parent isn’t easy for anybody. It is sufficient merely to keep one’s life for the time being.
Give yourself the go-ahead to lower the standard a little bit from what it usually is. No one will look down on you if you forget to send a thank-you note for the adorable onesie you received (a simple text message would do the job), or if your house is a little (okay, a lot) dirtier than it usually is.
Ask for assistance
It’s not natural for me to seek assistance, but I’m working on becoming better at it. It takes a village, which in times of epidemic is much more difficult to get than it normally would be.
When I approached my OB-GYN for advice on how to be ready for the baby, she made sure to tell me to get as much assistance as I possibly could. (I was anticipating her to give me medical advice, but instead, she encouraged me to consider what simple foods I could eat and who I could contact for assistance when it was time to take a shower.)
Emily Pearly Goodstein, founder and chief executive officer of Greater Good Strategy as well as a mother of a daughter who is 18 months old, says, “I receive so much support!”
I have practically everything outsourced, including a nanny, home manager, food delivery service, maid, and laundry service. There are a variety of choices available, including night nurses, postpartum doulas, and in-laws.
If you do not have the financial means to seek aid, try to enlist the assistance of your loved ones and close friends as much as you can. It’s easy to see dependence on other people as a sign of weakness, but the reality is that our interdependence is really one of our greatest strengths.
Requests that are more precise tend to be the most helpful, in my experience: On Friday, would you be able to pick up my little child from preschool and bring her to the nearby playground?
When you go to the supermarket again, would it be possible for you to pick up some food for me? People almost always express real joy when they are able to be of service to others.
According to Mariel Null, a mother of a toddler boy, “not all mothers are able to undertake self-care in the beginning.” “This too will pass, and things will improve and become less difficult as time goes on.”
Now that I have a second child, I am acutely aware of how quickly this chapter will pass. This too shall pass at some point.