‘You cannot pour from an empty cup’ sounds like one of those trite aphorisms that used to make us baulk. Now though, it seems apt. A baby’s needs are simple: to be warm, clean, safe, fed and secure. A mother (and father) need to feel emotionally and physically capable of providing for these needs. Whilst exhaustion is a given for some time after the arrival of your Tiny Stranger, taking time for yourself MUST be a priority.
Your self-care plan needs to suit you. It needs to take care of both body and mind and it needs to ensure that your relationship with your partner can bend and sway as the demands placed upon it by your baby and the changes that brings to your lives. Most of all, it needs to be put in place before your baby arrives and you both need to make sure it is implemented. Never think that you are exempt from needing self-care.
So, how do you go about nurturing your mind, body and soul?
Ours include(d) some of the following and we have also included a few suggested by friends and the amazing ladies on Jo’s CBT course:
Have a bath in peace rather than a snatched 2 minute shower, or one with interruptions from little people! Glass of wine optional.
Paint your toenails, now you can finally reach them again.
Declutter your wardrobe (but don’t make Jo’s mistake and end up throwing out clothes that don’t currently fit because, in 6 months, a year, two years, whenever, you’ll realise you have nothing to wear)
Read a book. Don’t beat yourself up about the fact it’s utter dross; War and Peace can wait for another 33.5 years.
Listen to the music you love. Jo continued using her hypnobirthing MP3s, which relax her and also have a calming, soporific effect on baby.
Exercise. Get out for a walk, whatever the weather. We wish we’d carried on with the stretches and yoga we did during pregnancy. Now we’re both about as supple as a plank of wood.
Keep a gratitude journal. A friend of Jo’s (and new mum) mentioned this a few weeks ago as a great way of keeping things in perspective and as a reminder of all you have to be thankful for, as it’s easy to forget sometimes. (Credit to Amy for this lovely idea)
Make ‘achieved lists’ rather than ‘to-do’ lists. This gem came from a friend on Jo’s CBT course. Tired of looking at her unfinished to-do list each day, she started writing a ‘done’ list every night. It’s amazing how much you do in a day and don’t give yourself credit for. (Credit to Rachel for this one)
Write. As we mentioned in our initial post, this blog is about a year overdue. And yet, when we write a little every day, we feel a great sense of release and achievement. It keeps us in touch with who we were pre-baby, even though we’re writing about life with one!
Meet up with friends – old friends, new friends, mum friends. Or family members. Call people if you can’t get out. Adult conversation keeps you sane.
Talk to your partner. Sadly, relationships are often the first things to take the strain when a new baby arrives. Take some time to reconnect and (difficult though it is) try not to talk only about your child(ren).
Do little things to make you feel human. Jo says, rather vainly she thinks, that for her, this was putting on make up each day, and straightening her hair whenever she could (it was long and thick so took ages – she’s since had it chopped!).
Put on some snuggly socks, a big cardy and snuggle up on the sofa with a box set. This is something Lauren finds really restorative. Leave the phone upstairs. There are too many distractions in life sometimes. Switch off and enjoy House of Cards, Walking Dead, The Good Wife…or Desperate Housewives of [insert placename here], whatever your heart desires.
Make things! There is something rather therapeutic and satisfying about taking time to craft or bake, or both. Lauren got her sewing machine out and made bunting for M’s room, and has just started making and baking fresh bread. Tangible, beautiful things and a pleasurable process to boot.
Now for some extra ideas from a few of our lovely readers. Thank you, ladies, for taking the time to post:
Kelly: Adult colouring books, *especially* those with swear words! Purchase here. You’re welcome 😉
Kirsten: Buggy Fit classes. Not did she get fit, make new friends and have a lot of fun, she also had some nights out with the ladies she met. Win/win!
Lee and Ellen: Joined a local darts team. Plenty of laughs, chat and wine (and maybe the occasional dart thrown too).
Katy: ALL the cake, with NO guilt! Lauren and Jo spent endless days with the tribe in the babies’ first year, hovering up cake like it was going out of fashion. We certainly got some mileage out of the ‘500 extra calories a day needed whilst breastfeeding’ line(!)
Amy: Hubby takes baby and dog out for a walk after a feed so she gets a bath and nap without interruptions. Also gives Daddy some lovely bonding time.
Nadine: Crocheting whilst listening to audio books. We love this multitasking self-care!!
Gemma, Joanne and Katie: Spa day. We love this idea too – a regular relax and pamper is a great MOT for our minds and bodies.
Maz: Gets up an hour before her twins for some ‘me’ time – cuppa and a crossword. Bliss!
Sarah-Jane: Time alone. To think, to read, to walk, to shop, to do anything without feeling like you’re time is not your own. Time to be reflective is very restorative.
Joanne: Lots of brilliant ideas, but one that we haven’t mentioned – jigsaws! I hadn’t thought of this but they are great for escapism/clearing your mind.
Juliet, Joanne, Gemma: A bath in peace!!!! This is a popular one. Sounds so simple but the ‘in peace’ bit is often hard to manage with children!
Finally, one of Jo’s oldest friends, Julie, mother of three children, has recently come up with a FANTASTIC initiative called ‘Because You’re Worth It’, a Facebook page for mums, whereby every time you do something for yourself, you pop £1 in a pot. That money then goes towards something bigger, so you have a self-care goal funded by smaller moments of self-care. So, for example, every time you manage a hot bubble bath in peace, or paint your nails, or practise 10 minutes of mindfulness, in goes £1. Before you know it, you’ll have enough money for that spa day, or that sweary colouring book. We think it’s a ruddy brilliant idea – follow her page or set something similar up with your local mum friends.
So, there we have it. Something to suit every taste and pocket. Regardless of whether you have five minutes or five hours free, there should be something here for you. Bat away any guilt you feel over taking time for yourself – you are no good to your baby if you’re tired and ratty. Happy mum, happy baby!The Mother Side xx