Why Self Care for a New Mum is so Important.
When you’re a new mum (and I’m defining “new” as any time in the first two years after having a baby), your schedule becomes fluid and chaos becomes your norm. In between meal times, naps and nappy changes, there’s a plethora of tasks and chores racing round your tired and overstretched mind. You’ve a mental to-do list with items adding quicker than you’re checking them off. Self care doesn’t even feature.
But it should.
Naturally, when you welcome your new baby, your focus shifts to surround this tiny child and their needs. They depend on you. You direct almost all of your time and energy towards keeping them alive and content. Then, anything you have left goes on keeping your home, their environment, safe and comfortable. If you’re having a particularly effective day, you may find just enough vigour to extend a caring nod in the direction of your other half. Self care just isn’t a priority.
But it needs to be.
If you’d told me as a new mum that I should make time for some self care, my mind would’ve jumped to an indulgent yoga class and the dedication of a few hours out of my day. I would have silently laughed at your impossible suggestion, or possibly out loud, and carried on navigating through parenting as best I could. I had so little time I had to choose between washing or leaving the house. No time to pamper myself. I didn’t realise that self care didn’t have to be overly time consuming.
Self care is anything we deliberately do to look after our own mental, physical or emotional wellbeing. Read that again. It’s something we have to consciously decide to do for ourselves. It doesn’t always require a lot of your time but it does require some of your focus. As a new, busy and distracted mum, taking a minute to remember you need to survive too, can be as difficult as taking a couple of hours time out.
But it is so important.
Every mother out there want’s to put everything into being the very best parent they can be. But, how can we give our best if we don’t allow ourselves the love to be our best? One thing I’ve occasionally looked back to from my Psychology A Level, which I feel is relevant here, is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s theory says that the more basic human needs, need to be met before moving on to the next level of more complex needs. So, to reach our full mothering potential, we need to look after our own basic needs first.
Self care can be as simple as making yourself a sandwich while you make your baby their next bottle. I know I was guilty of neglecting even my most fundamental needs in the first few months of parenthood. How many new mums do you see looking thinner than before they had the baby quicker than you thought you would? The chances are, like I wasn’t, they’re not giving themselves the self care to eat nutritious foods at regular intervals.
The importance of looking after yourself should be taught to you in the delivery suite. While you’ll never forget to feed, clean or clothe your baby, self care is the easiest thing mum’s cast aside. Self care will give you your best shot at parenting like a boss. We need to remember when we are nourished physically and mentally we are better able to help others.
Do you know the one thing self care for a new mum isn’t? Selfish. So drop the mum guilt you get when you think about taking a minute for yourself. That minute will actually make you more available for your child.
Mum’s, we are amazing. Let’s look after our own wellbeing too in 2020.
I wrote a bit more about my postnatal anxiety from a time I really neglected self care and you can read it here.