First things first. I’m no expert. I’m a new mom with lots of learning curves still ahead of me. I’ve made mistakes, lots of ‘em. I have days where I want to run, screaming out the front door. Motherhood is so much harder than most of us make it look. It’s messy, both figuratively and literally. I have more questions in the run of a day than I will ever have answers to and more emotions than I’ll ever have time to process.
Amidst all of this chaos though, I do know that a momma’s gotta learn how to thrive and these are just a few insights that have helped me cope and care for myself when life feels overwhelming.
Allies & Friends
Don’t do it alone. Don’t isolate yourself from your people. Don’t hide the messy parts because those are the bits on which real human connection is built. I say all this because I’m guilty of hiding myself. I get overwhelmed with the 24-7 Mommy demands and the daily to-dos and my immediate reaction is to shut down. I don’t want people to see me struggle. It’s a vulnerable place to be and it’s hard to want to expose that. However, without fail, the act that always pulls me out of this lone wolf state is sharing my struggle with someone whom I trust. The relief I feel is almost immediate. I have found so much joy in being a mom, but it also comes with a lot of weighty responsibility that requires unloading now and then. Identify who you have in your corner and lean on them. It’s going to feel icky sometimes and you’re going to want to downplay your struggles but trust me, let yourself be unhinged and unfiltered with your friends and family. You’ll be all the better for it.
Be Gentle, Be Kind and Forgive Yourself
I’ve been humbled by the lack of precision or predictability that comes with having children. It’s a crap shot! There is no manual. Sometimes, I like to think I’m in control…but I’m not. I’m soooooo not! I’m learning as I go and it’s exhausting, scary and with some distance, usually hilarious.
As a recovering perfectionist, who rarely accepts less than extraordinary from myself, it has been a challenge to release my hold on “perfect” or “right” in favour of…well… “fine”, “okay”, “good enough”. Trial and error is a staple in parenting and yet, I still fight it, trying to locate the “answer” that will allow me to avoid the mistake and go right to succeeding. Ugh, it’s embarrassing to admit but I know that some of you share in this vice.
Of course, the harsh reality is that you cannot avoid mistakes. You’re human and they happen. I know this and yet, I come down hard on myself when I slip up, lose my cool or fall apart. I feel so much shame when this happens, especially when there are witnesses. I desperately want to rewind the moment for a second-chance at perfection. It sounds ridiculous to admit but it’s the ugly truth.
Becoming a mom, has made me much more apt to make mistakes. I’m doing more on less sleep, way less sleep! I’m not always my best self. Even as I write this, I have this little voice inside my head saying “yes, but those are just excuses”. It’s hard to escape your inner critic.
This is why self-care is so important. The more you do it, the more you’re placing value on yourself, your health, your well-being and your goodness. This helps to fight the inner critic. From experience, I know that the more I neglect me, the more critical I am of myself. I become angry, complacent and I lash out at the people closest to me, usually my husband. The more attention I give to my needs, even when it’s the smallest of gestures, makes a huge difference in how easily I can forgive myself for a mistake or be gentle with myself about an insecurity. We all need to cut ourselves some slack. Motherhood is hard and none of us are doing it without having some ugly moments and bad days.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve definitely had to get creative in how I practice self-care. I’ve had to adapt to the limited time I have to myself and learn to tend to my needs in small bits of time or on the fly or while also caring for my son. It’s a juggling act but when I can give myself a little attention, it helps me to maintain my sanity for sure!
Here are some specific examples from my life.
- I stash snacks, chocolate and a book or magazine in the car for those times when we’re out doing an errand and my son falls asleep. I can actually enjoy this moment of peace instead of feeling annoyed that he’s off his nap schedule and I’m not able to get anything done. I just have to go with it.
- When I’m feeling agitated and burnt out, I often need to get out of my head and into my body. I’ll turn on some music and dance around the living room with my son. It feels ridiculous but it really helps to deflect the pity party that I sometimes fall victim too. It also feels good to be silly.
- Getting outside is a big one! I need this. Everyday if possible. I’ll put the babe in the stroller and we walk. Sometimes for an hour. Sometimes he sleeps. Sometimes he contently babbles away to himself. Sometimes he whines or cries. It’s all tolerable and okay because being outside feels much better than being cooped up indoors. The bonus is that I get some exercise, which can be difficult to fit in as a mom.
- My son is of an age where he loves when I roll around and play on the floor with him. I can use this to my advantage a lot of times and do some yoga stretches while we hang out on the floor. I also have friends with older children who will do yoga together as a family. This is fabulous and a great way to practice self-care in conjunction with your mom duties.
- Confession: I’m not a big napper. I can count on both my hands the number of times I’ve had a nap as an adult and most of those happened when I was pregnant. However, there are days when I lay down with my son. Sometimes I’ll listen to an audiobook with earphones in or watch something on Netflix. The key is lying down and relaxing.
These three things; looking to my Allies and Friends for support, Being Gentle, Being Kind and Forgiving Myself and getting Creative with how I practice self-care, are simple enough but they make a huge contribution to my overall well-being as a mother. I hope that you find some comfort and reprieve in their application as well. Take care of you Momma.