8 Simple ways to manage self care as a new Mama
Lets talk self care for a minute. YOUR SELF CARE MATTERS! You cannot drink from an empty cup. Neither can your babies, or children, or family or friends. We as Mama's give and give, but there is only so long that we can give the best of ourselves before we become empty. And depleted if we do not put ourselves FIRST some of the time. Or at least second. Our Western culture has some of the highest rates of perinatal depression. And I feel a big part of this is because our self care, and often others caring for US seems to be right down the bottom of priorities! I know it can be hard to know where to begin, but lets start SIMPLE!
Simply begin by understanding that 'self care' should not be one more thing to add to your list to feel guilty about not managing to get done in your day! Because sadly, it can become that way. Nor does it have to be some massively challenging goal that in reality raises anxiety in wondering how we can achieve it!
While we are trying to juggle all the stuff that Motherhood demands on us in a world where 'village' means something very different than it used to mean, certainly carving out time for ourselves for self care can feel unachievable. And so while we are talking about 'self care', because that is what we always hear about as important, I am going to ask you to shift your recognition of what this means. Or should I say DEFINITION. To ask you to begin considering that 'self care' actually involves more than just YOU making it happen. In fact, I ask you to consider embracing the words 'community care', as it is in leaning into your community (your modern village) that can make self care both possible (achievable) and enjoyable (not anxiety inducing of how you will manage).
Let's look at some simple ways to consider how you can begin practising 'self care', and how you can use your community to make this possible.
"Take care of the soul that takes care of others" - Mary Davis
1. ASK FOR HELP!
This is both simple in theory, and often the HARDEST part of the plan for many people. We are not a culture that seems to be okay with asking for help. We tend to lean towards the "I'm all good, I got this" responses, even when people offer. Even when we are quite the opposite of "all good". Many of us, self included, let this nagging little voice whisper crazy accusations like "What is wrong with you? You should be able to do this?" or "How much of a failure can you be if you can't juggle a tiny baby" or "They will think I am not coping if I ask for/accept help" or "I need help, but I cannot impose on others. They are busy enough and managing. So I should be able to too.".
First tip, tell that voice to *#%! OFF. Because we were NEVER meant to Mother alone. Not even with just our partners. This is a new thing in a modern world that is causing real problems for new Mamas. The flow on effect is that problems for Mama's can lead to problems for the bub, the partner relationship, the family, the community. Take a brief look into any traditional culture, or even your own family history going back 100 years or so, and Mothers were supported, embraced, celebrated, and allowed time to rest and repair. Not just self care, but cared for.
Asking for help was not necessary once upon a time. It was just there. Available. Help for a new Mother was expected. Today that help is not always so readily offered, but still very much needed. And so we must ask! It does not make you a failure. It makes you SMART! You are doing what we have done since women began giving birth. You are ensuring that you (and so your baby) are supported.
Try this for first simple steps: - Before your partner heads to work, or when they get home, ASK (and it pays to have this conversation earlier and calmly) - ASK for help. ASK for 30 minutes so you can have a shower (which is a basic right and general hygiene, not a demanding luxury) and quietly moisturize. Or brew and sip your tea. Or curl up and read in peace. Or go for a work. Or soak in a bath of magnesium salts. Aim for 30 minutes. If you get 15-20, you are still winning. If you have older children, ask them to help you, to watch bub, to amuse toddlers. Everything begins with asking!
ASK your family or friends if they live close by. Remember - this does not make you a burden, nor a failure. It makes you smart. Begin small and develop small manageable habits. Manageable for you and for your partner/kids. Daily if you can. Set yourself one small allotment of time for you each day to do something that makes you feel good. And work on that becoming your habit. And as these habits become the norm, try adding something else. Time out for a yoga class or a solo walk. Weekly, or several times a week if it is feasible to build up to it. To manage this - first you must ASK!
2. ACCEPT HELP when it is offered to you!
Okay, so I won't harp on too much about this. This is the other end of the see-saw to above. Same deal. It does not make you a failure, nor a burden to need help. People want to be there for you. So when they offer, accept with gratitude. Can you pop over and watch the bub and toddler for an hour while I have a sleep. Next time you cook a meal, I would be so grateful for a freezer meal to help me on the trickier days. Would you mind to come shopping with the kids an I. I would so love to turn a nightmare experience into one with help managing, and a cafe stop after to celebrate the success.
A top tip is to leave a big clear 'TO DO' list somewhere in plain sight. When people pop over to visit and ask if they can help, direct them to a job on the list. Or pile your washing up on the couch. (Don't hide it). While they come to visit and chat, perhaps they can fold. You could even get creative and make up a note to pin on the wall behind the designated 'washing seat'.
This washing has first rights over this armchair. Before parking your bum, please consider folding a few items. OR
REWARD - missing couch. Last seen in the presence of this laundry. Relaxing seat and cup of tea/coffee welcome to the anyone that can find it. (ps. please note, you may have to make your own tea/coffee)
People want to help you. Help them by letting them know what you need most.
3. Yoga or pilates to help you repair
Did you know it takes your body TWO YEARS to recover from pregnancy and birth. (Whichever way your bub enters this world) . Focus on repairing your body is important. I recommend to pretty much all of my massage clients to take up pilates or yoga. Pregnant, postpartum, or not. Why? Because building core strength, and overall strength, whoever you are is important to your health. As a Mama, even more so, because you are rebuilding. At the same time, focus on core strength is vital in rebuilding your pelvic floor strength. If you can get away for yoga time with just you, even better, but I can honestly say most of my closest Mama friends come from the friendships developed in mum's & bubs yoga (and the catch up that followed each week). That's two self care ticks in one easy step.
4. Massage- It is not just a luxury. It is restorative!
Massage is so beneficial to help your body rest and repair. Massage raises endorphins, can help ease anxiety and can help to improve sleep if you are having trouble. It can also treat your body remedially to help with aches and restricted movements.
If you are pregnant massage is about balancing and preparing your body (and mind) for birth, and managing the monumental shifts in your body's anatomy.
If you are postpartum, massage is about balancing and repairing after birth. Massage is one of the oldest forms of care with very real benefits for a pregnant and postpartum body. Seeing a therapist IS NOT just a luxury. It is self care for the physical, the emotional and the mental well being.
If you cannot make it to a therapist (or have one come to you), try swapping massages with your partner. You will not get the remedial benefits that trained hands can bring you, but you will gain so many emotional benefits. Both ways. Shared massage will relax you both and connect you. It can still ease stress and anxieties and improve your sleep. (Be sure if you are not up for more than massage that your partner is aware up front (in a nice way) that this is not a free ticket, if you get my drift. Of course maybe you are, but sometimes you just need the simple connections)
As a trained therapist, both remedial, and NurtureLife® Practitioner (all things pregnancy, labour preparation and postpartum), I am here to support you and advocate massage 100% in your recovery and self care. For almost all people, in all stages of life. I have both a clinic room, or if that seems impossible, I can come to you. If you would like to learn more about what I offer, you can check out my services here.
5. Meditation and breath work
Many already do this, others think it a 'hippy' thing. Or perhaps something they would like to try, but not quite sure where to begin. Studies show regular meditation is a whole lot more than just 'hippy'. It can actually change your brain. Yep. Much like becoming a mother does, regular meditation has the power to make real changes in your neural connections. So if we can focus on trying to meditate and find calm, we are adding to all the amazing benefits that our magnificent Baby Brains can create for us. Of course don't be freaking out about trying to fit in an hour of quiet time in your daily life.
There are many options for meditation. There are classes, both online and in person. Courses. Books. All there to guide you through and teach you how. But of course if you have never tried or been too successful at this before, it may not be quite the right time to begin attempting long periods of clearing your mind.
Remember, meditation does not need to be an hour long session to be successful. Try beginning with just 10 minutes.
There are a number of apps out there you can try for this. Headspace being a popular one for many. Or perhaps begin by something as simple as mindfully brewing your pot of tea, pouring it out, holding it in your hands, feeling its warmth as you sip it....yep. This, done mindfully, can be the simplest form of meditation. Check out my blog to talk you through this in a little more detail.
Want to try something simple right now?
Close your eyes. Rest your hands on your belly, and take in 5 deep, slow breaths.
Inhale in for 5 seconds...... Exhale out for 5 seconds..... 5 long, slow breaths.
Focus on nothing more than the sound and feel of your breath. The rise and fall of your hands on your belly.
Breath long slow breathes into your body as you need. Notice your breath reach into areas of tension in your body.
Exhale and release that tension. Leaving calmness. Quiet. A moments break.
Focus on how you are feeling.
Focus on the quiet, or tune out the noise. These breaths can be a fabulous simple grounding wherever,,,,whenever you need them in life. A tool to reconnect and ground yourself.
Just these few seconds can make such a difference to your state of mind, particularly if you are feeling frazzled. Perhaps start here, and make this one of your simple daily ritual. As you wake. Or in preparation for leaving the house. Or preparing for bed. There is no one perfect time to practise 5 simple breaths. You can practise this multiple times a day as you need it. Every day.
6. Reach out to your tribe.
Pick up the phone. Ask someone to come over. Or plan to visit them. Or simply have a video call right then and there. If you are feeling isolated* where you live, try connecting in a private facebook 'Mum group'. It only takes one Mama to reach out, and another to respond, and that just might be the beginning of the friendship you needed most to make this Mama thing that bit more special, and so much more supported for you. There are also council Mama groups, baby yoga is fab for meeting others, or multiple mum and bub activities out and about. or 5 Week Baby Massage programis as much about the 'Mama Circle' as it is connecting with your bub.
It only takes one mum to put her hand up and suggest "coffee catch up?" (Or tea?)
*NB: when I first wrote this blog some 5 years ago, global pandemics were something of history, or Hollywood movies. The concept of the whole world being asked to isolate was in the 'it could never happen' basket. And yet for new mothers, the concept of isolation was not unknown. Many mothers already felt, and feel isolated whilst transitioning to this whole new life with baby. I suppose one positive that has come out of a pandemic is that we have all learned to find ways to connect when physical connection feels unavailable. And your support system, both family, friends and community are more able to know how to support even if they cannot reach you in person.
7. Outsource domestic help so you reduce your juggle
So often today Mum's find themselves living away from family or any tangible support. The phone is great for emotionally leaning in, but the fact is, we all need help with the practical too. There is no shame in outsourcing help! Hire a cleaner to come in once a week. It is amazing how having someone who can zip around and do your bathrooms and vacuum and tidy and tackle whatever jobs you hate the most can lift your mood.
Have your groceries delivered. Order in meals - takeaway occasionally is great but can be expensive. There are businesses out there specifically aimed to bring meals into your home. Get your lawns mowed or gardens weeded or clothes ironed for you (unless you just boycott ironing altogether like I do). There is someone out there to help with most tasks.
If you can budget professional help, I encourage you to definitely do it. Of course budgets can often get in the way of outsourcing. Especially if you have dropped to a single income family. But having groceries delivered does not cost. Perhaps you have neighbours with teenage kids that want to make a few extra dollars that could mow your lawn, or help in the house for a few hours?
An occasional call for help to your family or friends okay too. If you struggle with the thought of this, imagine if they were in your position and you could see they need help. Would you begrudge trying to help? Dropping in some meals or folding some washing or having a chat while you weeded the garden? Probably not. When it comes to family and friends, sometimes you help, and sometimes you gotta lean in and ask for help too.
8. Embrace the holistic help of a doula
Your baby does not need lots of STUFF! Your baby, and children, and partner just need YOU - present and available to them. And to manage that, you need to find ways to nurture yourself. Keep it simple. Ask for help. Rest. Repair. Recover. If you have no local help, consider a postpartum doula to call on for support. Lets go back to looking at history and tradition for a moment. Sacred tradition around a new mothers care is common across cultures across the world. 40 days in in. 6 weeks in . The fourth trimester.... WHY? Because raising a baby, and a new Mother has always been the responsibility of the whole Village, and the doulas have traditionally been the close nit community of Mothers, sisters, aunties and women. Wisdom as old as womankind has seen to this sacred care.
We deserve to be cared for as we learn to Mother our babies. Of course few women today necessarily want to be confined for 40 days, but most would fantasize about a doula coming into their home once or twice a week to support them in whatever way they need, emotional and physical, for as long as they need. And there is a very good chance there is a doula near you, ready to help. It is just about finding one to suit you and your needs.
As a perinatal doula, I support Mama's from conception through their first year postpartum. I am here to support you, help you find your feet, find your tribe and fall in love with this new amazing, but often amazingly difficult time in your life. I am here to help you so it is more amazing, and less overwhelming and exhausting. Or at the very least, to assure you, you are not alone, nor failing, nor doing anything wrong if you find it hard sometimes. You are just a mum. And NO mum is supposed to do this mum thing alone! What can I do for you? That will depend on what you need on any given day. What can I bring into your home?
- Massage - for you and your baby
- meals prepared
- care for your bub/children so you may shower, sleep, rest
- an ear to listen over a nice tea
- light household duties
- support as learn to have confidence in your role as Mother
-Help building your tribe
-Help making a plan for practical support around your home
-What you need on the day. Lets find a way to make it happen.
If you want to know more about in home care, drop me an email and we can plan to chat. Of bub has already arrived, lets connect and make a plan for what you need today. Because you deserve to be cared for just as much as your baby does.
But remember, I am still here to support in other ways. Group catch ups and workshops. Or simply by answering questions and sharing insights with you. Drop me a line and ask me a question, and I will do my very best to answer....of if I cannot myself, source out an answer for you if I can. Because support can come in many different ways.
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