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All Mommy wants. Oh, my friends, if I were writing this as a new mother, I’d have given you a kilometric list of my desires. See, before I became a wife and mom, I was a free spirit. On days off from work, I took random road trips and stopped at places where I’d never been. I spent the day exploring, eating unfamiliar (but delicious) food, and discovering the local culture. Later on, my husband joined me on these spontaneous trips.
After I became a mother, though, all this stopped. I had to be an adult and do responsible things. My list of desires got longer but I quashed it down because I thought that was the right thing to do as a mom.
It wasn’t. Back then, I had no idea what self-care for mothers was. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. A study published in PubMed says a couple of focus groups comprised of mothers validated my ignorance. Many of the moms who participated in the study admitted they had a hard time balancing new motherhood and self-care. In the same breath, though, they also admitted that “an unhealthy mother would ultimately be a less effective mother.”
Regardless of how you are raising your kids, it’s vital for every mom to take care of herself, as well. The following can give you a clue on the “luxuries” mommies give up when they enter motherhood.
All mommy wants…is uninterrupted sleep
New parents know this well, especially the ones without stay-in help. Generally, newborns wake every two hours either to feed or just because their biological makeup demands it. That means their parents—in many cases, mothers, especially if they breastfeed—wake every couple hours, too.
Moms know this. It’s just difficult to get some quality shut-eye knowing there’s children to discipline, money to earn, laundry to do, meals to cook, homework to check, and a house to clean. So let’s figure out how to improve our sleep despite all these.
How to get good sleep
They tell us to sleep when the baby sleeps. But if you do that, when will you do the laundry? When will you prepare lunch? When do you take a shower? I had the same questions, mama. Doing the following might help:
- Stay away from screens an hour before bedtime (and any time during the night). The blue light from computer and TV screens messes up your circadian rhythm, i.e., your body clock that tells your brain when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep. If you check your phone before you sleep or during the night after feeding your baby, the screen’s blue light will send a signal to your brain, saying it’s time to be awake. And so you stay awake.
- Take a warm bath before bed. You give your baby a warm bath before bed to encourage them to sleep, right? So do it for yourself, too. The warm water will cool your core temperature, which is another circadian signal for bed.
- Alternate with your partner for nighttime feedings. Even if you’re breastfeeding, when it’s your partner’s night to get up, ask them to bring the baby to you so you don’t have to get up. Feed baby on your side, but make sure your partner’s keeping an eye on you so that you don’t accidentally roll over your baby.
- Ask for help. Hire a nighttime nanny to handle the feedings so you can get your eight hours of sleep during the night.
- Get lots of natural sunlight. This boosts the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals sleep. Here’s what you do: when baby wakes up in the morning, go outside with her, weather-permitting. Together, absorb all the early morning sunlight you can.
All mommy wants…is a support group that gets it
When you search “mom support groups” or “parenting support groups” online, hundreds of articles and websites come up. This makes one thing obvious: mothers are looking to connect with their people.
It’s not just about being friendly. According to research, it’s actually about survival. Especially for new moms, talking to people who understand what you’re going through is a way of preventing postpartum depression. Taking care of brand-new humans is a herculean task that is full of fears (but also amazement). As moms, we need all the help we can get to navigate this journey.
So own this desire of wanting a steady support group. It’s not that you no longer enjoy your friends who aren’t mothers. You still love them. It’s just that, sometimes, when you say, for the umpteenth time, “I can’t join you for drinks because Lily’s teething,” you need someone who can completely picture the chaos of a household scene when a baby is teething.
How to find your people
Like most of anything worth keeping in life, you need to make some sort of effort to find your village. It has to be a balanced approach, though. When my oldest was a toddler, I was desperate to connect with other moms that I literally stalked some I met at a playground. If they hadn’t been so nice and welcoming, I would have come across as a creepy serial killer.
You don’t want to give off that impression. Instead, try the following:
- Join a class. One of the most reliable ways to find people who share your interests is to learn something new with them. How about taking classes in pottery? Maybe learn a new language? Alternatively, many hospitals offer support group sessions for breastfeeding moms. Ask your OB-GYN about it. Once you join these classes, the trick is to keep in touch with the people you meet outside of class until, gradually, you become friends.
- Follow mommy influencers and bloggers. Aside from being rich sources of practical parenting advice, online platforms run by moms also foster dynamic communities. A good place to start would be Instagram.
- Strike up conversations at the playground. “Your baby’s so cute. How old is she/he?” That is always a good conversation starter with moms. Or you could try the “product review” approach: “I’ve been looking for that kind of pram/sippy cup/blanky for so long. Where did you buy it?”
- Volunteer at your child’s daycare/pre-school. If you a proactive kind of mom, you can usually befriend others who think like you when you volunteer. Read a storybook to the kids, bake brownies for the school’s bake sale, or give a short workshop for co-parents on a subject you’re an expert in.
All mommy wants…is an end to mom guilt
It’s one of the oldest clichés: mothers sustain and nurture; fathers provide and protect. Certainly, in some families, this traditional set-up still works. No problems there. For other families, though, a double-income, daily-daycare-for-the-kids arrangement is the norm. And that’s totally okay, too.
Regardless of how we function as a family, however, mothers in the Western world have generally been programmed to think that we’re supposed to do everything, and do it perfectly. And if we don’t, maternal guilt sets in.
We’re supposed to breastfeed our babies for at least the first six months; woe to whoever decides to bottle feed. We are expected to always put our kids first, no matter what. If you want some me-time, do it quickly, but still be accessible to your family at all times. Raising a family trumps building a career. Stay home.
Well, it’s time to put a period on all those unrealistic societal expectations. Put your foot down, mom, and say, “Taking care of myself and empowering myself doesn’t diminish my love for my family. I matter, too.” Keep saying it—and putting it to practice—until all the mom guilt fades away.
How to banish maternal guilt once and for all
It isn’t just working moms who experience mom guilt. Most other moms do, too, at one point. How about we stop allowing these unrealistic notions of society to bother us? Here’s how we do it:
- Find the root of the guilt. Write daily in a journal to identify the source of your guilt. Take any notebook and write about your day just before going to sleep. This process will help you look inward and become more self-aware. As you acknowledge your feelings, find events that likely create guilt. Address these events so that you can eventually remove unnecessary guilt.
- Be kind to yourself. Self care is not a suggestion. It’s vital to anyone’s survival. Do you feel guilty about doing a weekly hour-long workout at the gym or sleeping an extra 30 minutes on Sunday while your partner minds the baby? These are things you need to do to fill your cup so that you can, in turn, fill your family’s cup. It’s not being selfish to care for yourself. It’s being smart.
- Surround yourself with people who empower you. It will be so much easier to let go of this unnecessary guilt if the people around you don’t make you feel guilty. Let go of friends who constantly judge your choices; stick with the ones who support you.
- Talk to a professional. If the guilt becomes overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong about going to therapy. Break the stigma. Seeking a healthcare professional for help is not being weak. On the contrary, it’s actually the opposite. Asking for help shows that you know how to take care of yourself.
All mommy wants…is time to do the things she loves
I’m a writer. I love to write. But during the first year of each of my kids, the only things I had the energy to write were to-do lists and labels on containers of leftovers. That was okay, I thought, because I was supposed to focus my energy on taking care of my babies, anyway.
Eventually, I noticed that I was tired all the time. When I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel rested; instead, I felt anxious. I had a hard time making decisions, lost my temper too often, and resented my kids and husband for making me that way.
I was burnt out.
One of my friends noticed and suggested I set aside even just 10 minutes every day to do whatever I wanted to do—so I started a blog. It was difficult at first, with a toddler and a baby to watch. But I kept at it because there was nothing else to lose. Good thing, because writing in my blog saved my sanity.
You want that, too, right? Not necessarily blogging, but the time and energy to do something you love. Please go ahead and do it. You deserve it.
How to make time for yourself
Recognizing your need to enjoy yourself is already the first step. Here are some other things you can do:
- Start small. Begin with five minutes. Sleep in for five more minutes. Watch five more minutes of your favorite show. Create a five-minute doodle. When you’re had more practice in finding time for yourself, it’ll be easier to eventually extend it to 30 minutes every day.
- Have a goal. I had one objective for my blog: to write about one new thing I’d do every week. Knowing what I wanted to do helped make the most out of the time I devoted to myself every day.
- Involve your child. Do you want to get back to jogging in the morning but have no one to leave your baby with? Strap your baby in their pram and take them along. Have you been wanting to try pottery? Bring along your kid and give them a block of Play Doh while you deal with your own slab of clay.
- Be realistic but also creative. If, as a working mom, all your free time is taken up by parenting, take what your day can give you for now. For example, on your commute to work, slip your Airpods in and start your favorite playlist—instant me-time in the middle of a crowd of office workers.
All mommy wants…is assurance that she’s being the best mom she can be
How many times have we, as moms, doubted ourselves? It actually adds to the exhaustion of motherhood, doesn’t it? We wonder if we were right to let our toddler do a full public meltdown because buying a toy just wasn’t in our budget today. We run that argument we had with our teen over and over in our head, agonizing over our choice of words.
A grandmother I met once told me that if a mother has doubts about her parenting method, that means she’s a good mom because she’s shows concern. It was a bit simplistic, but made sense. If you didn’t care how you were raising your child, you wouldn’t waste time wondering about it.
So don’t worry; this community of parents assures you that you are doing a good job, mom. Not convinced yet? Try this challenge: Say one affirmation when you start each day. This practice will help you see yourself as the empowered, amazing mom that you are.
How to be a more confident mom
Motherhood doesn’t run on a magic formula. Each mom brings her own fairy dust. If, sometimes, you feel you’re not up to your game, try the following strategies:
- Tune out unsolicited advice. Strangers often like to judge how parents are raising their own kids. Similarly, media likes to build up the image of the perfect mom who can do anything. Take a deep breath and just do you, mom. Let your pediatrician guide you on your child’s health, and let your instincts, common sense, and love guide you on your parenting method.
- Tackle the difficult tasks head-on. Give yourself some credit—you face so many challenges and come out of them fairly unscathed. Every day, you push through your self-doubt and take care of a little human who depends on you 100 percent. That is daunting, and you are doing beautifully.
- Tap your support group for reassurance. Rather than fish for compliments, though, talk to them about your challenges. You will see that you aren’t alone in feeling overwhelmed sometimes. Let your friends prop you up the same way you prop them up.
- Remember that you can’t control everything. Sure, when your baby is still in diapers, you pretty much manage most of what happens to them. But as they grow older, they develop their own opinions and follow their own instincts. Keep your mommy confidence at a healthy level by letting go of things that are beyond your control.
Is this all that you want, Mommy?
There must be other things on your “deepest desires” list. Let us know what they are. We have a community of empowered moms here, and there are no wrong answers. The important thing is to listen to and be kind to yourself. Your family is important, but so are you. Please remember that.
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