I saw a quote the other day that really resonated with me.
“You were someone before you were their mum,
and that person matters”
It’s really what this whole blog is about. I feel so strongly about the women behind the ‘mum’. The ones who get forgotten and who have their entire identity shaken and changed by not only friends, family and the wider society, but by themselves.
We don’t even think twice about putting ourselves second (and often third or fourth) once that little human joins our life. Of course this is natural and also necessary for the baby, to put their needs first. We have to allow for this sacrifice when we have children and as a mum, I want to put my son first.
It only becomes a problem when we begin to neglect our own wellbeing and our mental health, because even if you are putting that baby first…what good are you to them when you’re completely depleted?
I would say one of the biggest change I struggled with as a first time mum was my ‘identity’. Who was I now? I was mum. I was the girl at work who went on maternity leave. I was the friend that had just had a baby. I was the daughter who had just had my mother’s first grandchild. I was my partner’s co-parent.
Everything I was and everything I did was ‘being a mother’. What I want to make clear is that I LOVE being a mum, I’m proud of this role and I’ve wanted it all my life. Taking care of yourself does not take away from the joy you feel being a mother.
But it is also important to be ‘you’ and be able to be seen as an individual with your own achievements, your own goals, your own personality. That was all there before you became pregnant, so where is she now?
The truth is, we can’t change society or other people. We can’t control their way of thinking or their behaviour. We can only control ourselves.
So how can you make sure you keep hold of that interesting, creative, fun-loving woman and still be the best mum you can?
Create your own self-care routine...but do this gradually with these 5 simple steps. I know from experience that trying to do everything all at once just ends up with me being frustrated that I’m not doing enough!
This is where you start taking care of you, and doing things to ease that pressure.
1. Make time for YOU time.
OK, so this isn’t always easy when you have a newborn. To be honest, you probably want nothing but sleep and a bath alone at this point. After a few months, when your routine settles and you get to know those times when maybe the baby naps (if you’re lucky) or your partner, friend or own parents can help out…forget the household chores! Forget the GIGANTIC to do list that we all have (trust me, they’re neverending. We are programmed to find more to do).
Find that time and focus on YOU. This will be different for everyone of course. We don’t all enjoy the same things. Some people hate baths and some people hate exercise. Choose what it is that YOU enjoy and makes you feel good. Guess what? It’s allowed. It’s not selfish and it’s not a sin. The more you can fill your own cup up, the more you can pour from it to help others!
2. See your friends that AREN’T mums.
Again, right at the beginning…this did not help me. I needed ‘mum’ friends and women who knew what I was going through.
However, a good few months down the line is when things changed. All I did was go to baby groups and talk about babies and milestones and feeding and weaning and sleep. I needed another outlet and I needed some ‘adult’ conversation about everything else.
So make time for a few lunch dates or evenings where someone can have the little one. If you can’t do that, ask them to come to you and at least have some tea and cake while the baby rocks away in the bouncer!
3. Find time to just be a couple.
I know. You probably rolled your eyes at this one. They aren’t your best friend right now. They don’t do all the night feeds and have the mental load us mums do, but hear me out. That child or children you have? That was because you two got together and fell in love. It’s hard when you have a baby, the whole relationship changes. You both have no idea what’s hit you and you are always ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’. It’s important to remind each other that you love the person within and being a parent is just one part of your whole.
4. Drop the guilt.
This is a HUGE one for us mamas, believe me, I’m the worst for it. You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned things not being selfish. That’s because self-care feels that way to most of us. That alone shows that we’re not doing it enough! It’s alien to us and it seems wrong, and so we don’t.
Why do you feel guilty? Would you think badly of your children or friend if they spent time doing something they enjoyed and felt happier for it? If they told you they were just running around after everyone else, wouldn’t you be the first to say ‘slow down and look after yourself’? It’s time to take your own medicine. I’m the same. Even now, I have that little nagging feeling that I’m doing something I shouldn’t be and I have to remind myself that I matter too!
5. Find something to focus on and achieve.
I feel like this is a hidden gem. It took me some time to figure this out, but once you do…you’ll be on fire. Find something that ignites that passion in you, just like being pregnant and becoming a mum did. Learn something new or go back to something you used to love. Make goals, give yourself a direction and something that is just about you. Trust me, it feels good.
That person underneath ‘mama’ matters and she needs nourishing and loving just as much as anyone else. These simple steps will start that self-care journey today to a happier, more fulfilled you!
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