Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes professional level skills in child development, domestic arts and diplomacy – especially when you have more than one little one at home. Mothering, in particular, can be a challenging role in today’s society. Often, stay at home moms find themselves feeling isolated and overwhelmed, and working moms are left feeling guilty and worrying about shortfalls at work and at home. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6 weeks new or a sixteen-year veteran, self-care is one of the most overlooked elements of parenting. Like when the stewardess says to put on your own air mask first – as a mom, you absolutely have to give yourself the care that you need in order to parent well.
While most of us could benefit from a day at the spa, here are some no cost ideas to get you started. Pay attention dads, grandparents and neighbors – if you know of a mom who could use some support, here is your chance to jump in!
- We tell new moms to sleep when the baby naps. Often though, we find ourselves side-tracked with an ever-increasing to-do list or the ever-growing pile of laundry and dishes. The dishes can wait, there’s a lifetime of laundry coming, but for your own wellbeing, get some rest. This is a great time to let willing friends and family pitch in with some dishes and laundry if necessary. No matter how hard or awkward at first, let them help when they offer. You’ll be better able to tackle whatever your day (or night) brings with proper rest, and your support system will feel great knowing they truly helped you.
- Take a long, hot shower or maybe a soak in the tub. Light some candles and break open the fancy bath salts you’ve been saving for a special occasion. If you have some time, grab a good book.
- Listen to a podcast or audiobook. If you’re not already on the bandwagon, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun or something to challenge your mind, there’s one for you. Pop one into your car while you’re driving or you can listen while you’re making dinner.
- Go for a walk or run. Load the kids in a stroller for a cool morning walk or wait until after dinner when reinforcements are home to strike out on your own. The fresh air and the exercise will do you a world of good. Endorphins are a real, proven mood booster, and exercise is a great stress reliever.
- Find some support. Especially if you are a new or stay at home mom, groups like MOPS are a great opportunity for fun and friendship. We also recommend finding moms who are in different stages of the parenting journey than you. It can be a tremendous benefit to have support from moms who have “been there, done that” and from those who are in the parenting trenches alongside you.
- Don’t forget about date night – either with your partner or all by yourself. Take time to get out of the house and away from parenting responsibilities for an hour or two. It’s hard those first couple of times away from a new baby – but in the end, you’ll be glad you did! If you don’t have family or a trusted babysitter living nearby, consider trading nights with another parent or take advantage of parent night out opportunities in your community, child’s school or church.
- Find your own self-care groove. These ideas won’t speak to everyone, but take a minute and make a list of things that make you feel well. If that’s having time to create art, figure out a space and a time to make it happen. If you need a night out with girlfriends to feel whole, get it on the schedule.
If you’re a new mom who has tried some of these basic self-care ideas, but still feel unusually out of sorts, you may want to check in with your doctor to ensure that you are not dealing with postpartum depression. According to CDC research, postpartum depression is a serious, but treatable, condition that impacts 11 percent of mothers nationwide and 15 percent of mothers in Oklahoma. The typical “baby blues” following delivery usually resolves itself within a few weeks, however postpartum depression continues and can worsen with the following symptoms:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Withdrawing from loved ones.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
You know what it takes to live your best life, so make those things a priority. You and your family deserve the best you possible – everyone will be so glad you made the time.