5-self-care-strategies

Now that my kids are in school I am trying to focus more on self-care. I keep thinking back to those very early days as a mom and how hard it was to take care of my own needs. I remember feeling drained and empty. I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy by keeping everything perfect. As a first time mom with twin newborns it was a struggle to just get a shower each day, let alone making sure everyone had clean underwear and the house was properly organized.

Eating and sleeping are crucial, but so is staying connected to friends and family and our own interests. In those early years self -care, for me, was about getting a hot shower and enjoying a meal. I was all alone with two brand new babies and I was trying to make it all work. I barely ate, I barely slept and my record for showering was spotty. I was hungry, depleted and so overwhelmed.

Five years later my self-care looks more like taking time to exercise, or drinking tea and reading a book. Now I get to eat one sit down meal a day while the kids are in school. Do you know how good food tastes when you’re not standing over the sink, shoveling it into your mouth?

Ahhh. It’s almost nirvana.

Here are 5 self-care strategies I used in those early years:

I FOUND SOME FRIENDS

I envied friends who had a sister or a friend expecting a child at the same time. I spent 5 months alone on bed rest. Once the babies were born and my husband went back to work, I felt so lonely and empty. I just wanted a friend. Honestly, finding a close relationship as a mom can be super hard. But when you do it is so wonderful! I met a lot of moms early on in play groups, at the park and at the library, but not everyone has become my friend. I realized quickly not everyone is looking for a new bestie. Sometimes just seeing the same smiling face each week at story time is enough to ease a stressful morning.

I HOSTED PLAY DATES

Bundling up two kids and getting them to the car is no easy feat when you are worn out and exhausted. Thankfully, my mom friends took mercy on me and would travel to my house. Talking with other moms makes me realize I am not alone in my struggles. We are all struggling to find balance. I did a quick tidy, put out some toys and turned on the coffee. (In those early days my house wasn’t the colossal wreck that it is today). As much work as it was to finish a sentence while chasing kids, the conversations we shared are invaluable.

I ACCEPTED OTHER PEOPLE’S GENEROSITY

I have to remind myself often that I am one person taking care of many.  It can be draining. But when I started accepting offers of help, it really alleviated some stress. When someone brought me a meal, it didn’t make me a charity case. It meant I got to eat a hot meal. When neighbors shoveled my drive it didn’t mean I was irresponsible, it meant I didn’t have to leave my babies alone. When a friend washed my dishes it didn’t mean I wasn’t capable, it meant I could hold my two sleeping babies in my arms a little longer. If you are lucky enough to find someone to volunteer to help in anyway, it is OK to accept the offer!

I ASKED FOR HELP

You can’t always rely on people offering help. You could be drowning for weeks before that happens. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was afraid to ask friends for help because I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t handle everything by myself. But when I found myself on bed rest and needed help getting our house ready for babies, I asked for help. Surprisingly, a lot of our friends came out to wash windows, put together furniture, organize our nursery, rake our leaves, and help finish up some household projects we knew we couldn’t get to as parents. It was humbling and eased our worry. Ask family and friends to contribute a meal to stash in your freezer. Ask for gift certificates for a cleaning service as your baby shower/newborn gift. Cute clothes are wonderful, but not having to clean your toilets is even better! But most of all, if you find yourself struggling with overwhelming sadness, or feelings of inadequacy don’t be afraid to reach out right away. Struggling alone is worse than what anyone else is thinking about you.

I DELAYED WASHING DISHES

I often think if I don’t do the dishes right now then I will be so far behind and everything will pile up. One day it hit me, “since when is there a deadline on dirty dishes?” I don’t have a dishwasher (I know it’s like roughing it in my own home) so the panic to find an empty sink is real. But when I let myself rest while the twins took a nap- even just 10 minutes- I felt ready to tackle the tower of slop. In that 10 minutes I put my feet up, focused on breathing and thought of the beach. Taking just 10 minutes was recharging. And to be honest some days I took 20 minutes. Turns out the dishes were still waiting for me even when I took a few minutes for myself.

As a new mom you have a lot on your plate already just taking care of a baby and learning how to be a mom. I think it is very rare for any mom to take to motherhood like a duck takes to water. There are learning curves we need to adjust for and that’s OK. It takes time to learn the basics of taking care of our babies, our bodies, our new financial picture and household demands. If we try to balance it all at once we can become so overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning. That’s when self care becomes critical. But we want to make sure we recharge before we get to that critical point. Mothering with depleted resources isn’t healthy for you, or your baby. Self care doesn’t mean just meeting your basic needs, it means making sure you have enough for yourself too.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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48 Comments on 5 Self-Care Strategies for First Time Moms

  1. So true; my stepdaughter had a baby almost 3 months ago and I know it’s hard for her to accept help. But now is the time for her to take it while she can get it and relax while she can! So important ALL moms take care of themselves, but for new moms who are having their first go, I definitely think they need to take the time to remember themselves.

  2. Asking for help is so important. Sometimes you want to prove to yourself or others that you can do it, but this just leads to burnout and overwhelm.

  3. Such good tips! I have always had a hard time accepting others’ generosity and asking for help. Those two things are critical, along with not trying to go it alone. Love it! I’m a big believer in mom self-care.

    • I had a friend open my eyes to this: as much as you enjoy giving, so does the one giving to you. I didn’t realize I was stopping someone else from the joy of helping. If someone offers it’s because they want to help. Sounds simple…but I didn’t get it at first.

  4. I really like what you said about moms not only caring for a newborn but also learning how to be a mom. I’m not a mom yet, but I soon hope to be. I think it’s an important note you’ve touched on that many don’t realize – women with newborns have no idea what they’re doing! How overwhelming the experience must be. Excellent, enlightening post. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Yes, yes and yes! These are all great tips – It’s so important to get out there and make friends with moms just like you

  6. So true. I remember we had moved 250 miles away from home, just 2 weeks after my first child was born. I was completely alone in a new, very small town. The struggle is real. Your post brought back a lot of memories. Having developed a circle of friends by the time my second daughter was born made all the difference. Now as my daughter is preparing for her first I have encouraged her to reach out. I will share your post with her.

  7. I always tell my first time mom friends to ignore the mess for at least the first 2 weeks of when your baby is home. You need to bond with your baby and get to know him/her. The best gift I ever was given was a cleaning service after we were home for a little while with the baby. It really put my mind at ease and helped out a lot!

  8. It took me SO long to not only accept help, but to also ASK for it. It’s so hard admitting we can’t do it all, but it’s a great break when someone else can step in and share in our struggles. Great read 🙂

  9. I’m not a mom but I still definitely found many of these tips applicable to me! I certainly can get carried away with work and all the stresses of life especially with my abundance of health issues. I’ve always been so self-reliant that when I got ill I really had to suck it up and allow myself to rely on friends for support and ask for their help.

  10. I faced these all when my daughter was little and it’s not always easy. I learned that, sometimes we should take care self first.

  11. I truly cannot express how much I love this!!! It’s so easy to get “lost” in the world, and feel along in motherhood-ESPECIALLY as a stay at home mom. I’m finally venturing out and meeting friends, and it has done so so much for me. It is sooo important to take care of ourselves first. You can’t pour from an empty glass. Thanks for sharing! <3

  12. Being a new mother is never easy, there are so many adjustments and so many things to learn, you will never have time for yourself unless you have people around that are willing to help and reach out. These are all very helpful and I hope a lot of new moms get to read this post.

  13. Yes! I am also a mother to twins, and self-care is just so important. Finding other mom friends is difficult, but can make all the difference. Also, I learned to ask for help when my twins came along because we just couldn’t do it alone.

  14. The hardest one on this list… accepting generosity. I find first time moms usually want to validate themselves by trying to do everything. They are not doing it to be unrealistic, they are simply testing their limits. I really hope this post reaches a lot of new moms because issues like getting help, and self care are important. Thanks for making a very informative posts. I really wish I utilized more resources like this when I was a new mom. It took all the way to 3 to finally realize. LOL

  15. I was all about the paper plates. I try to live a really green life, so that was really hard for me, but it was too overwhelming! Now we still have seasons of paper plate use…

  16. We care so much that we forget about ourself. Sometimes it is good to give yourself a time to take care of something that can relax you. Take a break.

  17. It is so easy to forget to take care of yourself when you have little ones to take care of. My munchkin is now 19 months old and I am slowly learning how important it is for the entire families well being that I take care of myself. These are great tips, thank you for sharing!

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