If you’re a new mom, it might feel like people are constantly reminding you to practice good self-care. But what does that mean when so many of our old tools (e.g., girls’ weekends, a night out with friends, a manicure, etc.) just aren’t available? If your idea of self-care is a spa day or a shopping spree it can feel hard to access when life with a little one interferes; adding incremental limitations such as budget and pandemic factors can create even more challenges. With all that said, I think a better question to ask ourselves is “what could healthy self-care look like RIGHT NOW”? Here are a few self-care ideas, inquiries and challenges:
If you’re the parent of a little one, getting a full night’s rest might feel impossibly out of reach. I get it! As a mom of three (my twins were born two years after my oldest), sleep was absolutely my most precious commodity. Sleep matters. When we are fully rested, life feels doable. Sleep nutrition yields mood improvement, increased ability to focus, more patience, and the ability to take the highs and lows of parenting in stride. Inquiry: Can you negotiate “on” and “off” nights with your partner or a sleep-in Saturday/Sunday trade? How about taking an afternoon off from work and napping while your baby is with a caregiver? Maybe grandparents (if they’re local) would swap houses with you a few times a month to do overnights or maybe it’s time to call in a sleep consultant or night nurse. Whatever the cost, sleep pays back -- with interest.
Move Your Body (in a way that feels good to you)
Early parenthood is not the time to hold yourself to a punishing workout regimen. Inquiry: Is there a way of moving that feels restorative, that boosts your spirit, that makes you feel more like yourself? Do that. It could be dancing it out in your kitchen or jumping on a trampoline! When my kids were small, a friend and I would meet with our strollers three times a week and walk until someone had a meltdown (usually that was one of the kids). Connection + exercise = time well spent.
Research tells us that the happiest people have a regular creative practice. Maybe that’s drawing or pottery, but it could just as easily be cooking, writing, painting a mural on your baby’s bedroom wall or taking a HipHop class. Researcher Brené Brown says, “There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are people who use their creativity and people who don’t.” Inquiry: Is there something creative that makes you feel like more of yourself? Try that – and give yourself permission to dabble. 3Be Coaching's next newsletter will feature "10 Writing Prompts for Parents Grappling with Back to School, Fall, and Covid-19 Variants." Click here to get it delivered to your inbox for free!
Build Your Boundaries
If you have to choose just ONE self-care practice, I vote for this one. Before parenthood, it might have felt necessary to meet every request at work, host every family function with an Instagram-inspired spread, or drop everything to take a phone call from an energy-draining friend. You don’t have to do that anymore. The best self-care I know is to get very, very clear on what your priorities are and to give yourself permission to let other people know they can expect something different from you now. When you have a new pint-sized “manager” running the show, it just isn’t possible to please everyone all of the time. Trying to do otherwise is a prescription for exhaustion and resentment. Challenge: Save yourself the agony of dealing with burnout by learning how to say NO now. “The Hard Truth About Boundaries,” my former blog post, includes a great exercise that teaches you how to get started in clarifying your yeses and no’s. It’s as important a skill for new parents as practicing the perfect swaddle.
For me, true self care is anything that makes you feel like more of yourself – the self that feels joyful, grateful and fully alive. What does self-care mean for you? How could you define good, healthy self-care?
Categories: Working Parents