You do you first; the baby comes second!
Does me saying the baby comes second and not first shock you? Because, come on, how could a parent not prioritize a little vulnerable baby? Well, it’s actually very simple. The baby needs its parent to survive and grow. Think about it… What would happen if mom or dad doesn’t take enough care of themselves until they eventually stop functioning? They wouldn’t be able to do the one job they are supposed to do: nurture their kid. As a primary caregiver you need to follow the “airplane-in-case-of-emergency-guidelines”: always put the oxygen mask on you first before you help others. You won’t be able to help anyone if you’re not strong and functioning. Right? That’s why self-care for new parents will be our topic for the week.
Now, how do you do it? How do you prioritize self-care while your little helpless baby needs you 24/7? In this 3rd part of our series on transitioning into parenthood we offer you some ideas of how to prepare for the overwhelming 4th trimester so you can actually get some self-care moments as a parent. (Have you read part one about realistic expectations and part two concerning the importance of a support system yet?)
As a parent you need – and deserve! – to be taken care of while figuring out life with your new baby. Prioritizing your own well-being will most probably cause some feelings of guilt to arise – that’s ok and totally normal. And at those times just remember: only a happy parent can raise happy kids. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s exactly what you need to do to be that good parent you want to be.
What kind of self-care can you prepare for yourself?
Accepting and expecting the unexpected
Nothing goes as planned. Not in life, and even less so when you have kids. Being ok with this fact and mastering “letting go” of your expectations is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and it helps you cope better when the expected unexpected happens.
As a parent you become a pro at multitasking and coordinating. Having the capacity to do a lot doesn’t mean you have to do a lot. It’s ok to say “no” to others. “No, I’m not going to prepare lunch for our visitors. They can bring food for me.” “No, I’m not going for a walk in the park although the weather is nice. I’m still recuperating from childbirth.” “No, I’m not going on a trip for the weekend. I’ll be lucky if I manage to coordinate the normal day-to-day-life at home.”
Babies sometimes cry and that’s ok
As new parents we jump up at every little coo that possibly sounds like the baby needs something. And that is very normal! We want the best for our babies and we are the ones responsible for them. While this is true, it is also totally fine to let your baby cry for a minute if that means you can pee or attend to other very important needs. Especially if someone you trust is holding the baby, it doesn’t harm them to cry a little bit. It’s normal they might do it, as they want their mom and crying is the only way to express themselves. But crying doesn’t necessarily always mean your baby is suffering immensely. Remember, a happy mom means a happy baby!
Share with and listen to other mothers
You are not the first one, nor will you be the last one to go through the experience of becoming a parent. It’s an incredibly beautiful and at least equally difficult journey to take. Share your experiences with others that are going through it as well. It will make you feel more supported, less alone and importantly: It will show you that you are doing a great job and that all your doubts and struggles are the exact way you are supposed to feel while discovering parenthood. Social media is a place where you can find digital support, but don’t forget we are human beings and we need the physical experience of being around people to actually feel good. Getting out of the house and meeting those peers is the healthiest thing you can do! Grow Parents is one of those places where you can meet likeminded parents to share your emotional parenthood journey with.
Start a self-care for new parents routine (ideally before you have your baby)
We as humans are creatures of habit. We love to know what is coming and when/where it will happen. It guarantees our safety and survival. Not only do our minds thrive on it, our bodies also prefer a solid routine. One thing we know about parenthood is that our routine will change once the baby arrives – especially in the first few weeks and months. So creating one or two self-care habits that you can stick to during that postpartum period will help you to keep your body and mind sane. Don’t think too big… It can be a 2-minute face wash and hydrating moment before bedtime, a 5 minute stretching routine after getting up in the morning, a 3 minute tooth brushing and flossing moment after each meal or even a relaxing breathing exercise every time you feel like stress is piling up. It can be anything that doesn’t need too much time but makes a world of a difference to you!
So, what to put on your preparation list?
– Think about what makes you feel calm and taken care of.
– Take that list and think about how you can implement very small portions of it into your day-to-day life. And start doing them!
– Establish boundaries, follow them and communicate them to your friends and family.
– Remember self-care includes being kind to yourself: it’s ok to figure things out slowly by trial and error. It’s ok to change your mind about opinions and decisions. You learn while you go!
– Share and talk about your experiences with likeminded peers. The “oh me too” reactions will make you feel more human and normal. The more honest you are the bigger effect it will have on your well being.
– Read part 1 and 2 of this article for tips & tricks on creating realistic expectations and building a reliable support system.
About the author:
One of the projects she created is called “Grow Parents”. The purpose of the project is to offer emotional support during pregnancy and parenthood. She aims to inspire and help (expecting) parents to prioritize their emotional well being while transitioning into parenthood. Laura believes every mother, father, child and situation is unique. And that’s why it’s so important to create space for each individual parenthood experience.
Grow Parents is a unique project, different from other programs out there:
- The first English support group in Madrid for parents and parents-to-be.
- The support is focused on the emotional aspect of transitioning into parenthood, rather than solely addressing the practical preparation.
- The participants get professional guidance from a psychotherapist, a life coach and an expert on the week’s topic.
- The project offers long term support and guidance through social media groups
- Every meeting takes place in a safe, calming and intimate space.
- As the maximum is 6 participants per session, each one of the parents gets individual time and space to express themselves.
- And so much more.
Next Grow Parents edition: January – February 2020 (to reserve your spot: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Keep on reading:
Let’s be realistic – having a baby is not easy! (1/3)
You need a village to raise a child, so let’s create one! (2/3)