By: Caryn Allen
Congratulations, you’ve finally had your baby! You must be feeling so much relief and joy, staring at your beautiful newborn and soaking up every little sight, sound, and smell they make. You may also be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed thinking about everything that has to be done in a day. Here are my top 5 postpartum self care tips for when things seem too tough to manage.
1. Prioritize what’s most important, and be okay letting go of what’s less important
The to-do list you’ve been building, either in your head or on paper, is never-ending. There’s always something else you feel like you could be doing or should be doing, and you probably feel inundated and overwhelmed. You may be wondering what’s wrong with you that you can’t manage everything on your own and feeling guilty for dropping the ball.
Listen to me when I tell you this: You are doing your best, and that’s enough. You are enough. Prioritize the things that absolutely can’t go without being done, and be okay letting other things go for now. The dishes will be waiting for you tomorrow. The laundry will still be there next week. The crumbs on the floor can be vacuumed some other time.
My suggestion is to pick just one thing to prioritize each day and start there. I can already hear you trying to justify adding more to that list, but don’t do it! You might say, “Today I’m going to work on getting one load of laundry washed, dried, and put away.” Or you might say, “Today I’m going to vacuum and mop the floors.” Break that giant to-do list into bite-sized pieces and give yourself so much grace.
2. Make sure to make time for things you enjoy doing, not just things you have to do
Life becomes dull and full of drudgery when you only make time for the things that have to be done. I know for me, personally, I lose motivation very quickly if I don’t break up the have-to tasks with the want-to activities, and when that happens, the have-to chores don’t always get done either.
Make time for the things you want to do. If you’re a reader, set aside cleaning the bathroom this afternoon and dive into your favorite book. If video games are your thing, take an hour and battle it out instead of cleaning up the kitchen after lunch. Those chores will still be there, but you’ll be happier because you had time to fill your own cup first.
Life isn’t only about getting things done, it’s about finding joy in the experience and the journey. You are not a selfish mom for making your own needs and wants a priority.
3. Be patient with yourself the same way you’re patient with others while they’re learning something new
Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, your family dynamic has changed drastically, and it takes time to adjust to those changes. You might be thinking, “I should be able to handle this. Why is this so hard for me?” or “I’m a bad mom because I can’t juggle my kids’ needs and my own at the same time.” I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s not just you.
Every new mom feels this way at some point. Our society places a mountain of undue pressure on new moms to “have it all together” when the reality is, nobody has it all together! Life is a balancing act that we are constantly learning how to navigate, so be patient with yourself while you’re learning how that looks for you and your family. There is no right answer here. Give yourself the same grace that you give your children when they’re learning new skills. You deserve it.
4. Talk to someone: a therapist, a friend, your mom, support group…etc.
Don’t underestimate the power of connection, especially if you’re feeling out of sorts. Even if you aren’t suffering from the baby blues or a more serious postpartum mood disorder, new parenthood can be very isolating. As we’ve seen the last sixteen months during COVID, isolation can deeply affect our mental health. Spending time with supportive friends and family can significantly reduce the growing pains of adding another member to your family.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or another postpartum mood disorder, I would encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders to support you. Seeking mental health services does not mean you are a bad mom or that you are weak. In fact, the opposite is true! You are brave and strong for recognizing your need for help, and your children will be better off when your needs are taken care of.
5. Look after your physical health: diet, hydration, sleep, exercise, shower
I feel like this should go without saying, but I also know how easy it is to push our own physical needs aside when we’re overwhelmed with other responsibilities. I can’t count how many times I forgot to feed myself in those early days after my babies were born because I either didn’t remember or didn’t have the energy to make something.
You know how on airplanes they tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before you help others with theirs? The reason is simple: You cannot help someone else if you, yourself, are compromised. I’m giving you permission to take that hot shower. Eat your healthy lunch. Be active. Get a nap in. Your physical health is crucial to your own well-being and to your ability to care for others. Don’t skip it.
Remember, there is no one right answer, only what is right for you. No one else’s expectations matter! You are enough just as you are.