Self care is still important after you’ve had a child.
I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that being a mom is difficult. It’s really fun and rewarding, and your heart grows three sizes overnight, but seriously. It is hard. There’s so much a mom needs to learn in such a small amount of time. You can read all the books you want, take all the parenting classes out there, but motherhood is still gonna smack you right in the face.
For me, my biggest struggle was forgetting. I forgot to remove the nail polish from my toes for weeks, I forgot to do laundry every single day until I had to wear my fiancé’s underwear, I forgot to text my friends and family back over and over again, and I forgot to give my dogs love and attention. The worst thing I forgot about, though, was self-care.
In my line of work, self-care is huge. If I don’t find time to relax and do things that make me feel good, I literally can’t do my job properly. I care for very difficult children, and if I can’t care for myself first there is no way I can be what those kids need. Knowing this and practicing this for years, I still forgot how important self-care was after I had my daughter.
I went for about two weeks without doing a single thing for myself. I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but trust me. In mom world that’s an eon. I wasn’t eating very well. Every time my girl started to cry I would drop everything and comfort her, and that almost always meant I got to eat two bites of whatever meal I happened to be working on. I was taking 5 minute showers, which barely left me enough time to wash off all the spit-up, sweat, and leftover glue from my stay in the hospital. Washing my hair was out of the question. I left the house once in that time to pick up my fiancé’s vehicle from the dealership. I was so tired I almost drove off the road. I had visitors, but I felt so exhausted and gross that it was hard to enjoy anybody’s company. Finally, one afternoon I was walking around in my backyard and I just started bawling. My battery had finally died, and I realized I needed to re-charge if I wanted to care for my daughter properly.
I say two weeks is a long time, but there are so many moms out there who forget self-care for way longer than that. It’s a really easy thing to forget, especially when your whole world suddenly revolves around this tiny and adorable, but ultimately helpless little being. It’s so easy to become hyper-focused on meeting the needs of your new baby, that you completely forget about your own needs. And yes, self-care is 100% a need. Good health (both mental and physical) requires maintenance. I recently went to a group session for new moms, and I was shocked to hear that out of about 20 women, I was one of only two who had gone out with my fiancé for a date night since the birth of our child. Most of the mom’s had only left their child in the care of another for an hour or two. One mom there had never left her child even once.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to do things for just yourself. Taking a 20 minute bath with the door locked doesn’t make you a bad mom. Going out to see a movie without the baby doesn’t mean you’re neglectful. Letting the baby cry for a while while you take the time to make yourself a hot meal does not mean you don’t care about your child. Caring for yourself doesn’t take away from your ability to care for your child. It ensures that you can keep on doing it without totally burning out. If you care about your child, you need to care about yourself too.
So, whether it’s going to get your nails done, getting a workout in at the gym, or going to see the strippers; you need to take care of yourself. Don’t keep putting it off, stop trying to convince yourself you’re “fine.” Your mental health is precious Mama’s; guard it like a treasure!