This post is contributed.
Motherhood: a job that’s yours with no training. Image through Creative Commons.
It’s true that becoming a parent involves a fair bit of sacrifice, but although it’s challenging at times, it also gives you so much. The whole thing is a complete whirlwind, with a whole lot of complex emotions mixed in. It’s a unique experience that no one can quite prepare for, however many parenting manuals they read! The moment your baby arrives, your life is forever changed. Suddenly, you don’t come first any more – and that can be quite an adjustment.
In fact, it can be quite common to feel as if your sense of self becomes a bit lost, and many mothers experience a type of identity crisis. Little wonder when your body, priorities, feelings and purpose in life have all altered overnight. Many are unsure how to navigate this challenge on top of sleep deprivation, mastering feeding, and all the other issues which compete for the attention of new mamas.
In fact, many feel ashamed even to admit to themselves that it’s something that they are struggling with – and yet it’s an increasingly common dilemma. Strange though it is that such a time of joy and love can co-exist with other feelings of insecurity, detachment and even loneliness, it is the reality for many, and perfectly normal.
So, if you’ve lost your mojo since becoming a mama, here’s how to get back on track:
Acknowledge How You Feel
Bouncing back is a process, and it only starts when you admit how you feel. Many mamas feel misplaced shame at experiencing these negative personal feelings at a time which is supposed to be all about happiness, or they tell themselves that even to want a sense of who they are back is selfish and wrong. But how a mother feels is incredibly important- happy mother, happy baby! Mothers go through a tremendous amount of changes in such a short space of time, and are faced with such a hard and important job to do. It’s 24 hours a day, you have no prior experience and no breaks. Anyone would be overwhelmed. It’s okay to admit to feeling shocked, unsure and not up to the job at times. Cut yourself a break and know that it’s not wrong to have those feelings – and that you aren’t alone. The secret is to find your tribe – a group of parents to share the ups and downs with and trade advice. Find some local baby groups or use one of new apps for mummy meet-ups, or check for parenting boards on your Facebook pages. Connecting with others in the same situation is tremendously reassuring.
Rediscover a Hobby
Carving out some me-time is nothing to feel bad about – everyone is entitled to time to decompress by pursuing one of their passions. Whatever made you tick before baby, make sure you build some time into the schedule for it – whether that’s a weekly yoga class, making time for reading or doing an art class or crafting. Put it into your calendar to make sure you commit to it fully – it’s very important. Just an hour a week pursuing something just for you can make a world of difference to how you feel.
Reclaim your sense of self. Picture via Creative Commons.
Get Up, Show Up and Never Give Up
Your appearance might feel like it’s at the bottom of a never ending to do list, but it can be an important part of recovering your sense of self. How far you take it and what you want to do are extremely personal – it could just be making time for a restorative bath, spending five minutes on your hair, booking a manicure or getting a massage. Some women feel like they need more and go so far as to book a plastic surgery consultation. Whatever you feel will help you reclaim some of your identity from your life before kids – as long as it makes you feel good. Don’t judge yourself too harshly- you are entitled to your own feelings and identity.
Reclaim Your Fitness Routine
Exercise is incredibly important for your mental and physical health. Not only does it help to prevent many kinds of disease, but it can give you a great endorphin high that helps to manage stress and anxiety – not to mention helping you to shed that baby weight if you want to do that to. As soon as you’ve had your six week check-up, it’s safe to begin although it’s a good idea to consult a trainer. More and more gyms are now offering bring your baby fitness classes, or if the thought of getting there is too overwhelming, there are lots of YouTube workouts you can do with your baby at home.
Reconnect Your Relationships
Your little person is wonderful, but they can also be majorly demanding, and sometimes it feels like there’s little room for anyone else. Getting your baby into an established bedtime routine early on creates a little time in the evenings for you to spend with your partner or your friends. Hit a 7pm bedtime and you’ll be able to spend a couple of hours reconnecting. Try and ban yourself from any talk of baby during this time. Giving you some mental space and a chance to talk about other things is an important way to feel like more than just a mother from time to time. Avoid the temptation to waste the time scrolling through social media feeds or watching box sets – those won’t feed your soul. Spend the time being present and talking to those you care about and you’ll get far more out of it.
Lower Your Expectations
Finally, learn to reject the myth of perfection. Finding balance is all about learning to accept ‘good enough’, so it’s okay to have an overflowing laundry basket or even to go out with a bit of baby sick down your top! Your job is to keep your little human happy – anything else is a bonus. Forget the to-do list and learn how to prioritise – just focus on the essentials and allow yourself grace for the rest of it. Time frames are going to be a little longer, and you may only get the chance to tackle one job a day – but that is perfectly okay.
Most of all- don’t worry mama, you got this!