True self-reflection is rare…but when you have the time and space to look at your life and relationships, it can be an absolute gift. It wasn’t until I was about 8 years into my parenthood journey that I realised that self-care, both emotionally and physically, had been put on hold for such a long time, that I had lost a real sense of who I was. At the time, I can not deny that I was in a very lucky position…from the outside I had it all...3 happy and healthy children, a stable and loving marriage and financial security. Why then did I feel so lost? The answer was actually very simple…. I had forgotten about me. I didn’t know who I was apart from being a mother and wife.
Sometimes parenthood can catch you by surprise, and sometimes it can be a longed for, difficult thing to make happen. But what is important, is to take the time to look after yourself on this journey. These are my top tips to help you enjoy the parenthood journey…
1.It starts as soon as you have found out that you are pregnant.
Not everyone looks and feels fabulous during their pregnancy. I know I never had the “glowing” look and “amazing “energy that is often described in the media regarding pregnancy. What is important though, is to invest in your pregnancy. Understand what is happening to your body, explore your birthing options and choices and surround yourself with people who will support you throughout this time. If you have the financial resources, have a massage, take some time off work or go to that yoga class.
2. “Mother guilt” is real…. but doesn’t need to consume you
From that first moment you find you are pregnant, you are making decisions regarding your baby’s health and care. Not all pregnancies and births go to plan, that’s OK! Work and talk through these experiences with someone who will not judge you. Emotional guilt about your choices is real, but it does not need to consume you. No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and parenthood is like any new job. You learn as you go, and babies will be ok if they are left to cry for a minute longer, if you choose to bottle feed and if they haven’t had a bath in 3 days.
3. Your relationship with your partner will change…. but this can be for the better
Many of us are in loving and caring relationships when we fall pregnant. The things we have in common with these partners exist before we have children and can still exist after we have had children. It is so easy to forget what these things are. Once you have got through the first few weeks with a newborn, take some time with your partner. It might just be a walk, dinner or cup of coffee…but prioritise this time and enjoy it. It is easy for both partners to feel excluded, neglected and even unloved once a baby enters the relationship. Work on intimacy, this does not have to mean sex…but hold hands, take the time to talk to each other and be open to each other’s vulnerability.
4. Maintain friendships and social networks
It is very easy to forget the friends and colleagues you once had before parenthood. True friends will understand that life is harder for you and time is limited, but they also will care about how you are doing and want to see you. A quick phone call or email can keep you in touch with these friends and when life gets easier you can pick up where you were.
5.Your baby will be fine if you take some time out
I have realised I am a better mother when I have some time away from my children. Going to the gym, having a night out or having a few days away…makes me enjoy my kids and life so much more when I return. For so long, I thought I was the only one that could be with my babies the entire time, but the reality is that they love being with my family and friends.
In summary, it took me a long time to realise that I am not just a mother. I am a wife, friend, sister, colleague, doula and so much more. Parenthood doesn’t need to define you. It is just a part of you.