Ask for help for the laundry and dishes piling up
Do all the washing before the baby arrives
Treat yourself to a walk or coffee
Don’t feel guilty for taking time away from your baby
On first glance these nuggets of wisdom are well meaning and for some of us out there they may provide temporary relief from those very real bouts of ‘Mum Guilt’. I think it’s safe to say mum’s experience ‘Mum Guilt’ when we start to put our needs first. For example, returning to the workforce when we feel ready while being well aware that the wider community would comment that it’s ‘too soon’. Another golden oldie - going to a hair appointment and getting your guilt on about leaving the baby with someone else. But let’s get real. Is going for a walk to clear a busy mind, something to indulge in? Is reconnecting with a close friend over coffee a treat? All of a sudden the statement ‘Treat yourself to a walk or coffee’ becomes quite banal and meaningless at best and utterly disempowering at worst.
Is the reminder that you can ‘get to the dishes and laundry piling up in the sink later’, really an empowering tip for self care?
I honestly believe we’ve lost sight of what ‘self-care’ actually means, so here’s a reminder from Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness Australia “To self-care is to take the time to prevent ill health and helps restore a balance between your mind and body.” But here’s the thing: how effective can these tips for self-care be if you don’t feel like you deserve it and why on earth do we continue to frame proven methods to increase our physical, emotional and mental health as luxuries and special treats?
The leader of Positive Psychology Martin Seligman breaks down Well-Being into five measurable elements: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment. (Positive Psychology Melbourne have a great article explaining PERMA here) And so, It is with these elements in mind that I offer:
Every Self Care Tip For New Mum’s You’ve NEVER Read.
1. Goals and Accountability Buddies.
Becoming a parent and the responsibility that comes with it can be terrifying. Becoming over-whelmed by choice and advice can shatter confidence quicker than you can say ‘Mummy Wars’. When we lose our confidence we lose our power as decision makers, handing it over to strangers and well meaning relatives who each have a horror story to tell. Reclaim your power as a decision maker and carer for your child. Write down your goals and intentions (Breastfeed for at least 3 months, Co-sleep for the first year, Return to work at 12 weeks for example) and find an Accountability Buddy. Your Accountability Buddy should be someone who respects your choices and understands that it’s their job to provide you with unwavering support to fulfil your goals as they listen to your concerns and frustrations.
Accountability Buddies don’t just help us stay on track, they encourage us to reach out and maintain strong connections to those important people in our life. Let’s look back at our elements of well-being -
Positive Relationships? Check!
2. Dr Google is Not Looking Out For You.
The truth is that we have access to incredibly well funded and researched organisations to turn to for advice and care. Fact Sheets and 24hr Helplines are in abundance. Know them. Use them. Trust them. The first time my son vomited I cried. He had a *mild* fever and my heart-rate went through the roof - HE’S DYING AND IT’S MYYYYY FAULT I’M THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD! Luckily my calm and pragmatic husband was home and we called Nurses On Call. Don’t let the panic and worry of the moment cloud your better judgement. The internet in 2016 is a dark and dangerous place, not to mention out-dated and mis-informed. The importance of seeking and trusting advice from recognised leaders of maternal and health care can not be understated.
3. Egalitarian Relationships Are The New Black.
Remember that pile of dishes and laundry you’re not supposed to stress about doing right away? Who am I kidding, of course you remember - you’re reading this watching it breed and multiply. But let’s get real - chances are you are part of a team. So act like one. You are not responsible for your team-mates mess or laundry. Employment status does not exempt anyone from having to adult.
Be sure to make your expectations clear and be prepared to let go of any particular ways you ‘prefer’ things to be done. Truly allow your team-mate to be a decision maker and player in the maintenance of your home and importantly the caring of your child, share what you learn and guaranteed they’ll teach you a thing or two too.
4. Meet Your Needs.
You know what your heart of heart desires and if you take anything away from these musings let it be this: You are deserving of every need to rest, to be comfortable and, to be alone in which ever way that manifests itself. Remove the words treat, indulge and luxury from your lexicon. Positive Emotion and Engagement are core elements of well-being, those feelings of pleasure, warmth and comfort while being completely immersed and lost in that moment of joy is key to your self-care. Have no fear in seeking pleasure for no other reason than “I just want it”. Because when you do - when you are well rested, comfortable and focused you are better placed to negotiate challenges and meet the demands of your child.
You’re doing an amazing job!