Monday 9 October 2017

The Importance Of Self-Care: A Piece Of Advice For New Mothers

When I had my first child, almost six years ago, I had no idea about the importance of self-care. I put everything I had into my daughter. I was with her pretty much constantly, my little shadow, and I thought that was an important part of my parenting style. I wanted to be the best mother I could possibly be, and I thought that meant always being there. I hated the idea of her crying for me and me not being there to soothe her.

I’ve since realised that being there isn’t always enough. Looking after small children is hard and it’s simply not enough to be there. You have to be patient and caring and loving and energetic and in the mood to read the same book thirty-four times. You have to be present. And you have to be that way even when you have had no sleep and you don’t feel well and you’re touched out and your baby is clingy. And sometimes it just doesn’t feel possible. Sometimes you are so tired that it’s not easy to be patient, and sometimes you are so touched out that you don’t want to give any more cuddles or have your hair stroked (pulled) or your face slapped (worst game ever).

And, so, this time around, I’m making time for myself. I have to. If I think back to those days as brand new mother, when I hadn’t showered or slept or eaten, and I was just exhausted, I wish I could go back in time and force myself to take care of myself. Because, it’s cliche for a reason, you really can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s just not possible to be the best parent ever when you’re barely able to function as a human. If I could back in time I would force myself to take a break, just a few hours to do something for me. I was so worried that that would make me a bad mother, but, in hindsight, it would have made me a better one.

I’m still not a fan of spending too much time away from my second born, but I know that some time apart won’t hurt us. I can go to the theatre or out for a meal with friends and she will be just fine without me. And I get to spend some time not being a mother which always feels like a real luxury. To just be me, for a while. No nappies to change, raisins to dole out or toddlers to chase after. Just me, an actual person in my own right.

And, this time around, I’m better at recognising when I need to take that time. I know that when I’m feeling touched out, I need to take a little break to reset my batteries. I know that being overtired does none of us any good. And perhaps having two (and so twice the parenting to do) makes that all the more important. If I could give any piece of advice to new parents, it would be to take care of yourself, too. Make sure you’ve fitted your own life jacket so that you don’t exhaust yourself trying to stay afloat. It’s ok to take a break, be it a bath or a walk alone or drinks out with friends. You need that time to be you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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