Every parent knows how easy it is to lose yourself in the continuous act of caring for your young child. From the moment your little bundle of joy enters the world, everything that used to matter fades into the background and your new life’s purpose centres around the wellbeing of your child – sometimes, at the expense of your own. However, it’s important to remember the old adage: you can’t pour from an empty cup. Many new parents often need to be reminded that not only is it okay to take some time for yourself, it’s actually beneficial for everyone (especially your child) if you do!
Here are 5 things that you can start doing for yourself to ensure your wellbeing alongside parenthood. And, by the way, they’re best served without a side of guilt…
You’ve heard it from your GP, your midwife, your mother-in-law and your neighbour, but here it is once more for good measure: make sure you’re eating a healthy and nutritious diet. Never before have you needed sustained energy levels like you do now. It’s important to fuel your body so that it can deal with the extra energy output that comes with being a new parent. You deserve warm, wholesome meals and it’s not selfish to take the time it requires to sit down and enjoy them.
Coffee is a Godsend, but actual sleep is better. It’s easier said than done, but really try to prioritise your sleep. There might not be much you can do about the length of your sleep but perhaps you can optimise the quality of your sleep by introducing some new bedtime/nap time rituals. Such rituals can include no screen time for an hour before you sleep (you can post that adorable photo later), a short, guided meditation to help you drift off, or simply taking an hour to grab some shuteye while someone else is on baby duty – the laundry pile can absolutely wait.
Amidst all the new additions to your life like ‘white noise’ playlists and children’s story books, don’t forget to take some time to stimulate and nurture your adult mind. Create and listen to some playlists that make you feel good, take some time to play a round of online scrabble or watch an episode of your favourite reality TV show. These are the small but important things that can help to ground you in selfhood and remind you that you are your own person with your own set of needs that are separate to that of your child’s.
Maybe your social scene looks a little different these days, but that’s okay. Spending time with like-minded friends and other new parents with whom you can share the ups and downs of parenthood is a total game-changer. Sometimes, it might feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re tired and have a million other things to do, but it’s important to nurture those relationships and to allow yourself the time to laugh, cry, swap stories and have a good chinwag with your mates. One rarely feels worse for it.
This one might be the toughest of them all. What new parent has the time for a bubble bath, or a 60-minute spin class, or this elusive ‘date night’ thing people talk about? Yes, these suggestions might sound like luxuries afforded only to people who don’t have babies waking them up at all hours of the night, or busy toddlers to run after and excitable young children who want to spend every moment with you. But, in remembering the old adage, it’s much harder to give joy or happiness to your child if you don’t have it yourself. Even if these things seem impossible to you now, start with baby steps like taking slightly longer showers, or a 30-minute walk to get some fresh air.
There is no shame in asking for - and receiving help. Ever. But again, most especially in the early years of parenting. Adjusting to the new role of ‘parent’ isn’t always a smooth ride, despite the million handbooks and advice from well-meaning strangers. Thankfully though, there are people around you who care and are available to help along the way. They might be your partner, friends, family, or even neighbours. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone and that it’s not selfish to ask for help so that you can focus on some self-care. Whether it’s help with some meals, an hour or two of child-minding, or even help with some household chores, don’t shy away from being specific when asking for help or responding to someone who offers it.