The old quote goes something as follows “To love another you must first love yourself,” and hence, to care for another you must first care for yourself. But do we as new parents really take the time to care for ourselves? At the Baby Drop-In this month we pretty much came to the conclusion that, No, we don’t really care for ourselves. Some of us may do small things for ourselves but most of the time we are not really conscious that we are doing them, so these precious moments pass by without our own acknowledgment that we are taking care to be kind to our bodies, minds and spirits. The excuses are many, not enough time in a day, to many chores to get done, the baby, child, husband, dog needs our attention, etc, etc...Sometimes we manage to get in a coffee with a friend or a 5 minute chat on the phone while baby tugs at our shoulder or pant leg, but these moments are usually sporadic and within no time we are back to the hustle and bustle without feeling like we really got a break.
The kind of self care that I think we all deserve, and could realistically make time for, is the sort that we could call a daily ritual. Some of the things we discussed at the Baby Drop-In were having a morning coffee or tea and really taking the time as we prepare it, to appreciate that we are making it for ourselves, and to savor it as we drink it. Or taking a moment to look in the mirror and smile at ourselves while brushing our hair or putting on face cream. I know, I know it sounds crazy, brushing my hair?! Say what, not a crazy bun thingy thrown up with a quick elastic before changing another dirty diaper?
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, speaks about how our nonverbals can deeply affect not only how others perceive us but our own self image. In her TED TALKS video (I have shared the link below), she says that simply smiling in the mirror at yourself for a few seconds a day can greatly alter your mood. She goes on to say that even if you can’t find it in yourselves to smile, sticking a pencil between your teeth and forcing your mouth into an upward position, can trick your body into thinking you are smiling, and again affect your mood!
Sometimes writing yourself a little pick me up message, or in other words a “self love note,” on the fridge might do the trick. The power of positive thinking and affirmations cannot be denied. Looking at something a bazillion time a day is bound to have an effect on you right?! Perhaps something along the lines of the following:
-Being a good mom takes courage, and today I’m feeling brave.
-If I do nothing today besides hug my kids, then I’ve done enough.
-I’m not the perfect mother, but I’m exactly the one my children need.
-Today I will be the type of person I would like my children to become.
- Not loving every moment of motherhood doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mom.
-I will teach my child by example more so than by advice.
And if affirmations don’t work for you than perhaps printing out a funny ecard and placing it somewhere you know you will see it many times in a day might help.
Of course finding time for ourselves would be so much easier if we had the sort of human connections that tribes once had. A social network of people who we could depend on, everyday to help care for our little ones while we took care of ourselves, or hey, perhaps our sisters could even brush our hair for us! Unfortunately many new parents feel quite alone in their endeavors to care of their children. Some of the things that we discussed together at the Baby Drop-In were, trying to find a shopping buddy to go out the grocery store with so that if the baby does end up screaming and crying or you have a poop blow out, you might not feel so stranded and helpless. We talked about the possibility of a momma’s collective kitchen group, where parents could come together once a week to make their meals. The current Collective Kitchen in Sutton is available and open to new groups of people joining! (Once again see the link below). The same could be done for a collective cleaning group- a group of parents alternately helping to clean each other’s homes while at the same time providing a play day for the kids.
For those parents who are already back to work, planning to go back soon or for some reason have a commute during the day (i.e, bringing an older child to day care.) We talked about taking a self care moment in the car. If you just can’t fit it in at any other time, the car might be the best option. Instead of listening to the drone of the radio and running through the endless mental to do list, you could have a special relaxation CD that you could play or an audio book. If laughter is your therapy, there are some great comedians that you could listen to on your ride to have you arrive at your destination smiling. Or a good old “mixed tape” of your favorite belt it out songs, might get your heart singing too. And of course, don’t forget before getting out of the car, stick that pencil between your teeth and check yourself out for a few seconds in your rear view mirror.