Yesterday, we looked at how the journey of motherhood has evolved over the years. Today, mothers are expected to do it all and have it all: family, babies, careers!
Moms are carrying a tremendously heavy load, and tend to find themselves stretched to the limit. This leads to parental burnout (stress, overwhelm, guilt, exhaustion, anxiety, depression) which also results in chronic health conditions.
This is why moms and parents need empathy, support, and self-care, so they can create a memorable motherhood experience.
Self-Care & Support: 13 Tips for the Mom
Tip 1: Shift your focus from your child to yourself
If you don’t make yourself a priority and cater to your needs (which will make you happy), your reserves of patience and love will start depleting. This will lead to anger or frustration towards your little one. If you’re feeling burned out, it will affect how your child feels (children sense these things even if you don’t express) and how they connect or respond to the outside world.
So, prioritize yourself without guilt. Choose a 30-minute nap for yourself over baking special cookies for your child. Do things for yourself, things that will make you feel better, more loved, and lighter. They could be very small things but they will have a huge impact
Tip 2: Share how you feel
This is SO important! But communicating our feelings is tough, we know. Let your partner or friend or in law know that you’re struggling. There is no shame or embarrassment in that. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and emotional maturity.
Society has conditioned women to always smile and be positive (not crib or complain) no matter how badly you feel on the inside. Society has also conditioned women to “adjust and compromise.” It's time to change this unhealthy pattern.
Your partner or family member may not be able to gauge your stress levels, so you have to express these in words. Express what you are feeling and don’t downplay their intensity. Expressing your vulnerability is a trait of a resilient person.
Don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional counselor if needed.
Tip 3: Focus on your emotional wellbeing
Face your pain points, fears, and anxieties, not escaping or avoiding them. Sometimes, we try to distract ourselves through feel-good habits (eating, shopping), but they’re just temporary band-aids. So the only way to cope and overcome your challenges is to face them with help from loved ones or/and a professional.
Tip 4: Prioritize self-care
When you take care of yourself and give your needs the attention they deserve, it directly and positively impacts your mood, your responses, your thinking and reasoning, your coping mechanism, and your parenting too.
Self-care looks different to every woman. It need not be some luxurious indulgent act that needs you to take 4 hours off, which is not possible if you have a baby.
It could be simple things like:
Get dressed and get out of the house for a bit
Spend time with a friend
Read a few pages
Take a soothing bath
Use herbal oils for some aromatherapy at home
Do something nice for yourself
Cook or declutter (if that helps center you)
Do what makes you happy; it does not have to look like someone else’s idea of self-care. Just taking a short break from your baby or your home will make a world of a difference. And definitely don’t feel guilty about it!
Tip 5: Stop multitasking, start delegating
Many of us have this constant to-do list in our heads, and it’s an ongoing process! While a mom is doing one task at hand, she’s probably thinking of the other tasks she has to complete!
It's exhausting! Take a breath and step back from some of these. Like we said, prioritize and delegate. If something can be postponed or done later in the week, do it. Identify what is urgent and has to be completed today. Then see if someone in your family or close circle can do that for you.
It’s also okay if something does not get done, if it gets done late, or if it’s not done “perfectly.” Lower the standards you set for your tasks and you will feel much better.
If you have delegated a task, let go of any control over how it’s done. Your nanny or mother may do it differently than you, but as long as it’s done, take it as a win! Avoid micromanaging and you will feel lighter.
Tip 6: Treat yourself better
Moms may have the tendency to save the best for their baby. For example, you will buy fresh seasonal fruits that you may love to eat, but you will save them for your child, in the bargain sacrificing your own needs or desires. Your baby is still a baby and they will eat very less or may not even eat those fruits!
You should eat what you enjoy, and indulge yourself without the guilt. Eat healthy and clean, have your fruits, veggies, and grains, stay hydrated. As much as you focus on your baby’s nutrition, your nutrition is also very important!
Tip 7: Move your body
Exercise releases endorphins, which helps our brain think better and improves our mood! It may be extremely difficult to exercise especially if you’ve gained weight from the pregnancy, have hormonal or postpartum issues, or have low motivation to work out. Even a short, brisk walk to get your heart rate going will do wonders. If you do choose to walk outdoors, spending some time in a garden or park (close to nature) would be wonderful. Eventually you can join some postnatal yoga or light Zumba or swimming – whatever you enjoy and find joy in.
It’s essential to carve out a small amount of time every day for some form of movement. Research shows that some form of exercise every day for a short duration can combat stress and anxiety.
Tip 8: Invest in genuine relationships
Call a friend and spend time with other people. For many moms after their baby is born, their world revolves around their child. This can lead to isolation and loneliness, which are common among moms. Loneliness is one of the factors that increases stress levels in new moms, research shows.
As their child grows up and becomes less dependent on them, the moms struggle to assimilate with the rest of the world. Remember, you are not alone. Reconnect with other adults, maybe other moms who are experiencing similar things you are. Join mommy communities (online or offline) and remember to have conversations beyond your baby and motherhood. Your identity is more than you being a mom.
Tip 9: Drop the guilt
Mom guilt can arise from a number of reasons. As we don’t have control over societal expectations, we need to manage our own expectations of ourselves. You cannot do it all and you cannot do it perfectly. Perfectionism is a myth. So, find a balance that works for you as a woman and a mom.
Be comfortable and confident with your choices. People have the habit of standing on the sidelines and giving opinions. You decide which you want to accept and which you want to ignore. You know what works well for you with your limitations and strengths.
Strike a balance between what you “need to do” and what you “can do.” Avoid getting influenced by the accomplishments or lifestyle choices of your peer moms or social media moms. Your baby loves you the way YOU are, so just be yourself and don’t place that pressure on yourself.
Tip 10: Give yourself grace
Practice self-compassion and know that you are doing your very best. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Avoid getting into the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” self-talk. If you don’t get something done, it’s perfectly all right. Don’t berate yourself for it. Speak gently and kindly to yourself, the way you would speak to your best friend.
Set healthy boundaries and learn to say no when you need to protect your energy or time. We all have our limits; we cannot be good at everything. So focus on what your strengths are as a mom, notice what you’re proud of, the values you prioritize, and remember your baby is observing and loving you for who you are. They don’t care about someone else’s mom on Instagram!
Tip 11: Do a social media detox
Social media has given rise to the “comparison” game or like people call it FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s a good idea to disconnect from your social media if you find yourself getting influenced or affected by the content you see.
No content on social media should ever make you feel bad about yourself!!! Unfollow, remove connections, offload the app – do whatever you need to so you can maintain your mental peace. If someone is making you feel “less than” or “not good enough,” unfollow or delete that. Also, your self-worth is not determined by how many likes or comments or followers you have.
Take a digital break or limit your exposure every day. Avoid looking at social media on waking up or just before sleeping. Replace this with another activity you like, such as a quick prayer or meditation or even read a few pages of a book. Try a gratitude journal or learn a new language. Your mind and soul will be grateful!
Tip 12: Improve your sleep schedule
When you don’t prioritize your own sleep, it can cause burnout. When you’re not sleeping well, your brain is not functioning well. You may then struggle to think rationally and may react with volatility or rage (often displaced on the child or loved ones). It’s a myth that an individual can survive with less sleep. But there’s a huge difference between surviving and thriving! When you are adequately well-rested, you feel more focused and can thrive better.
This is tough for moms with newborns, as younger babies wake up frequently during the night. But if possible, try to slip in a power nap during the day when your baby is sleeping or a loved one can supervise them while you reset.
Tip 13: Try to make simple breathing exercises a habit
Deep, slow, controlled breathing (as opposed to shallow breathing, which is what most of us do, especially when stressed or rushed) does wonders for our parasympathetic nervous system. Try to include some form of breathwork exercise, like pranayam or simply observing your breath for a few minutes at different times of the day. Consciously, you can start slowing and deepening your breaths, and you will notice a vast difference to your wellbeing! If you like, you can use apps or reminders to build this habit.
These 13 tips will enable more moms to be more joyful, manage their and others’s expectations, and feel more confident and calm as you get used to parenting.