Self-Care for the New Parent
“Self care” is such a hot topic right now! And I think that that’s so great. But sometimes I think we tend to paint a mental picture of self-care that makes it seem like something you only do on weekends or when you have an excess of time and money and it’s definitely not a thing for new parents!
True self care is being pushed aside and masked with Instagram photos of a stranger painting our toenails. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy having a stranger scrub my feet so I don’t have to do it…
During pregnancy, self-care and baby-care are pretty much the same thing: your baby’s needs are being met alongside your own, so when you make sure you’re well-rested, well-fed, and just plain well, you know that your baby is probably all of these things, too. In fact, you may even take extra time to pamper yourself as a way to also care for your baby-to-be. You can’t reach your feet to care for them very well anymore anyway, so now it just makes sense to have someone else do it for you! ;)
When baby arrives, however, it’s a different story. Suddenly this separate-but-still-very-much- attached-to-you human requires everything you have in addition to your own needs.
So, what do you do when baby care and even the most basic self-care seem to be at odds with one another?
First let’s lay some “ground rules” for self-care. Sometimes, self-care is a relaxing day at a spa, but in other seasons of life, self-care is making time to eat 3 meals in a day, drinking water and taking a shower. Other times, it’s deep, introspective work in the form of therapy, keeping a gratitude journal or doing meditative yoga.
Ok, so let’s talk about what you can do as a new parent to practice self-care.
Outsource what you can
You’ve probably heard the sage advice, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” You probably also laughed at the suggestion; if you sleep when the baby sleeps, when will you do anything else, right?
It’s true, you can’t outsource sleep, but you can hire out some of those other tasks that keep you up when you and baby could both be catching some z’s: call on a cleaning crew to help tidy up once or twice a week—they can tackle the tasks you’re losing sleep over on the regular. Let a local meal-planning service take the labor of meal-prep off your plate for a few days! Hire a postpartum doula to support you, day or night, while you navigate this new sleep dynamic.
Prioritize what you can’t outsource.
Sometimes you can’t outsource tasks, for a variety of reasons—finances, location, nature of the task.
While it seems pretty basic, making a to-do list in order of priority can be both therapeutic and helpful here. Not only will it lighten your mental load because everything that needs to be done will be stored somewhere other than your tired brain, but it will also help you figure out what you actually need to do now and what can really wait for later.
This list is also a good place to pencil in some specific self-care, even if it’s just the luxurious act of brushing your teeth before bed. Prioritizing caring for yourself is the first step to actually doing it, so make sure you put yourself on your list!
Ask for help
Self-care is often neither glamorous nor negotiable: there are some things you have to do, like get enough sleep and enough food to sustain yourself. But even when it is these most basic of self-care things, it can be really hard and even impossible to do it all alone.
The truth is, self-care isn’t really a one-(wo)man show.