You will likely experience a variety of emotions the moment you learn you are pregnant. You may have a very specific idea in your mind about what it means to be a good mom and are devoted to making that fantasy come true. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to be a great parent, it is imperative that you do not sacrifice your own health and well-being in the process.
Many of us were raised to not be selfish and depending on when we were reminded of this sentiment, it has likely manipulated the way we behave and think. It is common to hear new moms say that they feel guilty leaving their child to do something nice for themselves. Here I advocate for a shift in perception, as there are advantages for both you and your new baby in doing so. You have been directly influencing your child from the moment they were conceived. Every food you ingested, every bit of exercise you engaged in, the sleep you had, and the stress you experienced are some examples of how your lifestyle impacted your baby. You will continue to shape your child once they emerge and this responsibility is monumental. You likely have a lot on your plate and possibly feel that your needs are secondary.
While all variables cannot be controlled, such as lack of sleep from a nursing baby, there are ways to get creative with your self-care routine to make it work best for you. It is also important to reframe the idea that self-care is selfish to something like, self-care allows me to set a good example of how to honor and care for oneself early in my child’s life. Exercise is one of the most beneficial tasks one can engage in, especially in the prenatal and postnatal period. New moms may feel like they don’t have time to regularly exercise and this is where a little creativity comes in handy. There are classes that offer new moms the opportunity to exercise with their baby. If you don’t feel ready to get out in public, there are multiple ways you can be active with your baby at home.
A great way to begin activity is to take a walk (or jog if that feels good for you) with your baby around your neighborhood. Start out walking and then slowly incorporate intervals by walking with short bouts of jogging/running. Additionally, you can hold your baby while doing squats and lunges and even chest and shoulder presses. As your child grows and witnesses your dedication to exercise, they will likely prioritize it in the same manner. Science shows us that kids who have fit moms tend to follow in their footsteps.
Self-care looks different for everyone and that’s ok. Some moms may really enjoy more social interaction; a local new mom meetup might be a great way to get out of the house. Others might really enjoy a massage or meditation class. The point is to be sure to not neglect yourself, or at least not entirely, and check in with your inner dialogue about whether or not the thoughts you have are an accurate reflection of your parenting skills. Moms who show self-love are sending a great message to their young while honoring themselves, thereby creating a happy and harmonious environment for the family. How can anyone be a good parent if they are constantly neglecting themselves? We must all strive to balance the areas of our lives that are calling our attention most. A better you is for sure a better parent.