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Things we should do more of: Ditch the Mom Guilt + Take time for ourselves

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

Taking time for yourself as a new mom is extremely difficult, and something many of us think is out of the question at first. But in reality, it’s what we need most. If you give yourself a little love, you will be able to do that much more for your family.

Admittedly, I wasn’t very great at this when my baby was born. It was extremely difficult to ask for help from anyone -- even my husband, who was for sure doing his part already. I also started working, soon after she was born so it felt like anytime I wasn’t working, I should be with my baby. Mom guilt sets in early as hell.

I quickly burned out, found myself under a lot of stress and started developing anxiety. I knew I needed to change it up. I had to create a little space to fill up my own damn cup. I also wanted to set the example early on for my daughter that I was a mom who found her own joy. It’s important to me that she sees me as a happy person who is well rounded in interests and things besides simply being her mother.

I started doing yoga and exercising more - two things that were healthy and gave me energy. I realized I could also multitask this into spending time with friends, no matter how short those meet-ups were. That little change was such a difference. It is so fulfilling to see a girlfriend and hear what they are up to, when we are in the midst of changing diapers and cleaning baby barf off our gap maternity breastfeeding tops. If they had dating gossip, it was like a breath of fresh air!

After making these small changes, I found myself much more rested and patient, and I wanted to keep it up. I plotted out times when my baby would be napping and made an effort to plan time for myself - no, not including errands - which eliminated most guilt of being away from her.

I would leave the pile of baby food making dishes and started going out a bit more often, to dinner with girlfriends and even to a movie sometimes. It was so glorious to have a chunk of time with no responsibility. Since I was breastfeeding, it was extra liberating to have my body to myself. I did often wonder why I made certain commitments, because it was a LOT of effort getting organized to leave the house (especially in the moment I was swapping out the sweats for skinny jeans). But once I was officially out of the house, it was almost always worth it. A quick mani/pedi with a cocktail concealed in a travel cup and a magazine was like a trip to the spa back in the day. I found that even a long walk chatting on the phone with my mom sans the background noise of a baby was incredibly energizing.

It’s easy to not push yourself when you are as tired as you undoubtedly will be after you have a baby. It’s equally difficult to leave our old selves in the dust when we become mothers. It takes a lot of energy to be a good wife and a good mom. When something seems like an extra effort on top of that - it is easy to say no to that. But the person we should be saying no to least is ourselves.

My advice is to treat yourself once in awhile, and make a habit of it early so it’s easier down the road. Trust me. Not only will you thank yourself, but your whole family will benefit when you are happy. You will be a better mom because of it.