TOOL 2: Setting Myself as a Priority
Let’s admit it – with a new baby, sometimes it seems like getting out of our housecoat is too much work. With all of the challenges of being a new mom, “self-care” might seem like an impossible demand. We are so busy looking after the baby, and perhaps several other people in our lives, that we neglect ourselves. And although we are doing something very important, we run the risk of burning out.
So although it is wonderful to help others, we won’t be able to do so if we don’t first look after ourselves. Remember what flight attendants always say: “You need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help anyone else.” Being a mom takes a lot of energy, and we need to remember to also nourish ourselves.
Looking after the baby is taking all of my energy. I don’t have time to take care of myself!
Some days are going to be especially challenging: the baby is sick, the washing machine breaks, our older child suddenly “remembers” an assignment that is due today. We have so many balls in the air, we don’t even notice that we are not attending to our own basic needs very well. The important thing is that over time we do what we can to look after ourselves. Self-care doesn’t need to involve a huge change or lots of time. It can be something easy to do. For example, we can decide to eat a sandwich or take a well-deserved nap instead of running around cleaning when the baby is asleep. These small acts of self-care throughout the day help us stay mentally balanced and energized – so we can keep doing all the important things in our lives.
For more ideas, see Treat Yourself Kindly.
I find it difficult to ask for help
With a new baby, sometimes we need extra help. It’s very important to ask for what we need and receive support during this time. In many places in the world, a new mom would be helped by an army of supporters. As many of us are on our own, we may need to be creative about getting extra help (such as asking a friend to pick up some groceries, arranging child care during exercise classes, switching off with another mom, sharing a babysitter, or hiring a high school student to help out).
And as if we were not busy enough with our new baby, sometimes we say “yes” to other people’s requests for help and we are left with very little time for ourselves. It can be hard to say no, and we may not be sure how others may react. But we have to weigh this against knowing how we will feel if we are overwhelmed and not taking care of ourselves.
For tips on assertiveness, see Effective Communication.
More information on how to say “no” and other assertiveness techniques is also available at the Centre for Clinical Interventions’ Assert Yourself.