a dozen sanity inducing tips for new moms
Here are some of the most common things I hear from new moms when talking about how hard this life changing transition is:
-I’m so lonely.
-I’ve been wasting so much time.
-I’m a failure.
-I’m struggling to remember who I am.
-*sneeze* I just peed myself. (Okay I’ve never heard anyone say the last one but I say it all the time).
If this is you, sweet woman, I hear you. This time is hard, on so many levels. I've found a few things (or rather a dozen) that make it easier to find a little peace and hopefully over time, get you to thriving, instead of just counting the minutes. I humbly offer this to you while at the same time telling you, you're doing great!! Maybe your best looks different from day to day but intention counts for a lot in these days that are long with little people.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. It's tempting but it doesn't help and it's also a recipe for crazy. Please note: “anyone else” also includes your previous self. The old Jaime (or rather, the younger one) on my passport, she had pretty good hair most days, rarely had stains on her clothing and generally smelled sweet. This Jaime (the one typing at you from the couch), she took an international flight with her husband and toddler resulting in milk/airplane food vomit that went everywhere just after touching down in NYC. Cut to 20 minutes later, when we’ve wiped off most signs of the vomit and now we’re standing at customs, just wafting the scent of milk vomit to everyone around. All I could do was hold up my passport and say, “Look at her, she smells nice.”
Forgive yourself. If you can do that, you can more easily forgive your kids (which you’ll have to do) and you’ll just be a much nicer person when you don’t feel like a douchebag (which you’re not). Give yourself some grace and you'll have more to spread around to others.
Drink water. Okay so we all know we’re supposed to drink water for a multitude of reasons. But lately I learned that dehydration can make you more tired and as Hall and Oates said, I can’t go for that. Dehydration can also make your brain foggier and my brain is already trying hard to function normally. It’s true, I hate drinking water because it tastes like nothing and makes me have to pee and I’m not even allowed to pee alone. But it’s good for me so I got myself a pretty water bottle and I try to keep it full all the time (half of the time by drinking it and then refilling it and the other half by filling it and then walking away or just looking at it).
Acknowledge the chemical goings on in your body. It’s a real thing, mama. I was talking to a good friend who is also a parent, about 3 months after my first son was born. He asked how I was doing and I said “Oh I’m SO much better, I’m doing SO great” accompanied by a desperate wide eyed expression and vigorous head nodding. Bless him, he just looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh you’ve got a few months yet before the crazy goes away.” He was right. That bi-atch was crazy.
Lower the bar, about everything. Bring those expectations way down. Yeah, you’ll probably only clean the bathroom once every two or three weeks. You likely won’t finish a book for another 3 years. It will take some concentration to remember when you last showered. You might not eat very well and probably the only workout you’ll get is lifting the stroller up and down the stairs. It’s not for forever and it’s all fine. Even if you can’t believe that, just pretend because otherwise, you’re just running into a wall every day.
Cross your legs when you sneeze. Try not to be caught off guard by humor. Also, I tripped into the wall and peed myself. The glamour is overwhelming. I think the potency of Kegel exercises is a myth.
Accept help. Listen to the airline steward. When traveling with someone who needs you, put your air mask on first. Sometimes your air mask is letting someone hold your baby while you cry into a glass of wine. Don’t try to be a hero. Leave the heroics to people who can watch a Geico commercial without crying.
Go outside. Just remind yourself the world is still there. Sit down somewhere and watch people walk around and admire their freedom. It was yours one day and you’ll have it again. Fresh air does everybody good.
Start a mommy group or go to one. And if at all possible, look for one with non-judgemental moms. I started a group at my place and chose carefully whom I invited and trusted the other moms to do the same. We’ve had nothing but sweet, open and caring women come through. We all do things a little differently but no one judges and a once a week date where someone else can see you in your struggles and witness tiny wins, is huge. Also one of the babies took their first steps at mommy group, which was exhilarating for all of us.
Remember your husband or partner. Yeah, that one. The one who got you into this side show. He’s probably looking at you and wondering if he’ll ever see his wife again. Try to find tiny ways to remind him that you’re in there somewhere. I know it’s hard because at the end of a day with my kids, I only want to be touched by a trained masseuse. But I try not to save all of my affection for my kids. Don’t have a partner? See number 7 and also, come to my house so I can hug you and fall at your feet in adoration because you’re amazing, mama.
Surrender. You’re just getting the baby down and you’re thinking about Instagramming or eating or binge watching Netflix or going to the bathroom. You know, the BIG dreams. Then the baby wakes up. Suddenly you can’t do anything and you keep thinking about what you want to do but you don’t want to do any of that stuff with a screaming baby soundtrack so you feel trapped, like you want so desperately to jump out of your skin. Breathe. Let yourself off the hook, let the baby off the hook (she’s just being a baby) and let that stuff go, just for a while. You can’t choose what you want to do in that moment but you can still choose peace. You’re showing up for your baby. The other stuff will wait. And try not to consider all of this ‘wasted’ time. Since when is it wasted time to keep someone else alive? If binge watching TV keeps you sane for a while, that’s not wasted time either. Cut yourself some slack.
Find tiny moments to feel like ‘you’. Put some music on. Read some poetry while you’re breastfeeding. Watch a TV show or movie that makes you feel good with your earbuds in while you’re putting the baby down. Read one New York Times article a day. Listen to a podcast while you’re pushing the baby around the block. Do the down dog position for a minute and/or do 20 squats. Keep an open journal handy and jot down what you’re thinking/screaming in your head. Whatever it is, find one edifying thing you can do a day, that reminds you of you, even if it only takes 5 minutes. It all counts, mama. As my wise friend Jenna kindly told me, "I would read short stories while breastfeeding. So I felt less like a milk cow and more like a milk cow who reads Updike which is better." #winning
That’s about what I’ve figured out so far. What have you found to be helpful? I still need the help so feel free to share some of your hard earned wisdom with me. We’re in this together and I’m rooting for you!