3 Tips for Maintaining Your Freedom as a New Mom
When you become a mother, it can be easy to fall into a mindset that you are the sole provider for your new baby. While it is true that you are likely the most important person in that little one’s life, it is not necessary for all of the responsibility to fall on your shoulders. Further, the responsibilities that we do have as new moms, don’t need to be so constricting that we become lifeless drones. The following steps can help you maintain your freedom as a new mom.
1. Include Your Partner
It is so important for the child’s dad to be included in everyday tasks. It is important to the baby and to the father. The bonding that takes place during every day activities is irreplaceable. Things like tummy time, baths, story time and bedtime can provide you a priceless half hour at a time. Take this time, shamelessly, to go outside and read a book, paint your nails, take a shower or whatever else you want or need to do.
The hardest part is going to be giving up control. When I decided to let my husband help me with these things, I wanted to jump right in at the slightest sign of a struggle. If I heard fussing (from either my son or his dad) I would run to the rescue and therefore, wouldn’t get the time to myself that I so desperately needed. So, I started removing myself from the situation by going out of earshot. This also took some adjusting on my husband’s part. If I removed myself, he would summon me for the slightest issue. What soap do I use? Is he hungry? What pajamas do you want him to wear? I handled this by gently reminding him that this is a learning experience for us both and that I trusted him to use his best judgement to handle whatever (not so urgent) issue was at hand.
After a week or so, I can honestly say we were all much happier. My son was over the moon with the one-on-one attention he was receiving from his dad. My husband felt appreciated because he was actually able to help me after not being able to help with so many other things (breastfeeding, sleepless days, my healing body and balancing hormones) and I was beside myself with joy at the increments of time I had to fully relax.
The trust in your partner will be essential because eventually you will have to get out of the house. If you are breastfeeding, pump some milk, call up the girls and go out for a movie or a cocktail. At first, there may be no desire to talk to . . . well . . . anyone. You might not want to go anywhere or do anything. I remember having to force myself even to go to family functions. Don’t rush it, but remember it’s important to maintain social connections and to remember that there is life outside of your home.
2. Eating, Showering, and Using the Restroom Cannot be Put Off
One thing I quickly learned as a new mom (especially a breastfeeding new mom) is that I had to eat. Believe it or not. It sounds like a no brainer but when you are caught up in sleeping in as long as you possibly can (since you might not be getting much sleep at night), feeding your new baby and trying to get them to sleep, you might find that it has been many hours since you last ate something. Your body needs nutrients both to heal itself after childbirth and to maintain your energy to take care of your little one. If you are breastfeeding, eating will be even more important, as your body burns an extra 500 calories or so per day.
Showering can also become one of the lowest priorities. Even if my son didn’t need anything at all, I couldn’t wrap my mind around leaving him unsupervised for 15 min while I showered. Even if he was safe in his bassinet, I just wasn’t comfortable with it. Same goes for using the restroom. Which is inevitable. Something had to give.
I had to be brave and learn how to give myself the time to do these very necessary things without fear. Here’s how I did it. Someone close to me once said, “if the baby is warm, fed, changed and in a safe place, that all of their needs are met and they do not need anything from you for a period of time.” I held fast to these words as I climbed nervously into the shower. I turned on the water and began to relax as the hot water poured over my skin. It was happening, I was overcome with joy . . . for about 3 minutes. Then my son began to cry and I jumped out of the shower and ran in soaking wet to my son in his bassinet . . . Safe and sound. It took some practice but I clung to the wise words and let my son fuss a bit while I showered or used the restroom. And guess what? He survived and so did I. Which leads me to my last point.
3. Teach Your Child to Trust You
I began to be able to shower and use the restroom and do various other tasks over time because I built a trust with my son. Being away from him for very short periods of time and then returning to comfort him and meet his needs, showed him that I will always be there to take care of him. He began to understand that there is no need to panic if he cannot see me because if he gets hungry or needs to be changed or comforted, I will be there. Every time.
I practiced this with him a little bit every day. I would change his diaper then lay him in his crib while I went to wash my hands. Then, later in the day, I would put him in his swing and go do something like take the trash out. Every day I extended the amount of time I was away from him a little more. I would change his diaper then go wash my hands and get a cup of coffee. The next day I would wash my hands, get a cup of coffee then go get dressed. Within a few days, I was able to put my son in his swing and go make dinner. He would only fuss once or twice and would be completely fine once I walked in the room.
There’s no doubt that your little one needs you more than anybody. You are the most important person in their little world and your responsibilities are great. But don’t let becoming a mother make you feel like you have lost yourself. Your child needs you to take care of yourself in order to take care of them. So if you are starting to feel a bit trapped, give these tricks some consideration and remember to give yourself the freedom you need to maintain your health and happiness.