Author & mum-of-one Grace Timothy on how to reclaim your identity & look after yourself in the early days as a new mum
In no time at all, you’ve morphed into ‘mum’. You’re a brilliant one, naturally, but you sometimes need reminding that taking care of you is important too. Here are our top 10 ways to help you get your identity back.
Meet more parents like you
Even though we’re connected 24/7, a staggering nine in 10 mums said they felt lonely in a recent survey by Channel Mum. It’s not always easy to plunge straight into a new environment, but it can really be worth the effort. Try all the local baby groups, join Facebook groups in your area, hang out at your park… I met people in baby changing rooms, the weigh-in clinic and even on Instagram! There are also apps like Peanut and Mush, which help you build up a network of fellow mums.
Make time for your passions
Don’t let the fact you’re now a mum hold you back. Whether it’s the gym, a book club or watching Friends repeats on Netflix, make space for things you enjoy. Schedule it in your diary as you would any other essential parenting appointment. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t have family nearby to babysit, you could start a babysitting exchange with a trusted mum friend – if they’ll watch your baby for a couple of hours, then you can do the same when they need a break.
Take some me time
If you can spare five minutes in your day to barricade yourself in the bathroom, make it count. Sure, a lengthy soak in the tub with a face mask is very unlikely to happen any time soon, but here’s a top tip: cleanse your skin and, when it’s dry, pop on a hydrating sheet mask. You don’t have to lie back or sit still; you don’t even have to rinse it off – when time’s up you can just peel it off and rub in any excess liquid. (Just a heads up: don’t forget it’s on – it might give the postman a bit of a scare!)
Think about YOUR future
While you’re in that fog of constant nappy changes and feeding, it’s the perfect time to engage your brain (yes, it does still work!) and think about what could be next for you a few months down the line. Maybe you have career ambitions. Or maybe you’re one of the 35% of new mums that say they are more interested in starting a new business since having children. It might be too soon to pursue the mumpreneur route right now (and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to) but just enjoy indulging your dreams. For me, it was about becoming an author, and although it took years to happen, that nugget of an idea kept my mind active and engaged.
Sleep is essential, not a luxury…
… and lack of it can unravel the most together person. In fact, The Great British Sleep Survey found that poor sleepers were seven times more likely to feel helpless, five times more likely to feel alone and twice as likely to suffer from low mood. So, grab any opportunity to catch up on shut eye. Take it in turns with your partner to have a lie-in, nap when the baby naps, or call on those trusted babysitters, again! I found that the more rest I got, the more I felt like my old self and the better I coped with the changes.
Learn to let it go
A shocking nine in 10 mums say they feel under pressure to be perfect. But in the interests of staying sane, you can afford to embrace being a ‘good-enough parent’ (and immediately unfollow the accounts on social media that make you feel insecure). The laundry can wait, the toys can stay where they are. It’s far better to rest when you need to, enjoy the moments of calm with your baby, or play with them and soak up those first smiles and giggles. Your kid won’t remember the mess… and you won’t either!
Learn the art of small talk
When you’re home alone looking after a baby, chatting with another adult – even if only for five minutes – can be enough to feel ‘normal’ again! I would never have done it pre-baby, but I grew to love chats with the neighbors over the garden fence, stopping on a walk to say hello to another mum, or a chinwag with the staff in the local shops. Plus getting an old friend on the phone can give you an easy link to your old life and keep those friendships alive. (And you don’t even have to change out of your PJs!)
Ask for help
They say it takes a village to raise a baby, so never be afraid to enlist support, whether that’s asking friends or family to babysit, getting someone to make you a sandwich, or calling on your Boots pharmacist and healthcare providers to allay any fears you might have. You are not alone.
For me, this was about reconnecting with my husband, often only for 30 minutes between feeds. TV off, phones down, just us chatting. But it could be time spent with a parent or sibling. Even if it’s just for a moment, remember that part of you that is also a partner, sister or daughter.
Keep a journal
I didn’t journal at first. In fact, I was a bit ‘meh’ about it. I’d rather catch up on sleep! But then, as my baby became a toddler, I wrote a book about being a mum and realized just how cathartic it is to write everything down and consider how I felt about it all.