Being a new mum is totally all-encompassing, and it would be so easy to let yourself slip under the overwhelming tasks that come with motherhood. We have been very lucky with our baby; he has been very chilled out and easygoing, which has really eased our transition into parenthood. So take this advice with a pinch of salt; there will be times when you can't practise or prioritise self-care, when your baby just won't allow for it. But I find that I'm a better parent, a better wife and a better person when I take care of myself, so it's something that I've been really conscious of during this first six weeks, and here's what's been working for me...
Gather Your Gang
This has been the most important part of self-care for me. Whether it's your own mum popping over for the day to give you a break, or just a WhatsApp group of other parents who you can use as a soundboard during the night, having a gang of people around you during this time is crucial. That gang obviously include your partner, too, and whilst it's tempting to think that you know your baby better than anyone (which you probably do), handing them over to your other half even if they don't rock them to sleep exactly the way you would will give you the time you need to look after yourself. Accepting help is hard at any time, but it's essential to your survival and self-care.
Let Them Be
This maybe controversial, but I let my baby cry if I really need to. I'm not into 'Cry It Out' as a parenting method, but if I really need the bathroom or to grab a drink, then I let him cry whilst I sort myself out. I only do this for things that take a minute or two, but it's easier than trying to juggle him whilst I make a sandwich - and there's no way I can care for him all day without eating. It felt really wrong the first couple of times (that cry really is piercing...), but ultimately I always go back within a couple of minutes to give him a cuddle (or whatever else he needs) and he's hardly neglected in the grand scheme of things so I figure we can both live with this arrangement.
Prioritise the Basics (But Don't Forget Everything Else)
Everyone has their own priorities when it comes to self-care. I find that I feel a hundred times more capable when I've had a shower in the morning, so rather than sleeping when he sleeps, I prioritise getting clean. In fact, I've not really napped since he's been born - I'd personally rather go to bed early with him rather than napping in the day, but for other people a nap might be the lifeline they need to get through the day. You know yourself best, so whether it's a cup of coffee or a short stint of yoga, prioritise the basics you need to get through.
However, there is a caveat to that... When you get a chance, don't forget the things that make you feel good that aren't just the very basics. For me that's baths, reading books, blogging and baking (like the good 1950s housewife that I am...) - so when I do get a chance, I try to remember to do the things that make me feel like myself rather than just a mum.
That first trip out is so daunting. I was so anxious I almost cried, and we were only walking ten minutes up the road. I *did* cry the second time we went out to the park, because I just felt so overwhelmed. Home feels safe and easy, but being cooped up is no good for your mental health (or at least, it's not for mine). It gets easier to leave the house, and I've been trying to at least go on a short walk each day. A bit of gentle exercise combined with some fresh air, and you'll feel like a whole new person, I promise.
Eat Out (and Stock Up on Snacks)
Obviously budgets are a little tighter than usual when you're on maternity leave, but if you can afford it then an occasional lunch out is a great form of self care. Even if you have to eat with one hand whilst juggling a sleeping baby, someone will bring you food to eat and then clear up after you - which is pretty much a miracle, isn't it?