Being a mother means taking on the responsibilities of nearly everything. My to-do list is a mile long on any given day and, even when I accomplish everything, I wake up to a brand new list every morning. I love being a mom: it's an awesome experience and I'm grateful for it. However, when I was a new mom, it was a lot easier to lose myself in the process. This is why it's important to look for all the little ways to empower yourself as a first-time mom. Even now, as a mother of 10 years now, without utilizing at least a few of these things I will inevitably fall back to losing myself in my kids all over again. That's no good for anyone, my children included.
Empowerment is giving myself permission to do things for me, even when my kids need me. In the early days, I thought taking the time for myself was selfish; that my new baby needed me all day, every day, which mean my needs (if I was a "good" mother) should no longer exist. Of course that's not true. In order to be the best for her, I had to be the best for me, first, foremost, and always.
The acts of empowerment and self-care don't have to be anything grand. They don't have to cost money or take that much time at all. The point is, in taking care of yourself, you're doing your baby a favor. So if you're looking for permission to put yourself first, here it is! Now go and reveal in the empowerment of putting yourself first. It's not selfish, it's responsible parenting.
When you're a newbie, everything is overwhelming. It's OK if you need to step away from the phone, computer, partner, and baby to gather yourself somewhere quiet. This is part of the self-care process. I've hidden in the garage, bathroom, and closet before so I didn't explode about something stupid. There's no shame.
Do Something For Someone Else
It really does feel good to step outside of your own little world to do something nice for someone else. Think of another mom (maybe another newbie) and write a letter of encouragement to send her way. It will make her day, and yours.
Ignore All The Advice
Everyone has an opinion about what it takes to be a mother. Forget it. All of it. Now is the time to trust your gut and stop second guessing. It's the best way to build your confidence as a mother.
Get Off Social Media
Seriously. I never feel worse than when scrolling endlessly through my social media channels. It breeds envy, disappointment in myself, and if there's horrible things happening in the world, I'll be upset for days. If you're already doubting yourself or stressed, this isn't the best outlet. To feel empowered and less stressed, get offline and and mediate on all the great things in your life.
After my first baby, I was really out of shape. My weight had ballooned to an all-time high and I felt unhealthy. Taking my daughter for a walk in her stroller made me feel better about myself. Eventually, this would lead to running and realizing I actually enjoy exercise. Gasp!
Create A List
I live and breathe by to-do lists, because even if there's nothing much going on, I'll add small tasks just to feel the pride of crossing them off. This is a great self-esteem booster on the hard days.
It's really difficult to master, but also really important to be mindful. Whether you're trying to remain mentally present when spending time with your baby, or when date night with your partner rolls around, staying in the moment will boost your mood (especially if you're anxious like me).
Seek Out Friends
Having other mom friends to commiserate with helps you feel less alone on this journey, which can be empowering all by itself. They get what you're going through. Also, keeping those friends without kids helps ground you. They're amazing at reminding you that you're so much more than a mother, so keep them close.
Set Your Alarm
I know how tempting it is to want to sleep in every chance you get when you're already sleep-deprived, but in setting your alarm every now and then, you're taking control of your day and giving yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to mentally prepare for it.
Let Yourself Vent
Being a mom is hard. No one said you have to keep it in and let it build until you explode. Find those willing to listen — and only listen — to get it off your chest. When you're done, you'll feel better and more confident through he rest of your day.
Ask For Help
There are days, still, when I think I can't do it all. Things pile up, responsibilities build, I'm tired and over-scheduled, and I need help. As a new mother, there's no better time to recruit anyone and everyone to take some of the weight. It takes a village, after all, and mommy needs like 20 minutes to power nap. Please.
Take A Day (Or Hour) Off
If you have a partner, utilize his or her time off to your benefit. It doesn't need to be an entire day to yourself, but having some time away — with your friends or alone — is refreshing. You'll return feeling like a new woman.
Discover A New Hobby
In all the time you spend with your baby, there might be a new hobby just beneath the surface. You might find you like to knit hats for NICU infants, or write letters to soldiers overseas. You might even realize you're pretty good at dancing and should challenge your partner to a dance-off immediately.
Give yourself permission to fail. It's inevitable. By accepting this from the start, you'll be more likely to pick yourself up a little faster.
Try A New Hairstyle
Something about renewal or fresh starts happen when the scissors hit the hair after a baby. I cut mine fairly short because it saved time in styling and I wanted to cement my new self.
Paint your nails. Put makeup on for absolutely no reason. Dress up. Eat the cake. Whatever it is, do it, enjoy it, and have no regrets.
Don't Underestimate The Power Of A Deep Breath
I get so worked up, I often forget to breathe. As a new mom, it's really important when frustrated to take a moment to close your eyes and take a deep breath before you act. Seriously.
Try To Keep A Schedule
Scheduling saved me. Getting my baby on something concrete meant I could experience a little freedom during the times she slept. When you're a new mom, a little freedom goes a hell of a long way.
When I was pregnant and after the birth of my daughter, I journaled everything. Mostly, it helped me get my thoughts out if no one was there to listen. Also, it helped me reflect back, realizing some of the "hard" times really weren't that bad and the "good" times were even better than I remembered.
Lower Your Expectations
You aren't going to do everything right all the time. Guess what? It's cool. Your baby forgives you so you should, too. Set your bar lower and enjoy the small successes, like taking a shower. Yay.
Play With Your Baby And Try To Enjoy It
Along with being mindful, When you spend time with your baby, do only that. No phone or TV. Give them all of you. Even though the days are long, this time will pass quickly and, sometime in the future, you'll miss them.
Find A Support Group
Thanks to the internet, you can find a support group forum from the comfort of home. This is a great place to talk to others in the same boat. Or, find a group you can take your baby to. You'll bond with baby and get out of the house. Score.
Get Some Fresh Air
After my delivery I was housebound for a long time. This didn't help my depression. I first felt empowered when I stepped outside and smelled the fresh air. It's easy to forget it's out there.
Draft A Meal Plan For The Week
It takes a few minutes of planning but, once you have it finished, you'll feel fantastic. Meal planning means not stressing every night over what to cook or resorting to fast food all the time. If you have a plan, you can do anything.
Tell Yourself "It Can Wait"
More than anything else you can do when baby comes home, remind yourself it's OK if you don't finish the to-do list or if you have to tell people no. Whatever it is coming at you, be patient with yourself. Take care of yourself first, your baby second, and everything else after.
This period of time won't last forever so it's important to remember you're not superwoman and you don't have to be. To feel empowered is to take some form of control back from your life in order to gain the confidence necessary to slay. What baby wouldn't want that for their mother?