Courtesy of Allison Cooper

The One Thing Every New Mom Desperately Needs

by Allison Cooper

I will never forget the morning after I came home from the hospital with my second child. My husband told me to sleep in, because he had everything under control. After getting an extra hour or two of sleep, I crept out of our bedroom and walked down the hall past the kitchen, where my aunt was cleaning. In the living room, my husband sat with our son and new baby daughter in her bouncy seat. I smiled. They smiled back. Everyone was content.

As I glanced around the room at my new family of four, I realized that now, more than ever, I needed to take care of myself, so I could take care of them. As much as my heart was bursting at the seams with love, I also knew that I had years and years of hard work ahead of me. If I wasn’t on top of my game, I could easily fall down a dark hole, one that I had been down before.

So I made sure that I started a self-care budget. Simply put, I set aside part of our income on a bi-weekly basis, so I always have funds available when I need anything done that falls into the self-care category (massage, mani/pedi, waxing, etc.). It's 100% necessary and has been an absolute lifesaver.

Courtesy of Allison Cooper

Not everyone's self-care budget is the same: the amount of money you should save probably depends on a number of different factors, such as your household income and how many kids you have. But for me, I probably spend anywhere between $400 and $500 a month caring for myself. This includes my monthly Classpass subscription, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and getting my hair cut. On some months, I might throw in a facial or a massage, or simple add that onto my manicure and pedicure budget. It's how I stay sane.

I learned that I needed a self-care budget the hard way eight years ago, when I was a new mom. When we got our first apartment, I was a young army wife and we'd just had our first child. I learned how to manage a budget and pay rent. I also learned how effing expensive formula is. I wasn’t working and we didn’t have a lot of extra money for things, so I put myself on the back burner and made sure that everyone else’s needs came before mine.

While I was pouring my heart and soul into new motherhood, I forgot that my own needs were important, too.

Every day, I rose bright and early, took care of our son, made sure my husband knew just how much I loved him, cleaned, did laundry, and planned dinner. Somehow, I finished my bachelor's degree somewhere in between. But while I was pouring my heart and soul into new motherhood, I forgot that my own needs were important, too, and everything kinda unravelled from there.

There were days when my husband would come home from work and I wouldn’t have a chance to start dinner. I was so overwhelmed by the daily duties that I practically threw our son at him, as I wanted nothing more in that moment than to take a shower and wash the day off of me. I was drained and felt like I had nothing left to give.

Even though we had a gym in our apartment building, I barely worked out anymore. I couldn’t remember what it felt like to buy a new piece of clothing or have a manicure. I even yearned to feel the pain of having my eyebrows waxed. I thought that being a mom entailed self-sacrifice, but it didn't take me long to realize how wrong that mentality was.

Courtesy of Allison Cooper

I started to resent my husband and my son, which is when I knew I needed to turn things around and start taking care of myself again. At first, I started making small changes. Let’s face it: taking care of ourselves can be expensive, and with a very small budget at the time I needed to be strategic. So I started going to the gym again a few nights a week, leaving literally the second my husband walked in the door. This gave me an immediate boost, because fitness was always such a huge love of mine. I then started doing my own nails again, and remembered just how good it felt to have nail polish on filed nails. And even though I was an exhausted mother, I set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier to jump in that shower before anyone else was up. I even put on a little bit of makeup some days, because it just made me feel fantastic.

As we got older, and both my husband and I started making more money, I developed a little self-care fund, making sure that I had the funds for what I needed each month. I strongly recommend that other moms have a self-care budget too. I can't tell you how much you need to be setting aside, but I will say this: pick a number and stick to it. No, really. It's that important. And make sure that you don't skip out on any of your appointments, because you need to make sure that you spend time and money on you.

Having a self-care budget makes me feel like I can take over the world.

Today, I’m a busy New York City mom who makes it to spinning class at least twice a week. I rush out the door as soon as my husband gets home from work. I make sure that at least once a month, I get a manicure and pedicure; every other month, I get a wax. It makes me feel good about myself. All of these things are expensive, especially in New York City, but it’s beyond important to invest in myself.

But more than that, having a self-care budget makes me feel like I can take over the world. There is a sense of confidence that comes with taking care of myself physically that puts me in an amazing place mentally, and I feel refreshed all the time. That glow you feel after taking an amazing vacation can be the way you feel all the time, as long as you're taking care of yourself. If not, you’ll probably look back on life and wonder where you lost yourself, and that’s not a question that I ever want to ask.