Reminder: You Matter.
Find balance and stay sane when you have young children.
I don’t know about you, but the phrase ‘self care’ doesn’t do it for me. I wish it was called something different that didn’t give me ‘the ick’ because I believe that looking after ourselves is one of the most important things we can do – and at times (like returning to work after maternity leave) one of the hardest!
There’s something about the phrase ‘self care’ that makes it seem indulgent rather than essential. If we don’t look after our belongings they’ll wear out and we’ll need to replace them. It’s the same with ourselves, only we’re much harder to replace!
Why is it important to look after ourselves?
When we have a baby it’s natural for them to become the focal point. Everything we do in the early days, weeks and months is driven by the needs of our child. I’ve seen how this natural process can grow and become an ingrained habit where we put others, including our children, partners, friends and colleagues ahead of ourselves.
If this continues we can become resentful, burnt out, and stressed. Our self worth and confidence diminishes and we can find it hard to enjoy life.
How can you start to look after yourself?
You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve heard about how Mums should look after themselves. Just google ‘self care for Mums’ and you’ll be blown away with suggestions like these:
- Get 7 to 8 hours sleep a night (if only!)
- Make sure you do 2 hours a week of physical activity
- Light a candle and take a nice relaxing bath
These sound lovely, but they’re not always that realistic or within your control.
In my experience supporting maternity returners, the best approach is to start small. If we consider looking after ourselves as a continuum, at one end, we have big acts of self care like a weekend away or the full nights sleep mentioned above and at the other we have small actions like finding a moments peace or drinking a warm cup of tea.
All of these have a place, and I’m not ruling out the benefits of a child free weekend, but we should also take into account that in periods of stress, like returning to work after having a child, we don’t have the headspace or time to plan for these.
sing this approach here are some of the more realistic options clients have come up with after reframing ‘self care’ to ‘essential acts that look after my own needs’:
- Close the door for 5 minutes to drink a cup of coffee
- Listen to an uplifting song
- Read a page of a book
- Sit in the garden for 5 minutes
- Contact a friend
- Ask my partner to cook dinner
Benefits of looking after ourselves
When we notice these small acts of kindness towards ourselves, we start building a new story and neural pathways that tell us we are as important as the other people in our lives. It becomes easier to ask for help and support, our stress levels reduce and life becomes more enjoyable.
As a side effect, we’re also role modelling and showing our children how much we value ourselves, and that will give them permission, when they’re parents themselves, to do the same.
This article was written by Laura Duggal, one of our partner coaches who is supporting women to successfully and happily embrace their new identity as a working parent, providing a safe space to get clarity on priorities, direction and the next step. You can get in touch via her profile page or visiting her website https://www.lauraduggalcoaching.com.
May 1, 2023