Self care.

What is it, why is it important, and what does it look like when you’re still learning your way around new routines, understanding your baby’s needs, and how to balance your relationship with your spouse, friends and family?

When you’re pregnant with your first baby, you have time to yourself. You can set your schedule, nap when you need to or feel like it, decide to go out or stay in for the evening or weekend.
When the baby arrives, new moms can struggle with wanting to find time for themselves and the lives they used to know with the needs of their new baby. Partners and spouses seemingly aren’t as affected by the baby’s needs and routine since they’re not Mama. Let’s face it, baby greatly prefers you at this stage. Spouses can go out and watch a movie at 8pm. Friends might not understand why you can’t just drop the baby off with a sitter to check out that hot new restaurant. Your ideas of a fun time might now be an uninterrupted nap followed by a 20 minute hot shower.

Self Care © Angie Helwich

So what are some ways to work in self care?

In the beginning, start small.
– take a long bubble bath or a shower with your favorite bath products
– go to Target by yourself and wander all the aisles, not just the ones you quickly zip through to finish grocery shopping before the baby has a meltdown
– get a pedicure or a manicure
– get some fresh air and take a walk around the block

If you’re in the car and baby’s asleep, seize the opportunity!
– get a cat nap yourself!
– bring a book or magazine along to read
– treat yourself to Starbucks drive thru
– catch up on Facebook, write some emails, or watch Netflix on your phone

As your baby gets older and you can get away for a bit longer, start getting out on a regular basis.
– find a mom’s group, either in person or online. Oftentimes online groups also host play dates so you can meet other moms and babies around the same age, or organize mom’s night out to check out that hot new restaurant. There are several groups in the Chicago area on Facebook or Meetup, like Bibs to Backpacks, or local to the suburbs or city like Moms of Beverly, Moms of Brookfield, etc.
– sitting co-op. Get together with a group of moms and trade off childcare so you can run to the store, post office, dry cleaners, or just enjoy the comfort of your house in silence for a little bit on a regular basis.
– take a class. Find a book group, knitting, exercise, cooking or other class and interact with adults doing something you enjoy. Learn a new skill, or brush up on one you haven’t had time to do since baby arrived. See if local gyms have childcare available.

When I first started my own parenting journey, I stressed myself out a lot thinking self care was only worth it when I did something big. Spent a few hours at the mall, met up with a friend for lunch and shopping, went to a mom’s night out. I’d do these things occasionally, but in reality I’d let my tank run almost dry between outings leading to a lot of stress and resentment. I find moms tend to put the needs of their family first while neglecting themselves or thinking they aren’t as deserving of care as their spouse or children. This isn’t true! Self care works best when you’re constantly topping up your tank doing little things throughout the week. Flipping through a magazine, treating yourself to some fancy hand lotion at Target, and making your spouse keep the kids out of your hair for 10 minutes so you can shower in peace can be little things that all add up to a refreshed mom. You’re worth it.