Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Congratulations! You may have just taken your first tentative steps into the journey of parenthood, or you may be an old hand that is able to change a nappy with your eyes closed, whilst simultaneously creating a paper mâché caterpillar for your oldest to take in for their latest piece of homework, that you will later be invited in to school to admire for topic show and tell at the most inconvenient time.
I wanted to write this, to first of all tell you you are doing an amazing job and you probably don't give yourself enough credit for the task you are currently undertaking. Secondly, I wanted to share some tips to help you take care of yourself mentally and physically.
1. Its ok to have me time!
Who feels guilty about leaving your children to go and do something fun and for you, or even just to go food shopping in peace? Yep, me too. Even if they are left with family. I'm here to tell you, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW, and actively encourage you to have some time to yourself. I'm not going to tell you what to do with that time. You are very much within your rights to just sit and stare into space if that's what you want to do, but you MUST do it and do it regularly. Having a break will allow you to recharge your mind and you will find that you are calmer and can take things in your stride, that would normally send you into a meltdown. I would recommend that you try to spend some of this time outside. Fresh air and being in nature really has a therapeutic effect on the mind (see my forest bathing blog).
2. Ease yourself into exercise.
Exercise is important, but you must make sure your body is ready. Start gentle, this can be walking to school/work, dancing in the kitchen, swimming, or even just marching on the spot whilst cooking dinner. But high impact activity such as running or HIIT training should not be undertaken until around 3 months after birth. The reason for this is that your pelvis and soft tissues within it have been through trauma and must have time to heal. As with any injury, rehab should also take place and I recommended that a pelvic assessment and rehab takes place before you start training. Symptoms such as leaking and pain in the back and pelvis should be a sign of a need for a pelvic rehab program.
3. Be a practical prepper.
You might already do this, but I highly recommend batch cooking. If I can, I make double the amount of cooked dinners and freeze them, to serve on a day when I'm working, everyone decides they want something different, or just too tired to cook something from scratch. Chilli, fajitas, jambalaya, shepherds pie are all things that I can portion up and pop into my trusty plastic tubs. Spending a little extra time planning for this is so worth it for those times when you are just too tired, but want a nutricious meal.
4. Don't sweat the small stuff.
It feels like yesterday that I brought my youngest home from hospital to meet my 15 month old (who seemed like a giant at the time). Everything seemed so overwhelming and trying to keep on top of breastfeeding, cook nutricious homemade meals for my son, stick to bedtime
routines, as well as attend mother and baby classes and trying to keep up with the other mums that seemed to have it all figured out took its toll. I learned to pick my battles. It didn't really matter that I hadn't ironed the bed sheets before I put them on or that some days I wore odd socks. In the grand scheme of things, these things don't matter and you should concentrate on enjoying this precious time with your little one.
5. Take the pictures and make sure you are in them
Your children will look at you every day and see one of the people they love most in the world. Thy do not love you any less without your make up. When they are grown, they will want to see pictures of you with them when they are small and they wont care if you haven't lost your baby weight or you haven't done your hair. So do not shy away from the photo's, learn to love yourself like they love you.
Gayle Jordan is an osteopath and complementary therapy practitioner. She has a special interest in womens health, treating from her clinic Align Osteopathy in Totton, near Southampton and also in the New surgery, Brockenhurst. She has been treating and educating women of all ages for over 20 years.