How to feel like yourself again after having a baby
After giving birth to our first born, Oliver, it is safe to say that my life transformed within an instant. I know that many mums and dads feel the same. However for me, not all of this change felt positive.
If I’m being honest, becoming a mother for the first time stripped me of my whole identity. All the things that I enjoyed and that made me happy were no longer part of my life. Prior to having children, like many mothers I was independent, sociable and just loved doing what I wanted whenever I wanted.
No one told me how hard it was going to be, instead I just heard positive stories of parenting. The transition to motherhood was challenging, in fact become a mother is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done.
Let’s just say I now have a new found respect for my own mum and everything she has done for me since having my own children. It really is true, nothing can prepare you for it, or maybe something can but as a society we are not preparing and supporting expectant and new parents enough?
I have learnt some hard lessons since welcoming Oliver. I thought I would share these with you today by turning them into 5 tips on how to feel yourself again since having a baby or becoming a parent.
Keep it real
I am guilty of often calling my mum friends “super mum” because I genuinely feel like they are doing an amazing job. The risk of using this term is that implies that mums are nailing it whilst others (like me) feel like they are failing.
I fell into the trap of pretending I was okay and underneath it all I was breaking. This made me feel worse because I couldn’t keep up with all the parents that seemed to be finding it a breeze. On the other hand, the mums who felt the same as me, thought I was one of the ones finding it a breeze.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you are failing as a parent and then scrolling through social media seeing all other parents coping with their sleeping happy children. But a picture is a moment, not an accurate account of how life is.
I quickly made myself a promise that I would portray real and honest experiences of parenting both on and offline. I’m human so I naturally share more photos of happy moments but when I have a bad day and have the time, I now share how I really feel.
I find parenting extremely challenging most days, some moments I love it and others I wished I could be at work. I now know it is okay and normal to feel like this.
To stand united together, as parents, try to be honest with loved ones about how you are feeling. If you have had a sh*t day, tell someone or the world online, it’s amazing how much support you can receive.
Make your own rules
I decided when I was pregnant that I was going to be a gentle and child led parent. This parenting style sits best with my values and personality. However, one lesson I have learnt is your children test you like no one has done before.
I noticed I was being the gentle parent with my children but not being gentle to myself. I am not saying do not be gentle with your children or that attachment parenting is a bad way to parent. Instead, I am asking where is the line, at what point do you start being gentle to yourself, putting you first and cutting yourself some slack? There is no adult that can be positive and gentle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some days, you won’t be gentle, but just know you are doing the best you can.
I prefer to make my own rules, and not put myself in a parenting style box. Although if I was to aspire to be any type, it would be an honest and real one.
I had no idea what it was going to be like to be a parent. No one knows, but I was really clueless. I hadn’t even given it a millisecond thought. I truly believe that this is one of the main reasons I struggled with the transition. I had little experience with babies and seemed to be good with older children. If someone had told me then maybe it would have been a tad easier. I try to be honest with expectant parents and those who would like children one day.
In hindsight (Oh what a beautiful thing), if I had the opportunity to spend more time with babies prior to becoming a parent I would have done. I would also have signed up to any classes and courses which would have helped me in the parental areas I have struggled with, such as breastfeeding, sleep, time and money pressures and self care.
When you have little people to look after, it is only natural to put your own self care to the bottom of the list. When I felt like I was doing a rubbish job at being a mum, what I actually wasn’t succeeding at was taking care of my own health and happiness. It is impossible to be the parent you aspire to be, when you are at rock bottom.
Once I picked myself up and climbed the mountain, I could see clearly that my own self care needed to be as high as the love and care I had for my children. Once I made this decision and finally got my husband’s agreement, it was at this point that we hired a sleep consultant.
This was the turning point, when family life became a whole lot easier. Even before Oliver’s sleep had improved, I began to take small steps to feel like me again.
It is so important to remember who you are and what makes you happy outside of being a parent. “Me” time doesn’t need to be frivolous or massively time consuming. It could be reading a book, doing some gardening, watching something that makes you laugh, going for a walk or taking a bath. Just as long as it is something that makes you feel like you. Try writing down a list of all of the small things that make you happy, and try do one of them daily.
Asking for help as a new parent, or even as a non parent is not an easy thing to do. Admitting that we needed help with Oliver’s sleep was so hard, mainly because it felt like I should be coping and if I needed help I was throwing in the towel. I mean, what was wrong with me if I needed help?
This is why it took me over 6 months to ask and accept help for Oliver’s sleep. As soon as we received it I wished we had done it months earlier.
In contrast, today I see asking for help as a huge strength which helps you grow. Whether it’s help from family, loved ones or paid services, this support enables you to outsource tasks to help you live the life you wish to. Let’s face it, a happy parent = a happier child, and a happier child = a happier parent!
Think of tasks you could outsource so you can focus on what is important to you. We outsource cleaning, gardening, house maintenance and part time childcare.
There are my five honest tips on how to feel like yourself after you have had a baby. If this resonated with you, then please do comment or even better share with a parent or expectant parent who it may help.