As a new mom, you are probably overwhelmed. You have your baby now, and your life is changing in ways you never imagined. Motherhood is not easy. Being a mother can be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life, but it also comes with challenges and pressures. And as first-time moms, we’re often thrown into this role without any idea of what to expect.
The mental image of what it means to be a mother may be different for every woman. How you envision motherhood to be may also differ drastically from reality. Of course, you have those beautiful moments with your little one and experience the love you never knew could even be that strong. At the same time, all your life priorities change. Your priority number one becomes giving your baby all the love and care they need. And the truth is, newborns need a lot of care!
With all the feedings, waking up at night, establishing rituals and routines, diaper changes, bathing, and a baby crying, it’s so easy to lose yourself and enter some kind of survival mode.
Losing identity and becoming “just a mom” is common, starting long before you hold your baby in your arms. During pregnancy, our bodies are being picked apart by doctors and even strangers on the street who have no idea what we’ve been through. We feel like we can’t go anywhere without someone telling us how many weeks along we are, how big or small we look, what we should eat, and what we shouldn’t do. And if you were trying to conceive for long periods and perhaps, made hormonal injections, it all started before pregnancy for you.
And it doesn’t stop when you have your child, either. With all the postpartum checkups and the expectations of how you should look, how fast you have to “bounce back”, breastfeed, swaddle, change, bathe, or basically do anything with your baby. There are even expectations on how you should behave and what clothes you should wear since you are a mom now! (Like… Really?!) This pressure may come from the outside – society, your immediate environment, and yourself.
You may start feeling like a stranger to yourself. Your identity as an individual has been replaced by the label of “mom,” which can be pretty isolating and disorienting.
However, there are ways for you as a mother to thrive rather than just survive. You need to put yourself as a priority, find your deep core values, care about your body and allow yourself to blossom into the woman you were meant to be—the woman who was made to care for her children!
What if you could learn how to flourish in motherhood instead of just surviving? What if you could find your true core values and start loving and respecting your body for what it went through?
In this article, we’ll talk about five steps to help you do just that!
Step 1: Get rid of the negative self-talk
How you speak to yourself is directly connected to your psychological and even physiological well-being. If a flower stopped blossoming or dried up, would you get mad at the flower and say bad things about it? You would probably offer better care, water it regularly, and add fertilizer to promote blooming. Yet we get so impatient with ourselves!
Notice when you start saying negative things about yourself. Simply observe what you say or think, and what exactly do you feel in this moment?
Try to rephrase or reframe the negative thoughts: For example, instead of thinking that you “failed” something or you are “bad” at something, say, “I’m still working on…” or “I’m not good at it… yet”. See the difference?
Another strategy might be to move on the continuum from negative to neutral. So, instead of saying, “My body is so out of shape; I hate how I look!”. You could say: “Yes, this is how my body looks right now.”
By shifting our self-talk from the negative to a more neutral language, we learn to accept things as they are. And as I talked about it in my previous articles, acceptance doesn’t mean we have to live with it. Rather, it indicates that we see how things are, accept and respect our reality, and are ready to find opportunities to change it if we wish.
Step 2: Find your core values
Oxford Dictionary defines “Core Values” as “a principle or belief that a person or organization views as being of central importance.”
When becoming disconnected from your identity and being labeled as a “mom”, exploring your core values might be what you truly need. Who are you besides being a mom? What drives you? What makes you happy? How do you want to see yourself? How do you want others, including your children see you? These are the questions you might ask yourself. Think about the priorities that matter to you as an individuum, not only as a mom.
Step 3: Be mindful of your body
Eliminating negative self-talk is one way of being mindful of your body, but there are many other ways.
Being mindful of your body means being aware of what you and your body need. And that involves all the feelings, sensations, breath, and more.
It also means being aware of what you put into your body and understanding what foods do to you and why. It’s mindful choices during grocery shopping and your eating behavior while bored or stressed.
It is respecting and loving your body, offering movement and well-deserved recovery when needed. Especially as a new mom, an appropriate postpartum recovery will help you heal your body and make you feel better mentally.
By the way, I’m gifting you a free 4 part series, “Truths about postpartum recovery”. In the series, I speak on the most popular myths around post-pregnancy recovery, diastasis recti, the most common struggles, and important nutritional guidelines for a new mom. Scan the QR code to watch the series.
Step 4: Prioritize but let go of perfection
You will have much more responsibilities now and perhaps minimal time, so you have to prioritize if you want to get things done. You might want to prioritize in alignment with your core values, but if something doesn’t go as you wish, try not to be harsh on yourself.
What I’ve learned after becoming a mom is that however you plan or prioritize things, life just… happens. Kids get sick, your newborn might wake up earlier from her nap, or something else happens. Navigating your life as it is and staying flexible, which also means letting go of that idea of perfection, is an essential skill as a mom and parent.
There is no perfect feeding schedule or sleeping routine, and there is no perfect timeline for “bouncing back after a baby”. And trust me, there is no perfect home where everyone in the family is always happy with a deep-cleaned shiny house. This doesn’t exist. What we have is real life, with all its flaws but also all its beauty, happiness, and joy. You are a mom, doing the best You can. While having guilt feelings is very common, do not let them consume you. Refer to steps 1-3 if you notice you have a hard time letting go of perfection.
Step 5: Put yourself first
While it might sound egoistic and nearly impossible to imagine, especially in the newborn phase, this is essential if you want to thrive in motherhood. As mothers, we want to sacrifice everything for our children and families. So much that sometimes we forget we have our own needs. Or, if we do not forget, it just feels impossible to do with so much going on.
Once you start taking time for yourself, you might get guilty feelings that, by the way, are absolutely valid. You might think, “If not I, who else will do it?” Yet we have only a limited amount of resources, and if we do not fulfill our own needs and give all the time, what will be left?
Self-care, or self-kindness if you wish, may look different for everyone. It can involve basic things like bathing and grooming, eating properly, prioritizing sleep, and more extensive like hiring a babysitter, a cleansing or a food delivery service, seeing a mental health provider, and asking other people for help and support.
You are WORTH self-care because that’s what every human being deserves, just for being a human. And when you start being kind to yourself, you might find that amazing, gorgeous, self-confident woman inside who knows what she wants and what she deserves. And this is when you truly start flourishing in motherhood. When you care for yourself first, you will have nearly an endless resource to care for others.
Don’t forget to grab your gift for extra support with your post-pregnancy recovery!