A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about getting ready for the arrival of your new baby and some effective strategies to help you reduce the stress involved in preparing for this new chapter of your life. This now, is a follow-up post for mothers, talking about how to successfully survive the early days of motherhood and come out victorious at the other end. This is all based on my own personal experience from when I was a new mom and how I made a ton of mistakes which resulted in me being the most stressed I have ever been in my life (no exaggeration, The Husband can vouch for that). Here’s hoping that someone finds my advice good enough to follow and the world ends up with one less stressed new mommy.
Sleep as much as possible, whenever possible. I know that if you are a mom-to-be, you are probably sick and tired of receiving this nugget of advice from every mother you meet. But there is a reason this advice is so popular and that is because, a lot of us mothers have failed to follow this in our own time. This is definitely easier said than done, but I cannot stress on this enough. You have the rest of your life to practice discipline and reap the benefits of a productive day. For now, screw discipline and sleep whenever you get the opportunity. Everything, except the care and demands of your baby, can be handled by someone else. So don’t worry about cleaning, cooking, laundry and answering congratulatory phone calls. You might survive a few days on minimum sleep, but before you know it, you will crash. This is terrible because not only will you end up being incapable of handling the needs of your newborn, you will also waste a lot of this beautiful time shouting, stressing and crying about unfinished tasks, a la yours truly. Which leads us to the next point of this guide.
Hire household help for basic chores. This is definitely not the time to show what a multi-tasking goddess you are, instead this is the time to admit that you are human and hire some help to come over a few days a week to handle menial tasks around your home. It is great if your friends and family offer to help you out, but in my opinion, this has a few disadvantages. Firstly, you cannot always hold them accountable if they fail to keep their word, since they are doing this as a favor. Secondly, you might be obliged to talk to them or keep them company while they load your dishwasher, which if you ask me, is the same as doing chores yourself. With a hired maid, on the other hand, you can nap guilt free and wake up to a house smelling of disinfectant and if you are lucky, a nice cup of tea. Tip her well and return to smelling your newborn.
Eat well and drink loads of water. If you followed my advice from a previous post and have food in the freezer then, kudos to you. If you have someone, fully equipped and willing to prepare delicious home cooked meals for you then, I envy you. Either ways, eat well and often. This will not only keep your energy levels high, it will also be one less thing to cry about. Having boiled eggs, freshly cut fruit and a homemade sandwich spread in the fridge are convenient snacking options. Do not skip meals saying that you don’t have the time or temperament to eat right now, because take it from me, your new baby is not ready to meet the “hangry” version of his loving mother. And do I even need to stress on the importance of hydration in these early days? Not only is drinking water essential if you are breast feeding, it will also keep annoying headaches at bay and you will generally feel less tired. Having a graduated re-fillable water bottle helps you keep track of how much water you have had and you can also take it with you wherever you go, which in most cases means from the bed room to the living room. This leads us to the next point.
Take a break and step out of the house. And this does not include your doctor’s appointment. If you are feeling up to it, go out for a walk, breathe in some fresh air and commune with nature. This is bound to do you some good and at the very least, elevate your spirits. If you are anything like me, being trapped inside your home for a longish period of time might bring out the worst in you. So for the sake of your sanity and your partner’s welfare, step outside for a while. Weather permitting, take your baby with you and enjoy a stroll around the neighborhood. Get an ice cream! Go ahead…you deserve it. Now more than ever before.
Look presentable. Every day, make time for a quick shower, an outfit change and dare I say, do something nice with your hair. The reason for this is two-fold. One, you will look put together in case you have unexpected visitors (which you surely will) and two, you will feel good if you look good. This will take at most, fifteen minutes from your day but the difference it will make to your mood is nothing short of miraculous. I usually liked to get this out of the way the first opportunity I got in the morning and even though I looked haggard by evening, I had truly benefited from smelling clean all day.
Trust your maternal instinct. With the gush of love and emotions that you experience as soon as you deliver your child, you are also blessed with the instinct to handle and nurture your offspring. Neither the love nor the instinct are instantaneous for all mothers, but have faith that you will develop them and when you do, listen to your inner voice. You will know what is the best way to carry your child, when is he hungry, when is he asking for cuddles and when is he not feeling well. Instead of listening to conflicting opinions of friends and family around you, follow your instinct and be confident that you are making the right decision for your child. This is especially applicable in the situations where you feel that your child needs medical attention but the people around you advise you to take it easy. Take the opinion of a doctor and set your mind at ease, if that is even possible for a new mom.
Learn to say NO when you have to. This is a skill (and I don’t use the word “skill” lightly) that will come in very useful throughout your motherhood journey, so the early days are a great time to start practicing. I am not preaching rudeness here, I simply mean that if you do not learn to say NO once in a while, you will end up greatly adding to your stresses. Say No to unsolicited advice, if the advisor gets insistent (otherwise just smile and nod), say No to your baby’s well-meaning grandmothers, if their child rearing experience contradicts your doctor’s orders, say No to visitors who are not mindful of your convenience and insist on visiting at times that only suit them, say No to the (friendly) kids you meet outside, who want to give your newborn a kiss on the cheeks. When you have acquired this skill, never be shy to apply it when the situation calls for it and as you progress in your life as a mother, always remember to only give advice when asked. Please be mindful of the things that annoyed you as a new mom and never do them to others.
Keep in mind that your only responsibility right now is towards yourself and your baby, so don’t feel bad if you make everyone and everything else wait in the sidelines. I hope you benefit from this guide and keep the “momster” in you asleep till the toddler years. Until then, take a deep breath and do the best you can in your new role.