Just like that… with the flip of a switch your life is forever changed.
Contributed by Danielle Brooks
As a Mommy and Me teacher, parent educator and mother of two (with one more on the way) I am privy to moms’ experiences during the first year of their babies’ lives. A topic that is continuously brought up in the first few months is adjusting to mommyhood. Hundreds of my moms have coined this time as an "identity crisis." They describe this as feeling insecure or inadequate, feeling detached from themselves and who they were before Baby, feeling disconnected from relationships and constantly feeling behind in their lives. Amidst this identity crisis, they talk about simultaneously experiencing incredible joy, love, fulfillment and gratitude.
Once our babies are born, everything we think of and do is for them. Well Moms, who you are and how you feel is absolutely important too! In fact, you resolving this identity crisis and getting your groove back is probably the best gift you can give your baby.
Here are my nuggets on how to make it happen!
Nugget #1: Cut yourself a break: Name it to tame it!
Life pre-baby most likely was one filled with knowing what your day looked like, knowing how to do your job and knowing your strengths. Post-baby you are faced with the hardest and most important job of your life, taking care of your baby 24 hours a day in every way possible. Now that is a tough career change, massive promotion (with no past experience) and get this… all this with no breaks and no supervisor to teach you. No wonder you feel overwhelmed and out of your league. Acknowledge this is all new for you and it is OK to not know exactly what to do. Use strong self-talk, “I am feeling completely unsure but that makes sense since I have never done this before. It is so normal to feel this way. It is going to get easier and better.”
Nugget #2: Create your village and increase your knowledge.
The best way to tackle that “insecure and inadequate” feeling is to call in the troops. It takes a village to raise a baby, right? Well then why does it feel so isolating? It doesn’t have to. Create the village! Connect with a mom friend who has been through it recently (I don’t recommend one with older children who might have forgotten how fragile and tough the first few months are). Attend a Mommy and Me group. Take an infant care class. Visit babyleague.com and watch my weekly five-minute video blog, “Baby Nuggets with Danielle” to guide you through your baby’s first year. Take time to educate yourself to build your skill set in your amazing and challenging new job as Mommy!
Nugget #1: Do something every week that you love.
Maybe you loved going to yoga, or finding a new recipe to create, or attending an art class, or writing in your journal, or reading the newspaper on a Sunday. Whatever you loved doing before the baby needs to find a way back into your life now post baby. In the first few months you most likely won’t have time or possibly the energy to do something for yourself every day but it is a must to do so at least once a week. Mark it on your calendar, ask your partner to make sure you do it, and remind yourself how important you are.
One of the moms in my group said she missed walking her dog in her old neighborhood. So, she put it on the family calendar for Saturday morning from 8-9 a.m. (because of course we are all awake now at that time on a Saturday) and she went by herself with her dog and walked her old neighborhood. She reported in class, “That hour walking alone with my dog in my old neighborhood felt like it was worth 20 hours of doing something for myself. It was fantastic.” Another mom, a huge yoga fan, was attending Mom and Baby Yoga every week and one week decided to take a Sunday class alone. She shared that standing in that yoga room alone for 60 minutes, solely focused on herself felt like 100 hours worth of yoga in her past life. Connect with your “old self” once a week and your “new self” will be so grateful for attachment is not all about your baby. Attachment is about you too.
Nugget #1: Utilize the magic 7 p.m. bedtime for Baby.
Over the years the feedback is consistent. Not only do the babies love this bedtime, but so do their parents! Having a break from parenting duties at an earlier hour like 7:00 p.m. creates a nice chunk of time to spend with your partner. Try eating dinner together without the TV on. Talk about things other than the baby. Plan an in-home date night where you cook together or order in, watch a movie or play a game. The most stressful time on a relationship is the baby’s first year of life. Take advantage of the baby’s early bedtime to reconnect in your relationships. It is the best gift you can give your baby.
Nugget #1: Tackle one baby outing per day.
As mentioned above, being a mom with a young baby can feel and be isolating. Get out once a day to do something with your baby. Take a baby class. Go to the park and sit on a blanket. Attend a family event in your community. Visit a friend or a family member. And my personal favorite, host or go to a play date. Since the babies are too young to play with one another you get a great outing with a mom friend who completely gets the stage you are in. Find balance, don’t try and do too much. A little goes a long way!
Nugget #2: Tackle your life list: Prioritize and delegate!
Your to-do list is most likely beginning to multiply. You may feel overwhelmed or constantly behind. This is so normal yet so frustrating. Remember your life is different now. Prioritize; what must get done… do. And start to let go of what isn’t a must. Try tackling one thing on your list each day. Overcome the overwhelm by setting realistic expectations regarding time frame. Delegate; pass along some of your list to those eager-to-help family members and friends. It’s a must as a new mom!
So, there you have it — my nuggets on how to get your groove back after Baby. I found these really helpful with both my girls and I hope they help you too.
About the author:
Danielle Brooks, MA MFT, is an expert in parent education and child development. With over 14 years of professional experience working with babies, children and families, Danielle strives to elevate parents’ abilities to be attuned and effective in how they parent their children. As a mother of two young girls, Danielle understands both personally and professionally the responsibilities parents have for their children and the challenges they face on a daily basis. Her main ambitions are to help families maximize their children’s emotional health, desire to learn, create a strong sense of self and engage in meaningful relationships. She does this in children’s most formative years from infancy through adolescence and thrives on helping parents and caregivers reach their goals of having a better understanding about raising children and being a more connected family unit. Brooks can also be found on the online baby network, BabyLeague.com. Danielle created a weekly video blog, Baby Nuggets with Danielle, which provides parents and other caregivers with short videos featuring various baby-related topics that they will encounter in the first year of life.
Brooks is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a B.S. in Human Development and a Masters in Clinical Psychology, from UC Davis and Antioch University, Los Angeles respectively. Brooks delivers psychologically based information on cognitive, neurological, physical, emotional, social and interpersonal development as a Clinician, Professor, Guest Lecturer, Mommy and Me Instructor, Parent Consultant, Sleep Consultant and Educational Consultant. She resides in Sherman Oaks, California with her husband and two daughters. In addition to her classes, lectures, video blogging and sleep consultations, she is in private practice in Beverly Hills and Encino. Learn more about Brooks at babyleague.com and babynuggetswithdanielle.com.
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