To be a good parent, you have to also take good care of yourself. Or, as Sarah Napthali states in Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, “We nurture ourselves to give us the strength to attend to the needs of others.”
This message is not communicated strongly enough in our culture but it really is important. It is so easy for parents to get run down or stressed while caring for an infant. Your sleeping schedule completely changes, the flow of how you usually run your household has changed, the relationship with your spouse or partner feels different (you don’t have the time alone together you may have had in the past, etc.) and if you have other children, you may also be working on making sure they are happy and feel included as well.
Any one of these situations can leave you feeling drained and usually, parents are juggling several of them at once. Postpartum depression is a very real illness for new mothers but this kind of stress can affect the entire family. That’s why it is so important to remember to take care of yourself as much as possible and if you have a partner, really work as a team to support and treat each other in a loving way.
True, you probably are not going to get a solid 8 hours of sleep the first weeks, months or even year depending on your baby but parents can still get some relief by being there for each other and themselves.
Below are a few suggestions that may be helpful for tired or stressed new moms and dads:
Take a nap while relatives visit. This is one time you shouldn’t feel like you have to entertain. Your guests are really there to coo over the baby and they know you are exhausted. If you’ve been up every 3 hours for night feedings or rocking baby, your partner or a trusted friend can oversee the visit. A chance to get any extra sleep for a new parent is precious and absolutely needed. Anyone who’s ever been a parent himself or herself will understand completely.
Get out of the house. Sometimes an hour or two away, alone or with a friend, can be just as refreshing as a nap and provides great stress relief as well. Get your hair done, walk around a bookstore, go to the park, take a yoga class or see a movie. Basically, do something you really enjoy, something that makes you feel like you! Schedule time for yourself and don’t feel guilty. Being a more relaxed, peaceful mom or dad is also going to help you have more patience and be a better, happier parent for your baby. Win – win!
Don’t wait for the crash. To me, this is a big one. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, let someone know or make arrangements to take some kind of break. It can be a real challenge to make time for your self and even harder to resist feeling guilty about it. However, making time for yourself a priority is not a selfish act. In fact, you can think of it as a generous gift you give your family. The better you feel, the more patience you will have and the more you will have to give.
To read the rest of Chapter 3, go back to The Book page and get your copy today!