How to Thrive as a New Mom

“It’s hard to accept that you can’t just do what you want to do.
Some days my only goal was to take a shower. Just know that it will pass.” - New Mom

How to Thrive as a New Mom

“It’s hard to accept that you can’t just do what you want to do.
Some days my only goal was to take a shower. Just know that it will pass.” - New Mom

Give Yourself a Break

Becoming a mom is like migrating to a new country; it’s a process of adjustment that takes time…

Preparing for the challenges new moms face and learning to make confident decisions will help you avoid an over-anxious motherhood. The goal is to focus on what matters to you and your partner, which can be mighty challenging when you’re bombarded with heaps of information.

The keys to success are keeping the long view in mind, knowing many of the decisions you make won’t matter a few years from now (a great measuring stick!) and solid communication with your partner: stay on it and keep the conversations going. Stay on it and keep the conversations going.

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It may be hard to imagine right now, but life might feel out of control for a bit once your baby is home. Most moms think if they’re perfectly organized or “good enough” at motherhood they’ll be able to control it, but we can’t stress this enough: give it up! While it’s normal to want to control every aspect of life, challenges are unavoidable and it’s about learning to manage things: the same is true with motherhood.

A baby comes into your life and brings all kinds of newness with it: new challenges and new learning opportunities. So the more you embrace that motherhood is about learning as you go, the more patience and success you’ll have.

"I thought I’d be so hippy-ish, but you get on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. and you get shamed—none of it felt good to me and I was so confused. So I found my own small group and we support each other. I try to follow the advice that makes sense to me, and I have a really chill pediatrician that I go to with the hard stuff. All the 'shoulds' are really hard." 

— New Mom

Stay Connected

AIM FOR DAILY CONNECTIONS

When you’re home all day long with a new baby, your mental wellness depends on interactions with other adults to prevent feeling isolated and alone. One UCLA study found that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to seek friendships with other women. Supportive friendships can lift us up and prevent us from becoming isolated at home. Even if you don’t get out every day, try to plan occasional get-togethers with other moms. Research also found that social ties reduce our blood pressure and heart rate, and we so need that when we have a newborn!

REACH OUT

If you’re the first one to have a baby among your friends, it may be on you to reach out first. It’s common for people to assume you can’t do much anymore, and it can feel lonely and frustrating when your closest friends don’t understand or relate to your new world. Usually, all it takes is letting them know you still value their friendship and the chance to talk about things other than your baby. And who knows, you might be lucky enough to enlist some new “aunts” or “uncles”!

NURTURE FRIENDSHIPS

If you already have friends with babies, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards each other even more. Getting together for coffee and swapping stories or just walking around the mall with your babies in tow is surprisingly therapeutic. It’s also comforting to know that you understand each other and the quirks of new motherhood (like needing to eat dinner by 6 p.m. because you’re wiped out by 9 p.m.!).

MEET NEW MOMS

This can feel a bit like dating again and require you to step out of your comfort zone, but jump right in. When you find yourself talking with another new mom (at the park or a play group), ask for her phone number; chances are, she’ll welcome the chance to connect with someone in the same “world.”

"Other moms are the best resource you can have. I didn’t have that many friends in the area that had kids, so I joined a moms group. I’m not normally that kind of person, to just go out and find a group, but I did it and I’m so thankful I did. It’s a great place to get advice and hang out and just having other moms tell you that it will get better is very helpful."

— New Mom

"The first couple of months, I felt like I couldn’t even get myself together to go meet with somebody if I wanted to...You have to be showered, get yourself presentable. You feel isolated and like nobody understands what you’re going through. And even your friends who have babies a couple of months older, they forget what it's like. A friend who just had a baby called me the other night, sobbing, 'Is it going to be like this all the time?' And I was like, 'No, it’s not.' And I didn’t even remember what it was like and that was just four months ago."

— New Mom

choose happy

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care looks different for each person, but it’s one of those keystone habits that affect all areas of your life: your ability to parent, your relationship with dad, the level of stress in your home, and much, much more. Intellectually, you’ll know this is true but it won’t necessarily be easy.

Usually, one of the main things getting in the way of self-care is the voice that comes from within. You’ll find yourself placing more demands on yourself than anyone else. And contrary to how it may feel, taking time for yourself is anything but selfish: The better you feel, the better you’re able to care for your baby and family.

So try to carve out 15 to 20 minutes each day for “me time” (or more if you can!). If you begin the self-care routine early into new motherhood, you’ll get a jump start at building that muscle. It doesn’t have to be huge: An ongoing stream of little things will have more of an impact than one or two big things. (Plus, it’s easier to make the small things happen when you have a new baby.)

Ultimately, when you respect your own needs as well as your family’s, you’re setting the best example of all for your child.

Recreation & Wellness

Get outdoors. The benefits of just taking a small walk are tremendous. It energizes you, improves your quality of sleep and nurtures your well-being (Not to mention your baby massively benefits from fresh air, too.)

Schedule time for yourself. Before your baby is born, write down a list of activities you like to do (don’t wait until you’re in “newborn fog”), and when you’re struggling or losing perspective, look at the list, pick an activity, and put it on your calendar.

Start moving. Fitness wise, nothing strenuous is needed. If it feels good, benefits your body, and helps you maintain your sense of self, that’s the goal.

  • Take a walk, practice yoga, or go to the gym.
  • See a movie on your own or with friends.
  • Get lost in a bookstore, museum, or mall.
  • Go for a drive and listen to music or podcasts.
  • Get a manicure or massage.
  • Download a meditation app and take some time to yourself.
  • Find a quiet space and watch Netflix or listen to music.
  • Grab a cup of coffee by yourself (take a laptop) or invite a friend.
  • Get creative in your favorite way: painting, singing, dancing, etc.
  • Facetime or Skype a family member or friend to reconnect.
  • Take a long, hot bath while Dad looks after the baby.

“After being at home for a week and not leaving the house, I had bad cabin fever. I started taking my baby out every day. Whether it was to go for a walk to the park or to Babies ‘R’ Us and just walk around, I'd do something.” 

— New Mom

"Taking care of yourself is part of loving your child; it doesn’t make you a bad mom because you need a break or run to get time for yourself. It's actually is a big part of parenting a baby." 

— New Mom

mountain mom
mountain-mom-mobile

Parenting & Personality: Are You an Introverted Mom & Does It Matter?

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Does it really matter?

Yes, it does. Because if you know your personality type, you know what you need to recharge and nothing screams “recharge my batteries!” like motherhood. Especially if you’re an introvert. Introverts are at the front of the line for battery charging because let’s face it, motherhood is a social sport. From the get-go, you’re interacting with your child nonstop, day and night, and you’ve got your partner to consider. After a day of being “on,” with the baby, you may be desperate for peace and quiet but your spouse might feel the opposite and want taking and hanging out. For introverted, worn-out moms, talking is the last thing you feel like doing.

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And it’s hard to not feel guilty when you’d rather be alone than hang out with your child and husband, especially if you don’t know that craving solitude isn’t merely a preference but a biological need. An introvert’s brain responds differently to stimuli than an extrovert’s: it requires periods of quiet to function optimally.

So don’t assume you’re an extrovert just because you’re a “people person” and love a good party. Many introverts and ambiverts like people and parties, too; they just recharge their batteries differently. Introverts refuel via quiet activities like reading, gardening or going for a walk. Extroverts need social activities like going out with friends, taking a spin class or catching up on phone calls. Ambiverts need one or the other, depending on the day.

So, whatever your personality type might be, know that perpetually depleted moms are more likely to feel frustrated, resentful, anxious, depressed—the works—and the magical cure is self-care!

Signs you need recharging

• You feel irritable or anxious
• You CAN’T WAIT for nap time—yours and your child’s
• Small talk wears you out like sprinting
• Hiding in the bathroom feels like heaven

 

Ways to recharge…by yourself!

• When the baby sleeps, sleep (or do NOTHING)
• Take a long shower or bath
• Read or watch Netflix
• Turn off electronic devices
• Make no plans for a day (or week)
• Exercise, go for a walk
• Meditate
• Get a mani/pedi or massage

“I’d offer the same advice to an introverted mom that I would give to an introvert in a chaotic office environment: Make sure to schedule recharge time every day...The key is to feel entitled to this time and stick to it as you would any other obligation.”

— Susan CainFounder, Quiet Revolution

Whatever brings you back to feeling balanced is the goal, and if you can make it a daily habit, great—you’ll be less likely to spiral into sensory overload. So, the next time you’re craving solitude, make it a guilt-free priority and know that it’s helping you succeed as a parent and partner.

READ!  9 SELF-CARE TIPS FOR INTROVERTED MOMS

“The biggest thing I learned was to relax my standards because I am beyond a type-A personality. So, a lot of times you think, ‘Oh God, I would never do that.’ But it all changes. I remember seeing the Swaddlers with Velcro and I thought: ‘That’s just lazy—swaddle your baby.’ But they’re awesome. You really just learn. Four hours of sleep? Take the Velcro.”

— New Mom

Don't Compare Yourself to Other Moms

We all do this, but it’s so counterproductive. You might feel like you’re taking forever to get the hang of motherhood or you’re a failure in one way or another. But the truth is you’re right on track and the first few months are about adjusting to life, caring for your baby and figuring out what makes him tick: that’s precisely what maternity/paternity leave is all about.

 

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So, if you see "perfect" mommy photos on Facebook and feel like other women are succeeding where you’re not, don’t be fooled: every parent has challenges. Toss out unrealistic expectations, and remember the “Will it matter five years from now?” question, because there’s a strong link between moms who use it and happiness. If it won't matter in five years, don't let it stress you out. Above all, stay focused on the vision you and your partner have for your family and keep those priorities front and center.

You Can't Do It All

And you shouldn’t. As much as you want to be and do everything, it’s not healthy for you, your child, or Dad.

A study found 92% of working moms and 89% of stay-at-home moms feel overwhelmed by work, home, and parenting responsibilities. "Moms have an innate aspiration to do it all and a secret desire to be superwomen," said Carley Roney, founder of The Bump. Much of this self-inflicted grief is encouraged by media images of a super mom who looks glamorous while cooking, cleaning, taking care of a baby and holding down a full-time job. All this pressure is unnecessary and just leads straight into feelings of resentment and frustration.

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As moms, it’s easy to feel like we’re “less than” if we accept help, but people want to be supportive, especially people who have children and remember what it was like. When friends, family, or anybody for that matter, offers help, pull out an already prepared list of things they can do that will make a difference (babysitting while you nap, grocery shopping, errand running, meal-making). Afterward, let them know, specifically, how their support made a difference.

“One of the hardest things for me was not ruminating over every mistake I made. I tried so hard to know what I was doing ahead of time, but some things I just had to learn on the job.” 

— New Mom

“It's okay to not be Super Mom...you just do what you can do and it's enough. Your best is enough.”

— New Mom

 

The Challenges Are Temporary (But May Feel Like Forever)

For most moms, this is the thing (along with no sleep) that really kicks us in the butt. Part of the “my life will never be the same again” panic is we realize just how dramatically life shifts with a baby on board. No matter how many parents tell us it’s a major game changer, we tend to magically think our loss of independence won’t be THAT huge. But it is…though not forever.

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During pregnancy, your baby’s already taking over your body and mind, and once he’s born, it’s all-consuming (they’re pretty helpless, after all). So it’s easy to lose sight of who you were before the marathon feeding sessions, diaper changes, and sleepless nights started. The challenge is how to handle these life changes constructively.

In many ways, it’s like being pulled out to sea: Those who know how to navigate riptides know you don’t swim against it—you swim sideways to get out of it. Likewise, awareness of what you’re experiencing and planning for possible stormy seas is crucial to getting yourself through it: It starts with acceptance.

Know that it’s normal to feel shocked by how much life changes (especially with mommy brain hormones), but the craziness of the newborn stage will pass and motherhood won’t always feel so isolating and overwhelming. Little by little, you’ll develop confidence in your ability to care for your baby, and that’s is exactly when you’ll start feeling more in control of your life.

Making Constructive Decisions

As a new mom, one road to independence is through those small moments when addressing your baby’s ever-changing needs. For example, if you’re planning to breastfeed, decisions on whether to pump or not, when to introduce a bottle, how long you want to breastfeed: these choices shape your experience.

But with so many “experts” out there, we often lose faith in our ability to make decisions and follow our instincts; we start believing others know best: not true. There will always be loads of “right” answers when it comes to baby care, but you’ll get good at figuring out what best fits your family, and most decisions will be made intuitively with your own baby in mind.

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For most new moms, it takes time to feel confident following your gut because we’re so desperate to get it right. So if you feel pushed to follow one style of baby raising or another, remember MommyLand is talking about a one-size-fits-all baby and doesn’t necessarily have your personal interests in mind. Anything you do to benefit your baby is usually, by definition, worth it (and when dealing with safety issues, it’s a no brainer: safety first). But in decision-making, if you’re feeling pressure and stressed out—if it’s compromising your mental or physical well-being—clearly, it’s not beneficial for you or your baby.

Sometimes, knowing this is easier said than done, but if you and Dad make it a priority to talk about things in advance, you can come up with options to help you find balance, that happy medium. Also, choice #2 or #3 is usually pretty close to choice #1, so to gain clarity, ask: Is this a big, long-term decision that matters years (or even months) from now, or is this something that seems important but, in the bigger scheme of things, probably isn’t?

"If you're connected with your partner, then the two of you are the experts on your baby and your family; you have someone in your corner and you feel backed when you make decisions. Always assume people have positive intentions'—I know how much you care, but we'll make those decision as a family’—and thank them for their advice."

— New Mom

“How to find time for myself is a huge thing, because I don’t want this to just be about the baby. I think that’s what I’m scared of most, juggling my husband, the house and dealing with the baby.” — New Mom

“The thing to remember is it won’t always be like this. It’s easy to get in the situation, especially at first when you’re just so tired, and think it’s going to be like this forever. Things get easier, things get more controllable. You hear that so often and all of a sudden you realize it’s true.” — New Mom

Changing It Up

So, let’s say it’s a few months down the road and you’ve got confidence and routines going, but your world still feels totally baby-centered. At this point, action is required! Small shifts in your daily schedule can free you up and lead to greater happiness as a mom.

GET CONNECTED

For moms, especially stay-at-home moms, it’s important to make time for adult interactions so you keep your sanity intact.

Join Groups

(IRL or online) meet other moms or develop interests with like-minded adults.

Volunteer

It’s a great way to meet new people and contribute to your community. Most organizations are flexible about time commitments, and the experience broadens your skill set (especially helpful if you want to fill in resume gaps).

Reach Out

Reach out to family and friends for in-person connecting or via phone, Facetime or Skype.

Make a Date

If quality time with your partner hasn’t been a priority, you’ll wanna get moving on this. The focused time together as a couple will make a world of difference—adult conversation, nurturing your relationship and a break from mommying? All good things. If you know other new parents, share a baby-sitter so the four of you can get out together. If child care is hard to come by, “date night in” works great too!

“One book tells me to do this, another book tells me to do that. So what do I do? I had to make a decision to do what works best for my family. Every child is different, every family is different, and every living thing is different.”

— New Mom

“I feel like I regained some of my independence when I stopped breastfeeding. I loved it, but once I stopped I never had to worry about someone else watching the baby and having the baby get hungry if I wasn’t there. Breastfeeding was wonderful, but so was the feeling of freedom.”

— New Mom

angel dad

Dad Is Your Ticket

It’s nice to feel like your baby’s be all and end all, but it won’t be much fun when you need a break and Dad and baby can’t manage without you. The fact is, your independence is tied to Dad’s involvement, which is largely dependent on how you encourage and respect him as a father.

New dads report spending about 100 days earning mom’s confidence and proving they can keep the baby alive on their own. Most likely, you’ll want to shorten this time frame; the sooner Dad’s comfortable with baby care (and you’re comfortable with his skills), the sooner you’ll regain some independence.

Remember your partner has a huge stake in your happiness, and while you’re managing the physical and mental recovery from childbirth and adjusting to motherhood, his support and teamwork helps create balance and thriving.

“She may not know it, but she’s going to want to get back to some pre-mommy things, and the only way to make that happen is to get comfortable with the baby so you have the freedom to say, ‘Honey, go take some time—I’ve got this.’ If you don’t have that, you won’t be able to help her along.”

                                — New Dad

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