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." - Veteran Mom
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 God knows we need that when we have a newborn!
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”!
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.!).
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." - Veteran 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."- Veteran Mom
- Take a walk around the block, practice yoga, or go to the gym.
- See a movie on your own or with friends.
- Check out a museum.
- Get lost in a bookstore or walk around a mall.
- Go for a drive and listen to music or podcasts.
- Get a manicure or massage.
- Download a meditation app and take a calming 5 to 10 minutes to yourself.
- Find a quiet space, put on headphones and watch Netflix or listen to music.
- Grab a cup of coffee by yourself (take a laptop) or invite a friend.
- Let some creativity out in your favorite way: art, singing, writing, dancing, music, etc.
- Call, Facetime, or Skype a friend or family member 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.” - Veteran 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." - Veteran Mom
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 read 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
• 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 Cain, Founder, 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.
“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—just swaddle your baby’. But they’re awesome. You really just learn. Four hours of sleep? Take the Velcro.” - Veteran Mom
So, if you see perfectly poised mommy photos on Facebook and feel like other women are succeeding where you’re not, as if it just comes naturally to them, don’t be fooled: every parent has challenges. Toss out unrealistic expectations you may be putting on yourself (or others). And remember the “Will it matter five years from now?” question, because there’s a strong correlation between moms who utilize it and happiness. Above all, stay focused on the vision you and your partner have for your family and keep those priorities front and center.
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.” - Veteran Mom
“It's okay to not be Super Mom...you just do what you can do and it's enough. Your best is enough.” - Veteran Mom
During pregnancy, your baby’s already taking over your body and mind, and once he’s born, it’s all-consuming with everything revolving around him (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 took over. 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 in overdrive), 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.
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."
- Veteran 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.” - Veteran 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.” - Veteran Mom
(IRL or online) meet other moms or develop interests with like-minded adults.
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 to family and friends for in-person connecting or via phone, Facetime or Skype.
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.” - Veteran 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.” - Veteran Mom
“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.”