The last week or so has been tough. Frida is ill again (hurry up spring!) and so is my husband, Frida’s sleep has slipped back into every 30 – 60 minute wakings after a few hopeful nights, and there have been a few days where I have felt as though I have not had more than a single, solitary minute to myself all day. Showers have been swapped for tepid baths shared with a wriggly baby and a rubber duck; all nap times have taken place on me, pinning me down and leaving me feeling slightly trapped and frustrated at the very same time as full of love and contentment.
This has meant I have been thinking even more than usual about self care. Self care is so important to me, even if at times I find it nearly impossible to carve out those precious minutes to make it happen.
In timely fashion, a friend shared this article today which states that regular self-care in mothers can significantly reduce their risk of post-partum depression. This doesn’t have to be much – we’re not talking weekly spa trips, just the ability to have a little bit of time to relax and not be the person solely responsible for your baby at that moment in time.
Parenting a baby – especially one who rarely sleeps, and if so on you – it can often feel as though you have zero options for self care, especially at times when your partner cannot fully support you due to work or illness. But actually there are many things you can do to look after yourself even whilst looking after your child too.
- Go outside. I am a broken record on this subject. Just go! Go somewhere green, get muddy, feel the sun, look at the crocuses and the snowdrops and the daffodils, breathe the cold air, get exercise. I count this as an activity I do as much for my own enjoyment as my daughter’s. Self care plus baby care = win.
- Take a long, hot bath. On days where I am so tired my face hurts, a long hot bath is the next best thing to a sleep. There is something about the act of ablution which washes away worries too. I always leave the bath feeling calmer, more restored, and newly determined to parent well. Sometimes I read a magazine, sometimes I just lie there in a fug of steam and tiredness. My husband always makes sure I have time for this at least once a week, usually more.
- Cook. It might not be the most indulgent act of self-care, but actually I have come to cherish the times I can cook without having to also entertain Frida. I put the radio on (four or six please) and enjoy the channel for creativity that is creating a meal from the odds we have in the fridge. Healthy food is so important when sleep is at a premium, especially when breastfeeding and catering for a child.
- Practice some benign neglect. Sit on the sofa with a piping hot cup of tea and read, craft, or just observe your child play. It’s good for them to play without interference and important for them to witness their mother doing something they enjoy. Bonus points for biscuits.
- Sleep when they sleep (or at least rest). It’s so tempting to try and claw back some alone time once your child is finally asleep and waste away the hours online. I will not pretend I don’t often do the same thing! However sleep is the ultimate self-care, and going to sleep early is a no brainer when you know it’s going to be broken repeatedly. I’ve been trying to listen to the radio or to a podcast before going to sleep rather than looking at my phone.
- Try to maintain a hobby. For me it’s this blog, for others it’s knitting or drawing or writing or exercise. Especially as I’m not currently working outside of looking after Frida, it’s important for me to have something where I can feel like an adult in my own right rather than just someone’s mum.
How do you make time for self-care? What are your fail safes?