Jennifer Joseph is the first to admit that she hasn’t cracked the code for being a successful stay-at-home mom, but she’s here to tell you that finding a bit of balance is achievable! Her five poignant self-care tips are below.
Like most (probably all!) new moms, I spent the first few weeks after my son’s birth in a fog. Sleep deprivation and bafflement over things like breastfeeding warred with an overwhelming amount of love for the newest member of our family.
When that initial fog lifted, I was left wondering how to keep myself with this new little person, particularly once I decided to stay at home with him full-time. Two and a half years later, I don’t have it all figured out, but I have learned five things that have helped me both mentally and physically, which in turn has led me to be a better mom to my little guy.
1. Get up and get dressed.
When we were still in the nursing stage, it was very easy to grab the baby and head back to bed, dozing while he had his breakfast. Inevitably, I’d end up groggy and would spend half the day in my pajamas. It led to me feeling sluggish and depressed, which wasn’t doing me or my baby any good. A shower will wake you up, a quick teeth brushing will make you feel refreshed and clean clothes will put some pep in your step. It might mean that you leave your living room scattered with toys, wait a bit to throw your laundry in or that your child hangs out in his bouncer while you get yourself cleaned up. It’s fully worth the 15 minutes to make yourself feel better.
While we’re on the topic, dress for yourself. While black, machine-washable workout clothes are easy, they can make you feel a bit blah after awhile. One day, after realizing I was in a yoga pants rut, I pulled on some slim dark jeans, a favorite black sweater, some ballet flats and a cute necklace. Minimal effort, but major points for making me feel more human for the entire day. When you feel better, you’ll be a better mom to your little one.
2. Have a reason to get out of the house.
I don’t think I ever realized how valuable the social aspect of work was to me until I didn’t have it every day. Suddenly, the banter before meetings, runs to get coffee and team hangouts at lunch disappeared. With a baby who didn’t talk, friends who were at work and a husband who came home tired at the end of the day, life got very lonely very fast. I got in the habit of making sure to have a small outing planned each day that got us out of the house.
I would load my son in the stroller every morning and take a walk through our neighborhood, ultimately ending up in our nearby downtown to grab coffee, chat with the barista and sit on a bench where we would watch the people and dogs go by. Some days we would go to the park, others to storytime at our local library (a great way to meet fellow new moms!). It was never anything big or overwhelming, but just enough to get us out of the house and make me feel like there was something to look forward to each day.
3. Make time for yourself.
Women tend to prioritize everyone else over themselves and self-care is so important as a mom, whether you’re new to it or not. While it can be tempting to think you need to be there for your child 24/7, even an hour of personal time can be helpful for putting you in the right mental space to be a better parent. While my son is now in preschool a few mornings a week, my husband and I previously had an agreement that he’d take the baby for a morning run on the weekends and let me escape to grab coffee, read a book and write a bit. Occasionally, I’d squeeze in something like a manicure. The time to myself made me feel more present and happy.
Look at your family’s schedule and prioritize a little personal time. Ask family or friends to hang with the baby for an hour. While it can sometimes feel awkward to ask for help, grandparents love to hang with their grandkids, fellow parents 100-percent understand and are happy to help and even my friends without kids love playing with one for an hour here and there.
4. Have a side project.
While it was initially nice to step away from the working world, I quickly realized that I was in need of a creative outlet to work my brain. I started a website documenting my family’s travels and adventures, as well as consulted for a former colleague. Both provided a much-needed balance in my life and gave me something to focus on that wasn’t baby-related. Look at your interests and make time for them when your baby is napping. It will make you feel like your life isn’t all about a little person.
5. Don’t forget pre-baby friends.
While mom groups, play dates and baby music class are a great way to meet other moms, the conversation can often turn to comparing diaper brands or how to get your child to eat spinach. Every month or so, I have a lunch date with a friend to catch up on life, gossip and have a midday drink if we’re feeling particularly indulgent. Now that my son’s a bit older, I also took advantage this year of scheduling a two-night girls’ weekend away with my best friend. We met in one of our favorite places, Santa Barbara, California, made very few plans and generally spent the weekend eating, window shopping and hanging by the pool and ocean. Kids can make it challenging to keep up with faraway friends, but this trip left us both feeling more connected and refreshed.