Maternity leave is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life. Just you and your freshly-minted little bundle of joy, snuggled up against the world and getting to know each other.
But while the snuggles are precious indeed, there’s something we don’t often talk about. And that’s the fact that maternity leave can also be a surprisingly stressful time.
After all, nobody teaches you how to be a mom. It’s a steep learning curve for you and baby as you get to know each other.
You might have a difficult physical recovery, and you’re most likely suffering from sleep deprivation.
And to top it all off, many new moms have to contend with money worries, as they take time off work to look after their little one.
Here are a few things you can do to look after yourself, mommy.
Because if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you be expected to care for your baby?
Your body has taken a beating.
Pregnancy and childbirth, no matter how you gave birth, are undeniably tough on a woman’s body. And now breastfeeding, babywearing and lifting your baby are putting extra pressures on your body.
It’s especially important to take care of your back at this time. Try to be active every day – there are so many benefits for a new mom. It will help your postpartum recovery, help prevent back pain, improve your stamina and will also create those feel-good endorphins to fight stress.
Good exercises for new mommas include walking (take your little one with you in the stroller or sling) and yoga.
There are lots of mom and baby workout videos on YouTube you can try for free if you don’t feel ready to leave the house yet. Or, search online for mom and baby classes in your local area – this is also a great way to meet other moms.
Take time for you
Your baby is the center of your world right now, and let’s face it – they will be for at least the next 18 years or so!
But don’t forget to take time for you, too. It’s important to recharge your batteries so you can come back to the task of mothering, refreshed and relaxed.
Ask your partner, mom or friend to take the baby for at least 30 minutes a day so that you can take a bath, go for a run, read a book or drink a coffee all by yourself.
If you don’t have a partner or family who can help, join a local mom group and suggest to your new friends that you take it in turns to watch the kids.
Or even consider if it’s worth hiring a babysitter for a few hours. It might seem like an extravagance, but there’s little more important than your mental health right now.
Get a side hustle
Ok – taking on extra work might be the last thing you have time for right now.
But if you’re stressed about money, doing something to take control of the situation can feel hugely empowering.
And if you’re new to side hustling, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a little extra cash in no time at all.
One of the best ways for new moms to make money on maternity leave is survey sites. There are lots of sites that will pay you for your opinion.
And while the money is no match for a real salary, the main advantage is that these sites are so flexible – you can even do surveys on your phone while feeding in the middle of the night!
Other popular options for new moms are money making apps, ‘get paid to’ sites such as Swagbucks, freelancing and online tutoring.
Go second hand
We all want to give our kids the best start in life – that’s only natural. All too often, that translates into wanting to give our babies the ‘best’, most expensive and top of the range equipment and toys.
But slow down – most of these things aren’t really necessary, and if the are, a cheaper version is usually just as good.
In the first year of your baby’s life, they will grow out of their bed, toys and clothes in a matter of months. Save yourself the stress and money by buying second hand, or borrowing from other moms.
The main exception is the car seat – here, safety is the priority, so buy new to ensure it’s never been in a crash.
Banish mom guilt
Last but not least: stop feeling guilty, mommy!
I know, this is easier said than done. The guilt as a mom never really goes away. There are so many ways to be a parent, and so many people waiting to tell you how you could be doing things differently.
And I’ll bet you’re already feeling guilty at the thought of implementing some of the things on this list!
Try to let go. None of us are perfect parents, but you’re doing the best you can for your baby, and that’s what really counts.
Remember, babies can pick up on stress and discomfort. Look after yourself, and you’ll be looking after you baby too.