As a mom, it’s safe to say you already know that there are times when it doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. After caring for your significant other, your children and your household, in addition to your demands at work or other commitments, is it any wonder that “me” time can often get overlooked or left out?
Before COVID, being a new mom already meant you had a new, unfamiliar layer of stress added to your day-to-day. As you know, babies don’t come with instruction manuals, so you’re learning as you go, and often on very little sleep. However, like many things, the pandemic has brought forth additional challenges for parents, says Jessica Ladd-Lefterova, a Lamaze certified childbirth educator and certified prenatal yoga instructor at Texas Health Dallas.
“What the challenge is with moms right now is that pre-COVID it was relatively easy to have a family member or babysitter watch your baby, but now there’s this whole other level of fear of ‘is this person going to expose my baby to COVID?’ she explains. “They feel they can’t even have anyone watch their child anymore, so moms aren’t getting breaks. And the moms who are going back to the office, they now have to worry about the stress of being back at the office and their child being exposed to COVID at day care. So what I’m seeing with moms is an exponentially higher rate of postpartum anxiety and depression.”
But here’s the thing, you know you can take care of others much more effectively if you take care of yourself first. To take care of everything and everyone that’s important to you, you need to be at your best both physically and mentally. This is especially true if you have a newborn or small children who depend on you.
Reframe Your Mindset
So how can you keep yourself and your family well while also caring for yourself? It starts with not feeling guilty or selfish for prioritizing your needs.
Many mamas feel like taking time out of their day or week to prioritize themselves is a selfish endeavor or will reflect poorly on them. But it’s time to leave that guilt at the door, says Caroline Miller, E-RYT, a certified prenatal and Mom & Baby Yoga Instructor at Texas Health Dallas.
“Mom guilt is real but the truth is, you can’t pour out from an empty cup,” she adds. “You can’t keep giving if you do nothing to fill yourself up. You need to prioritize yourself, your sanity, your happiness because then you will be more equipped to be the mom you want to be.”
Finding Safe ‘Mom’ Outlets
By now, we’ve all become acquainted with virtual offerings, from meetings to fitness classes to doctor’s visits and celebrations. But when the pandemic halted all in-person classes and meetings, Ladd-Lefterova saw not only a need to keep them going but a demand — arguably more than ever before. So she pushed to move the Texas Health Mommy Mixers to a virtual platform.
Mommy Mixers allow moms to meet other new mothers who are experiencing the same celebrations and frustrations all new moms encounter. The group offers encouragement and support and is an avenue to make new friends. While you may be wondering how a Mommy Mixer falls in the category of self-care, Ladd-Lefterova says the mixers are structured on how you can mentally take care of yourself and your baby, in addition to how you can safely socialize right now.
“The Mommy Mixers offer a really great safe place for mom to be able to connect with other moms who are going through the same challenges,” she explains. “It’s a safe place, literally and figuratively, to share and open up about whatever is going on mentally or emotionally, situationally, and developmentally with you or your child, and to get some support and second opinions from other moms.”
Plano mom Mellissa Freeman knows that support all too well, having experienced the Mixers both in person before the pandemic and now on a virtual platform.
“My daughter was six months old when the world shut down last year. So, I was so excited when Texas Heath Dallas offered the virtual Mommy Mixer a few weeks later since it gave me a way to still socialize and get support as a new mom,” she says. “This group has been a blessing in the midst of the unknown. Moms throughout the DFW area join and we discuss child development, new or funny things our children are doing, fear of COVID, and the hard parts of motherhood people don’t typically talk about.”
Previously just for moms of babies up to a year old, Ladd-Lefterova says she’s expanded the Mixer to include moms of older children simply because there is still a need for support and because of the support these more veteran moms can provide to the group themselves.
“When we have moms whose babies are a little bit further ahead age-wise, like say a toddler, they offer a lot of really good advice for our new moms and great support and validation. They really help encourage the new moms,” she adds.
Another helpful resource that’s transitioned virtually is Texas Health’s Mom and Baby fitness classes. Mom and Baby fitness classes are open to anyone, regardless of the hospital they delivered, and children up to 4 years old are allowed. For now, classes meet every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
Caroline Miller leads the classes and says the 45-minute virtual class starts off with introductions and a warm-up. The class then transitions to light strength training using resistance bands and finishes with 10 to 15 minutes of yoga.
“The class is aimed at building strength back in mommy’s core safely, asymmetrically training with bands to help balance and posture, and getting moms talking,” Miller adds. “Every other month, we meet up after class for a picnic lunch or a lunch outdoors when available.”
Speaking of outdoors, Miller notes that one of the most important things she tries to inspire her moms to do is get outside as much as they can.
“Packing a little lunch and going for a morning walk with the stroller to a park can do so much for your sanity. Feel the sunshine and the breeze and really soak that in,” she explains. “You might even get lucky and meet other moms there doing the same thing. If you find that baby is napping while on your walk, pull off to the side and incorporate some meditation, mindful breathing or try some yoga stretches to help your own mental and physical health.”
Remember Your Partner
Oftentimes, you can forget that your partner is also going many of the same things as you, even if it feels like you shoulder more of the stress than them. That’s why Ladd-Lefterova adds that making time for ‘us’ can be mutually beneficial.
“I have to remind my moms to schedule a date night, even if it’s on the couch,” Ladd-Lefterova says. “Having fun, relaxing and connecting with your partner goes a long way in taking care of you. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you need to get a babysitter, get dressed up and spend a lot of money, though. Great date nights can happen right at home. Remember, you have this built-in support system in your partner.”
You’ve Got This
Me time looks a lot different when you have a baby, but you can even take 5 minutes when baby is asleep to have a cup of coffee, do some breathing or stretches, or take a shower and let the dishes sit in the sink. Take note of the small moments that you can make into something just for you and those short moments will get longer as baby grows. Above all else, know that you can do this and you are not alone.
“Even though your favorite thing to do is to stare at that sleeping angelic face, remember that you used to enjoy other things like reading, baking, crafting or connecting with friends,” Miller says. “It’s OK to take some time for you. You can do this. You are not alone. You are the best person to raise this child and you are doing a great job.”
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