It took me a while before I stopped justifying my needs to take care of myself, and explaining that my alone time and self-care in fact support and empower my role as a mum. However, I know that there are mums out there who still fret over those disapproving looks and flinch at questions such as “Don’t you miss your baby when you’re not with them?”
If there is anything I have learned while getting used to my new role as a mum, it’s that no amount of time I spend away from my children hinders my identity as a parent. Despite the judgmental glares (and they do happen on occasion), the societal expectations and the existing cultural norms, every parent deserves the freedom to – first and foremost – be a person.
Start a journal
Guilt is mostly guided by self-perception, and how you see yourself can be affected by continuous degrading comments and side-glances. So, while you’re doing your best to respond to your little one’s every need, understand why they cry and how to help them self-soothe, you crave a few moments for a baby-free thought, intellectual stimulus or just a good old bubble bath.
I started writing a daily journal of all the independent things I feel like doing, right next to a few positive thoughts on myself, and it has done wonders for my self-esteem. So get a get a nice little notebook and note down all the little things you’ve done right, what you’re grateful for and what makes you a kind person and a dedicated mum.
Let it sink in, read it every time the world seems terribly small and you feel cornered. Even a second of positivity in your mind will help you restore your self-confidence and slowly build your own personal routine.
Create a flexy schedule
Although it’s impossible to predict every change in your baby’s behaviour, you know their daily routine and their habits. Without compromising their feeding time, naps and playtime, you can build your own flexible schedule with an hour or two every day (or every second day at first) for dedicated you-time.
For instance, wearing my baby has helped me restore my healthy cooking habits which would normally be impossible if it weren’t for a comfy sling to keep my hands free. And living in Australia without making the most of their wonderful food is a real waste. Plus, I finally have time to read a few chapters of my favourite books while my baby naps.
On the other hand, I like solitude, so I crave some baby-free time every now and then, so my husband and I have a delegating parenthood deal: a few times a week, he is solely in charge of caring for our nestlings, and I do the same for him when he feels the need to visit his man-cave (aka our garage).
Make time for exercise
Most people consider indulging in physical activity almost a luxury. Unlike your basic needs such as eating and using the bathroom, we tend to neglect our physical well-being for the sake of everything else, because we currently don’t suffer the health consequences, so we cannot fully grasp its importance.
Since going to the gym or a dance class is quite a stretch especially for dedicated attachment parents, using commercial fitness equipment at home has been a godsend for my figure, confidence and my immune system. When I’m yearning some alone time, I can put on some tunes and use my headphones, while the kids are with their dad. Or, I can just play some gentle music in the background and spend some time with the baby.
Most mums forget that working on their own physical well-being and overall health helps them become a stronger mum, which in turn increases their energy levels, improves their immunity and makes them much more capable of wearing and carrying their little one.
Work on restoring your emotional balance
As experienced yogis know well, all it takes is a few mindful minutes. Practicing meditation every day helps you restore your healthy self-perception, heal your emotional scars and build an inner oasis that will shield your self-love. Whether it’s in the morning as soon as you open your eyes or just before you fall asleep, meditation has a unique way of helping you detox your mind from guilt and start your days afresh.
While there is little you can or should do to prevent hurtful comments from people who simply cannot resist telling you how they feel about your parenting decisions, a simple technique such as meditation can help you completely disregard the negativity.
No more than ten minutes a day have helped me reach a profound state of serenity and a new appreciation for my role as a mum, as well as a perception of my independent self. It’s a constant work in progress and there will always be good and bad days, but once you start perceiving it as a ritual, your mind and your body will be eternally grateful.
A happy mum equals a happy baby, and even more so a happy family. Achieving balance in life between your role as a parent and your personal desire to develop yourself spiritually, physically and intellectually is a need most parents neglect believing that such an attitude is selfish.
On the contrary, as soon as you start devoting time to yourself, you will finally be able to enjoy parenthood more than ever and you will have a chance to lead a happy, fulfilled life, both as a mum and as an independent person.