Renata Trebling, certified nutrition coach, healthy food blogger, mum of 3 and all around badass, shares her experience on becoming a mum, and encourages us to challenge society's expectations for women to be endlessly selfless, by putting ourselves first through self care.
When I became a mother, I thought to myself “This is it! I am complete! I need nothing else in my life except my sweet baby."
Boy, was I wrong.
OK, this may sound dramatic but let me explain.
What they neglect to tell you is that when you have a baby, you literally have NO TIME FOR YOURSELF. Like, zero time.
And I am not even joking.
I had a vaginal delivery for my first kid, but also had some tearing (sorry if you’re squeamish but this is the truth). So my doctor recommended that I soak the “area” in a warm bath every day for 20 minutes. That is, in addition to having to feed, change, rock to sleep, and console a crying baby.
So, just as soon as I had finally rocked and swayed this baby to sleep, I then had to creep into the bathroom, fill the bath tub with warm water as quietly as possible, and sit in it for 20 minutes. And, of course, this sweet baby, would wake up during this precious time where I was alone, sitting in peaceful silence - my only time to have to myself without anybody needing me to feed it or change its diaper.
My daughter was also having horrible latching problems. My boobs were filling up with milk and my kid couldn’t latch well enough to drain the abundant supply of breast milk. For real, my boobs were like rock hard basketballs. I wish I was joking. Thankfully, an amazing lactation specialist helped us with this but that meant that after I breast fed this bundle of joy for an hour, I then had to pump out any remaining milk from my ridiculously engorged double D’s. (Once again, I wish I was joking. When I am not pregnant, a sports bra is too big on me.) Then I had to wash and sterilize breast pump parts, baby bottles, deal with leaking milk storage bags, clean up any spilled milk and rotate milk into the freezer if my husband didn’t use the milk within 24 hours.
And did I mention my daughter was having horrible digestive issues? Yes! Of course she was! She was terribly gassy and uncomfortable and cried so, so, so, so, so much. And if she wasn’t crying, then I was crying because I was so exhausted.
All this to say that my day revolved around feeding, changing, swaying, rocking, pumping, cleaning, soaking, crying (my daughter’s and my own) and getting what little naps I could between zombie-like stumbling through the kitchen at odd hours to feed myself with whatever food only required one-handed eating.
So when I say you have no time for yourself as a new mother, you know I speak from experience.
After many, many days (or it could have been months - who really knows because I was exhausted) of this endless routine of mommy-ing, I turned to my husband and in an overwhelmed and deeply saddened voice, I said, “I don’t feel fulfilled”.
What kind of mother says that?! I know, it is crazy. But before you pass judgment on me, let me ask you this: do you know why I said this?
Because I didn’t have a single second to spend on myself.
Every waking hour was spent caring for this poor child who was just as sleepless, and maybe just as gassy and uncomfortable, as me.
Every ounce of my being was focused on caring for my child.
Zero ounces were focused on taking care of me.
You might be thinking, well you did sign up for this mothering gig? Why complain about it now?
This is why.
We have been duped by society.
Society has shown us that being endlessly selfless as a women is a benefit.
As mothers and women, we are encouraged, or sometimes demanded, to look after others so much that we often forget about ourselves. In fact, this has been pressed on us so much, that the idea of not looking after others 24/7 seems so wrong and guilt-ridden.
In fact, since the popularity of the term, Self-Care, a lot of people think that that means being selfish. That you, as a mother, will completely abandon your children and spouse, run off with The Rock and live in the lap of luxury in his Hawaiian mansion.
Self-care is not selfish.
Self-care is self love.
Self-care is listening to your body and understanding when you need to take a break, instead of powering through and feeling depleted.
Self-care is finding the things that light you up and spending some well-deserved time doing those things.
Self-care is understanding with a deep knowing, that you are worthy and your happiness and joy is important.
Self-care can look different for everyone. It might mean a massage, a bubble bath, eating your favorite nourishing meal or doing a rejuvenating yoga session.
Whatever self-care means to you, that is important. And it doesn’t make you selfish for wanting to make time for yourself.
It makes you a self-aware woman, who believes that her proverbial cup needs to be filled periodically. When we do this, we feel more confident, more at ease and are also better able to care for others, if we so wish.
If I have learned anything from being a mother, it is that we cannot look after anyone else, until we look after ourselves.
The greatest relationship you will ever be in, is the one with yourself. It is time to make YOU a priority. It is time to show yourself some love. It is time to listen to your body and what it needs to feel full and whole.
Make some time for self-care today. It doesn’t have to take an hour, unless you want it to. If it sounds completely out of your comfort zone to spend time on you, start with 5 minutes. Maybe you can sit down with a nice, hot cup of tea and actually enjoy it, while it is hot, before the kids get up in the morning. Maybe you take 5 minutes at the end of the day, to actually wash your face and splurge on using the good eye cream before going to bed. Maybe it is scheduling regular time for your spouse to watch the kids so you can go for a walk in the sunshine and feel energized again.
When I started practicing daily self-care, all of my relationships improved. I look after me and give myself grace on hard days instead of beating myself up. I believe in myself more because I value my own opinions and thoughts. I am more patient and understanding with my kids and husband. And, I am able to give more, encourage more and support more women, because I feel filled up and whole.
Whatever you can do to show yourself some love, that is important.
You are important.
Fill up your cup.
You deserve it.