Tips to Finding Personal Time in Motherhood (and Why It Is So Important)
Last month, the lovely people behind the Joyful Beginnings campaign came over to our place for a chat with me, to find out about my biggest challenge after giving birth.
Joyful Beginnings is a campaign to raise awareness of Postnatal Depression and to promote the importance of support for a mother during postnatal to ensure mental well-being. The people behind Joyful Beginnings believe that by sharing similar experiences and challenges, mothers will be able to seek comfort in knowing that they are not the only ones going through such difficulties. Everyone has their own set of challenges, and they hope mothers will be able to support one another in overcoming these challenges.
I think it is a great campaign because there has been very little focus on the topic of Postnatal Depression in our local context when it is actually a very real challenge for mothers and more common than we think. The Joyful Beginnings Facebook page is a great platform for mothers to find news, info and resources about Postnatal Depression, and also to gain perspective and encouragement from moms who share about their personal experience of motherhood.
My Biggest Challenge Is…
It seemed like a distant memory to me now, but honestly, the first few months of motherhood was definitely not all smiles, giggling baby and fresh powder smell. More often than not, we were actually dealing with frustrations, meltdowns (mostly the baby, sometimes ourselves) and the smell of regurgitated milk.
When I was first posted the question, “What was your biggest challenge after giving birth?”, I had so many answers in my mind. Caring for my child properly as a first-time mom, breastfeeding, Laurent’s weight (he was a tiny baby of 2.5kg at full term), my post-pregnancy weight (weight issues are so irritating), waking up at night to feed/ pump, not having enough sleep, post-partum recovery, trying to understand why my baby was crying, etc etc etc.
I think as moms, we ALL have very similar challenges. I’ve read some of the sharings by other moms on Joyful Beginnings Facebook page and I can relate to almost all of them.
For the purpose of this post, I have chosen to focus on just one of the many challenges. The one which I feel has impacted me the most, personally. My biggest challenge after giving birth to Laurent was not having time and space for myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Laurent and I enjoy motherhood for all the amazing experiences that come with it. But I am the kind of person that needs some time and space to myself every day to gather my thoughts and check in with my emotions.
However, having time to myself was not easy especially when Laurent was young and when I was staying at home to care for him full-time for the first 8 months. Sometimes I even feel guilty for thinking that I want time for myself as I believed I should place him as my priority.
As I look back at this motherhood journey, I’ve learned that as moms, we should not feel guilty for wanting to take care of our own emotional needs first. Because our mental and emotional state doesn’t just affect us, it can also greatly affect our loved ones.
I realise when I am weary, frustrated, feeling unappreciated and constantly in a rush, I will inevitably become very short-tempered and transfer my negativity to the people around me. But when I take the time and effort to check in with my thoughts and emotions, I am more aware of any negativity within me and I am able to better reframe my thoughts with positive ones and in turn, spread this positive energy to those around me.
You can read more about my sharing on my biggest challenge after giving birth in this post at Joyful Beginnings. For now, I thought it might be useful to share some tips which helped me to find personal time in motherhood.
Tips to Finding Personal Time in Motherhood
I am fully aware that on some days, motherhood is so crazy that we don’t even have the time (or energy) to take a deep breath, let alone try to find some personal time to check in with our thoughts and emotions or do things that bring us joy. But what we give and spread to the people around us can only be as good as what we have within us. If we don’t take time to take care of ourselves first (spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally), how will we be able to love, care for and inspire the people around us?
Here are some tips that I have personally found useful for helping me to make time in motherhood for self-care and self-development.
1. Establish a Routine
Having a routine has been especially useful for me when Laurent was younger and I was caring for him full-time. With a routine in place, both Laurent and I know roughly how the day will go and we are able to engage in our activities quickly and easily, whether it is feeding, bathing, playing or napping. This allows us to make better use of our time and it also means I know roughly when I will be able to have some personal time (and can be more mindful about how I spend it). Of course, you may not be able to stick to the routine every day. Some days, are just “no-nap” days and other days are simply “I’m taking 2-hr for every feed” days. But the more we try to establish the routine, the better Laurent gets at sticking to it because knowing what is coming up next in the day can be very assuring and comforting for a child.
2. Rope in the Husband (aka The Dad)
I am thankful that Wayne has been a very supportive, understanding and hands-on dad. When he comes back home from work, he will take over some of the childcare duties, like bathing Laurent, playing with him or washing his bottle, so I can have some time to myself. In fact, most of the daddies I know are amazing with their daddy-duties and some of them can even bring their kids on solo trips overseas!
I know there may be some guys out there who are not so hands-on with daddy-duties, but don’t underestimate what they can actually do and encourage them to be a more involved parent! They start with washing their bottles, packing their bags for school, folding their baby laundry (which is actually a lot for such a small person!), playing with them or reading a bedtime story.
While we are at it, check out what these daddies have to say about transitioning into parenthood in this video by Joyful Beginnings!
3. Ask for Help
This sounds like a no-brainer but let’s be completely honest here, how many of us moms actually refused to ask for help because we didn’t want to come across as incompetent/ didn’t want to feel like we are troubling others/ didn’t think that there will be people who are willing to help us?
I am very thankful that our family members are always very happy to babysit Laurent when we need an evening or a weekend off from baby duties. Not only are we able to come back from our baby-free break feeling refreshed, recharged and missing Laurent like crazy, we also know that Laurent got to spend some precious and enjoyable time with his grandparents or his aunties and uncles. #win-win
If family members are not available to help, try checking with others around you like your neighbors or friends. They are usually more willing to help than you think!
4. Have Playdates
This is probably one of my favorite tips! Days can seem long and endless when you are home alone with your baby who doesn’t want to sleep and doesn’t want you to leave him or her alone either. Having a playdate can make days like this a lot more fun and enjoyable. The little ones can entertain themselves (trust me, they will be entertained even when they are just rolling around the playmat) and mamas can have some proper adult conversations, vent some frustrations and have a good laugh.
5. Be Mindful & Purposeful of Your Time
In other words, be ALL there.
When we are spending time with our children or our family, be all there – physically, mentally and emotionally. Engage in mindful interactions with them, really listen to their conversations and give them a thoughtful reply (something I’m personally working on as well, especially when Laurent is such a chatterbox), play and laugh with them wholeheartedly, go all out and be silly when you’re reading them a silly bedtime story, look them in the eye when they say I love you mummy, hold them tight when they ask for a hug and give them a long hard kiss when they nestle their little heads on your shoulder.
Be all there so that when we finally have some time to ourselves, we won’t have to be guilty about not spending time with our loved ones or be worried about missing parts of their lives when we are not around them. Because honestly, we miss even more of their lives when we are not ALL there with them.
I think it is useful for me to be mindful and purposeful of how I spend my personal time as well. These moments are so precious especially during the busy season of motherhood, I feel that I reap the most benefit our of my me-time when I engage in activities that allow me to care for myself spiritually (quiet time), physically (exercise, even if it’s just a simple 5 mins stretching exercise), emotionally (reflecting and writing or journaling out my thoughts, chatting with a friend) and mentally (doing things that bring me joy, learning new things).
Those were some tips that worked for me at different stages of my motherhood journey. Your journey may be different, you may have your own set of challenges, but no matter what, I hope that while you love and care for your family, you also love yourself for who you are right now, appreciate where you are in the journey and take care of your personal well-being.
If you have other tips that might be useful for finding personal time in motherhood, feel free to share with us! Or if you need someone to talk to or just download some mama frustrations, don’t hesitate to drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I don’t promise to solve your problems, but I can be a listening ear or maybe point you to someone else who can help 🙂