Part 5 of 6
Why Self-Care isn’t Selfish
I don’t think I’ve ever taken such good care of myself as when I was pregnant. I’m not just talking the things you do because you’re suddenly growing a human – taking my vitamins, watching my diet, getting rid of my beloved seven coffee a day habit. No, I’m talking the whole kit and caboodle.
I’ve always been great at taking off my make-up but now my cleanse routine went the whole hog. I cleansed, toned, exfoliated, moisturised. I tummy scrubbed my growing bump, and rubbed it with lotions and potions to miraculously help the impending stretchmarks. I soaked my tired feet, rubbed cooling gel on my legs and, while I could still get out of it, took baths to relax my increasingly tired body. It was as if pregnancy gave me licence to finally be a little selfish.
And then my daughter arrived.
My emergency c-section made me nervous to look at my tummy, let alone touch it. The idea of slathering oil on the stretchmarks that appeared after Isabelle was born, instead of before, was utterly beyond me. I could barely remember my own name, and I certainly forgot to take off my mascara, if indeed I had managed to put some on in the first place. And baths? Forget about it. On the few occasions I tried, Izzy would begin screaming as soon as my bum hit the bubbles.
We’re told as new parents to ‘let things slide’ and not worry about the day to day chores whilst settling in to our new routine. That’s all well and good, but having an untidy house or plates stacking up had a worse effect on my stress levels than any screaming fit could. For me it was all about trying to find balance. Sometimes I would manage a cup of tea whilst it was still hot, sometimes I had to accept the fact the day was going sideways. My husband had to return to work overseas when Izzy was 3 weeks old and for six weeks over Christmas (aside from the two days he could return) I flew solo. I learnt to do so many chores one-handed and discovered the joys of baby-wearing when Izzy refused to be without me, but truthfully, it was beyond exhausting and I cried every single night. I remember being close to breaking when a wonderful friend of mine (with a relative newborn herself) sent her husband round with a hot meal and strict instructions to do some jobs for me so I could take a break. THAT is a true friend.
Self-care is something of a luxury for so many of us as new parents, but it’s a necessity we brush aside far too easily. Our long-awaited bundle of joy may have arrived, but that shouldn’t mean saying goodbye to the people we were before. It may sound silly, but self-care is as much about looking after others as yourself. Taking even five minutes a day to make yourself feel good has incredible benefits on your mood, outlook and especially your mental health. Whilst lockdown has made finding those five minutes difficult, it’s now even more important to try and schedule a pocket of calm for yourself as a parent.
I’ve found the easiest way for me to do this has been to put aside my phone and technology. Social media is a huge time sapper but other tech also plays a part. It says so much that Isabelle’s favourite ‘toys’ we have to constantly take away from her are the ipad (for calling grandparents), phones (for taking a disgusting amount of photos) and the television remote (which she once managed to get hold of and suck, and now the power button doesn’t work). I’ve now set limiters to try and control how much time I spend on technologies that, even though I use them for work, don’t essentially matter in the grand scheme of things.
That isn’t to say it’s a perfect method. Heck, it’s taken me weeks to take this blog from jottings on my phone to an actual piece of writing, and I’m STILL editing my novel into its fifth draft formation. But I am a calmer and happier person for taking back a little me-time. When the baby goes down for her nap I no longer scroll twitter, but madly complete a job such as the washing up or laundry and then take ten minutes to read a chapter of my book, or slick on a bit of make-up, or do a little workout. Whatever it is that will make me happier in that moment. And as they say – happy parent, happy baby.