When my daughters arrived and I became a new mom, everyone said “Make sure to take care of yourself.” Again and again people reminded me to “take care” of myself and to take “time” for myself. These well-wishing phrases sounded like hollow but very sincere holiday greetings. My friends might as well have been saying “Happy Birthday!” or “Merry Christmas!” I knew the gist: Eat well, get sleep, make time for exercise. However, it wasn’t until my girls were about a year old that I realized exactly what people meant, and I should have heeded their warning and taken better care of myself.
Here are five ways I didn’t take care of myself as a new mom:
1. Doctor and dental appointments.
I kept canceling and postponing doctor and dental appointments. I wasn’t neglecting any major health issues, but going to the dermatologist to get my annual freckle check, getting my teeth cleaned — all of these felt extracurricular when I was in the throes of constant feeding, rocking and diapers. Obviously they aren’t. I finally learned that there will never be a good time to get these things done.
Similar to canceling doctor’s appointments, I failed to keep up with my prescriptions. Again, I didn’t have any major health issues but now I realize that taking care of myself includes keeping up with my daily eye drops. As a mental health clinician, I witness people going off their meds at the most inopportune, and unplanned, times. I need to practice what I preach!
No, I’m not selling beauty products — lotion is just another part of my routine that I thought I could skip out on. I lost that bet. All of the extra hand-washing and showers from the spit-up, my skin peeled and itched before I realized I needed to add two minutes of applying lotion back into my day.
4. Gloves & hats.
It sounds silly as I type this, but I failed to even dress appropriately for the weather. I was so focused on getting my babies dressed with coats, mittens, hats, boots that I’d race out of the house having only thrown on my coat (before someone takes theirs off). Even in the coldest temperatures I have to stop and remind myself that wearing a hat is just as important for me as it is for my daughters.
5. Making time for friends sans babies.
I thought that I could keep my friendships going by inviting people to my place all the time. The problem is, not all of my friends have kids, and even if they do, talking about my girls always seemed to win out because they were right there putting on a show for attention. Now I’m aware to meet up with friends away from my daughters so that I can ask “How ARE you?” while actually listening.
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