Motherhood is a beautiful and incredible experience. It can also be incredibly difficult and lonely.
As new mums, we typically feel like we are the only ones going through this struggle at home while everyone else continues with life as usual.
In reality, many mothers feel this way and it is not your fault! In fact, society often neglects new mums by leaving them to get on with things alone or expecting them to do everything themselves which leaves us feeling invisible and unsupported.
Motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorns
We spend months and months waiting for the big day - everyone is telling you how amazing it is going to be; you have dreams of what life will look like with a little one on your arm.
And then it finally happens, reality comes crashing on through; suddenly everything feels extra-hard and we feel overwhelmed...
Those early days are exhausting (in a good way, of course - but EXHAUSTING nonetheless) and you have NO way of appreciating just what that means!
Every day is a new challenge and a lot of the time, you are left at home alone with no support. No one understands what it's like to be in your shoes... And the people who do get it?
They are not around or don't want to talk about "those" things! Your life becomes more unique, but also incredibly lonely because of this.
New mums need support and encouragement! Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen automatically which means you have to do what you can for yourself but also know when to ask for help.
The importance of self-care
Self-care is just as important for new mums as it is for everyone else. It's easy to feel like you don't have time or energy, but that is not true - making yourself a priority is an act of self-love and every mum deserves this little bit of luxury now and then.
Run yourself a bath, have a little nap, give yourself some time to do nothing.
Now, we all know that this doesn't happen without a little help and may take a little bit of planning but, what we're getting at here is: when you find a little bit of a gap in the schedule, grab that opportunity with both hands.
If someone offers to look after the baby for a short time, take them up on it. Lose the guilt and make sure you do something for YOU.
How to find time to do what you need to do for yourself?
By using a few simple strategies, you can make sure that time for yourself is not something to be forgotten.
The first step is to make it a priority and take the steps necessary in order to do so:
Plan ahead - if your partner or someone else normally looks after the baby at night while you get some sleep, switch things up.
Plan for this time to do something on your own - take a shower or bath, watch some TV or read. You can also use the time to make yourself breakfast and drink plenty of water!
Take advantage of nap-time (or any other free moment you may have throughout the day) - by preparing everything in advance, you will be able to make use of this time and not feel rushed.
Find a sitter - if you have friends or family who can help with babysitting, take advantage!
Ask for their support and be as specific as possible about what you need from them (i.e.: two hours on Wednesday afternoon to myself). This way, they will know exactly when you need their help and when to step in.
Lack of sleep
The lack of sleep and constant stress can take a toll on you and your mental health.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that it isn't happening to you - there's no such thing as "getting used" to things when it comes to motherhood, especially in those first few months.
Being overwhelmed is normal for new mums which is why we need support in order to cope with this - it's no use pretending that you are coping just because other people around you seem to be doing fine and assume that you are too.
Don't forget about your partner...
It is important to remember that there might also be another new parent in the household who needs some support... Remember that your partner will need some time for themselves, too.
They might be feeling lost and useless (especially if they are looking after a baby on their own all day) so make sure you help them out too.
Losing a sense of identity in motherhood
The world of motherhood can be an incredibly isolating place. Suddenly, you don't seem to fit in the same place or way as before and it may feel like everyone else knows what they are doing...
While this might not always be the case (especially if those people around you have been through similar things), new mums often still think that their feelings of isolation are real.
You may find yourself thinking "no one understands" or asking questions like:
What am I doing wrong? Am I not cut out for this?" Remember that you are not alone - the feeling of being overwhelmed and confused is very common! And remember, there's nothing to feel guilty about - no-one is perfect (anyone telling you that are lying)!
It's perfectly normal to feel like you are losing your sense of identity in motherhood.
Remember that this will not last forever and one day, things will be different - it just takes time and patience. Engaging with other new mums or professionals might help if you need advice or support.
Why it's important to take care of yourself during this time
So, why is it so important to take care of yourself during this time?
Even though you may feel like your life revolves around your baby's needs and that there isn't enough time in the day to do anything else, this couldn't be further from the truth.
You should always make sure that you are looking after yourself first - no one will thank you for neglecting yourself
New mums are often at risk of developing mental health problems, such as post-natal depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.
These can be linked to the lack of sleep and constant stress that new mothers experience on a daily basis - it's important not only to take care of your baby but also yourself to avoid these problems, especially if there is an existing history of mental health issues.
There's no need for you to feel guilty - there are always things that can be done, even when your baby is making it hard for you to do them... And remember - don't make any big decisions during this time!
It may seem like you won't last another minute if you don't do something (such as moving house), but this is, likely, not the case. It's perfectly normal to feel like that, but try and stay calm - it will pass :)
There's no such thing as a perfect mum
Social media can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to motherhood - not only do we have a vast source of advice, information and help at our fingertips; we also have the chance to compare ourselves with other mothers, and suddenly we feel like we're doing everything wrong.
It doesn't help that celebrities seem to have a perfect life and a perfect body after having three children - I bet they don't look as good as the pictures make them out to be ;)
But, what's even worse is how we seem to think that we need to be like them and do everything they do, otherwise we're not good enough. This couldn't be further from the truth!
It's perfectly normal for new mums (or anyone else, really) to feel insecure - especially if you have a history of mental health problems... But comparing your life to others won't help, no matter how hard you try. Even if someone else seems to have it all figured out - they are probably trying just as much as you are!
It's time for us to embrace our differences and empower each other instead of feeling bad about ourselves. We're not the same person we were before motherhood; that doesn't make us any less of an individual - it simply means we are growing and learning new things!
We all want to be the best mothers we can be, but it's important that we don't lose ourselves in the process.
In order to stay sane and happy as a mother, you need to take care of yourself - from your mental health, your physical well-being and by taking time for yourself each day, even if it's to do the small things.
If you do not start to prioritise yourself and some, if not all, of your needs every now and then, no one else will either... And Mum Guilt will always try to bully you into thinking that it doesn't matter - but it does!
Asking for help is one of the steps to feeling less isolated as a new parent.