When Magnus was a baby, any time to me felt stolen. I would ration out what I took care of each day. One day I would wash my hair. Another day I would shave my calves. The next day I would shave above the knee. The next day I would do my feet with my foot file. Another day I might exfoliate my face.
Since having my son, I could never rationalize doing it all in one shower anymore. Time to myself was so brief it was like a blink; I couldn’t imagine a shower I didn’t have to rush through to get back to him.
This morning I turned my face towards the water and reflected on that time, and how it felt like it was going to be like that forever. That I would never have more than flickers of time to myself, it would always feel frantic, and I would always feel a mix of guilt or resentment when I had it.
If there was one thing, I would tell that new mom now, it’s this, “This is the most intense time in your life. It feels like you are losing yourself, because you are. You did not just birth a child you are birthing a mother and birth means leaving safety behind to become something new. It’s painful and scary, and totally normal. I promise that it’s a part of the process.
“I know it feels like this is all there is right now. Your whole life is consumed with details that seem momentous and immediate. Be in that, that’s also a part of it. AND while you’re in it, remember that this phase will end and a new one will begin. It will not always feel this way and you will find yourself again.
“To do that, you need more time for yourself. You can’t learn who this new woman is without time to get to know her. Ask for help and take it without guilt. Give up some control and stop worrying if they’ll “do it wrong”, most of the things you’re obsessing over you won’t even remember in a few years or make any kind of difference for your child. Learn how to be okay with tolerating other people being inconvenienced for you have self-care, it will happen, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyways (you’re inconvenienced by your partner’s self-care and you still encourage him to do it, right?). Lastly, give yourself the MOST self-compassion and grace. You are learning to do something you’ve never done before and of course you want to be the best you can be, and what that looks like will vary DAILY. Accept that, and yourself exactly as you are. You love your baby you’re doing a great job and it’s all going to be okay.”
Looking back, when I was deep in PPD and PPA, I was believing that I would always feel this way and that it would be permanent making me spiral into despair and hopelessness. In that state I had forgotten that all things are temporary and finite.
One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever received was to remember that “It’s all a phase.” It doesn’t matter what it is you can literally apply to everything: potty training, nose picking, refusing to get dressed by themselves, hitting, picky eating, skipping naps, whatever. This advice helps create perspective and it reminds us that it’s temporary and finite. Eventually they will stop picking their nose and eating it.
I also love that it translates beautifully in all areas of life, not just parenting. It works with your spouse in a bad mood, a hard day at work, having to move because your spouse lost their job (ahem), anything. Everything changes, it’s not personal, and we are strong enough to roll with it.
And then I shaved my legs top to bottom, washed my hair (and a hair mask, gasp!), and scrubbed my feet…just because I could.
I’m eager to hear what you would say to your “younger self” whether that was as a new mom, or at another time in your life when you were struggling and couldn’t see the end of it? Tell me in the comments below.