‘Put on your own mask first, before helping others’ – those word will be familiar to anyone who has ever boarded a plane (remember that?! The good old days hey). But when was the last time you stopped to make sure you were fitting your own mask, before tending to your little ones?
The advice is nothing new, but when push comes to shove – it can be seriously hard to prioritise your needs over those of your little ones even sometimes.
Parenting, and the juggles that come with it, can be intense – whether you’re a working mama, running a home, studying between feeds, running a farm, balancing blended families. Having these little people rely on us is a joy and a privilege but it can also be seriously challenging, and demanding in ways we never even dreamed of! (Who knew you can cut toast into the ‘wrong’ kind of triangles? Or that it is possible to cry and scream simultaneously?)
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and it is so important that as mamas we find some time to fill up our own stores of energy and joy. Especially in these challenging times – lockdowns, alarming world news – your wellbeing truly does matter. We talk about this more in the Mindful Parenting sections of our Sleep Guides – we can’t help regulate a baby (and their sleep) if we are not emotionally regulated ourselves!
So, we’re not saying that you need to book in a hot stone massage or rosé-fuelled long lunch (although now you mention it…) – it can be as simple as writing a quick hit list of small, achievable things that you know fill YOUR cup.
An hour curled up in bed streaming your fave show, a coffee and walk with a girlfriend, reading your book instead of tidying when the baby naps. Blasting 90s pop and shaking off some of the stress, calling an old friend, meditating. It doesn’t matter so much what it is, but that it is for you, and brings you some joy.
In turn, you’ll have some more patience, more energy, more joy – and that benefits the whole family, not just you.
Parents of newborns – we know finding time for you can be challenging especially in the early months. Can you call on some people in your family, community or network to help? Often with newborns, people are afraid of stepping on toes and love a clear request – ‘Can you stay with the baby while they nap while I walk with a friend?’. When we’re not used to asking for that time for ourselves, it can be tricky but try it out – we promise it gets easier with practice!
It’s not unusual to find parenting frustrating and really tricky at times – it’s totally normal, in fact! We really encourage you to reach out for support from your communities or on our forum. You’re never alone and sometimes sharing experiences can take a mental load off your mind (shout out to all the mamas who share their struggles openly!).
Of course, if you experience a constant low mood or anxiety, or some more extreme symptoms, we encourage you to seek professional support: speaking to your GP or Maternal Child Health Nurse can be a good place to start, and PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) have great resources as well as a free National helpline (1300 726 306). One in seven women in Australia experience postnatal depression – if this is you, you are not alone and help is available.
We see you mamas, and you’re doing a damn fine job. You deserve to take time to fill your cup!