The first year of parenthood is the hardest. That is a simple fact that everyone experiences. Yes, I’ve seen the memes about toddlerhood but I still believe that first year with a newborn is the most difficult. It is especially hard when it is your first baby and you’re fumbling your way through feeding, sleep schedules (or lack thereof) and well-meaning friends and family with their advice. There is nothing that can change the tiredness or stop you second guessing yourself but I’ve put together some major tips to improve your health, well-being and therefore your happiness.
Healthy snacks for you
Ensure you always have some healthy snacks available for you to reach and grab when you only have a minute spare. Make a list of some nutritious and tasty snacks that you enjoy. This may require some research and some time in the kitchen or it might simply be a list of fresh fruit and veggies that you enjoy. Bliss balls are perfect for this because they are quick and easy to eat, they are highly nutritious and you’re likely to find a variety or two that you love.
Here is a short list to get your started:
🍽 bliss balls (can be frozen)
🍽 quiche ((can be frozen)
🍽 fresh veggies cut up
🍽 fresh fruit
🍽 smoothies (can be frozen)
This list is not to say that you must only eat the healthiest of food all the time, but I strongly recommend that you always have some of this on hand and make up your own favourites list for your fridge to help you make better choices as often as possible. The more energy you have, the better you will feel by the end of a long day.
Why on the fridge?
There are two reasons why I suggest putting the list on the fridge: 1. it reminds you of your options so there is less thinking to be done which makes life easier and 2. people who visit can see it and either help you make some while they visit or they will know what to bring next time.
What to do now: start making a list of healthy snacks that you enjoy that you can think of off the top of your head. Put it straight on the fridge and add to it when you get the chance.
It’s no secret that nature and being outside are good for our health. It is scientifically proven that vitamin D improves our mental health and reduces feelings of depression. While I’m not saying that the cure to everything is stepping outside, it is really important that we try to work some sunshine into every day. I often suggest to clients that they figure out (if they don’t know already) what side of the house the sun rises on and try to find a space on the floor of a room on that side of the house. I recommend you should plan to spend some time in the morning in that space. Whether that is simply where you do the morning feed or if it’s possible to get some time to do some meditation or yoga there, then that’s awesome!
Grounding is also proven to be a great healer (emotionally and physically) so I recommend when the kids are outside playing that you head out for a few minutes, kick off your shoes and feel the grass and dirt below your feet. Or maybe take the baby outside into the shade in the morning or the afternoon (avoiding the middle of the day with its high UV rating) and watch the clouds and trees move in the breeze. It’s very calming for everyone!
What to do now: figure out what room has the best morning sun and plan to spend some mornings in there and then get outside in the afternoons.
It can be hard to not lose yourself during the first year of parenthood. Suddenly your entire life is based around this tiny being and their needs are coming before most other needs in the household. So, I want you to think about what (and who) you want to stay connected to during this time so that your life will significantly change. Don’t just say ‘everyone’ and roll your eyes at me, make a short list of your closest friends and family that you want to continue spending time with after most of your time is suddenly spent with your little bundle of joy.
The first challenge is to stay connected to your partner. The first year of parenthood can be very hard on marriage and partnerships. Responsibilities change and priorities change, income usually decreases and time seems to disappear. All these pressures wear you both down over time. The first thing I always counsel my clients to do is to negotiate a time to sit down with their partner every week to do whatever it is you need to do. Do you need to plan your week out? Do you need to plan dinners? Do you need to discuss how to introduce solids? Do you need to negotiate some time out for both of you – separately and together? It doesn’t matter what you talk about, as long as you have made the time for this talk to happen.
The second challenge is adult connection. You will spend most days doing baby talk and doing everything for this little bundle of joy, and as much as you love this, you need some adult connection. As a new mum I strongly recommend you connect with other new mums. Especially if this is your first child it is so important for you to have close contact with other people going through similar experiences at the same time as you. If you’re lucky enough to have friends that are having babies at the same time as you that is awesome, but most of us will find a mother’s group in a variety of ways but the thing that binds us is that our babies are similar in age. It’s great for your mental health to have someone that can empathise with you because they are also going through something similar. You can learn from each other and commiserate with each other.
What to do now: plan some regular time out with your partner and also make plans with your adult friends such as dinners out without the kids.
Do what works for you
Every baby is different and every parent is different. What worked for one mum is not necessarily going to work for another. What works for you may not necessarily work for your friend and her baby a week later. It takes a village to raise a child – how often have you heard that? Pretty much these days we are on our own for the majority of the time (more so than generations before us) but we have access to so much more information. We can google anything we want at any time and have a myriad of answers available to us within seconds. Of course, this had advantages and disadvantages. You still have to chose which suggestion from google to try out with your baby.
You will most likely know many women who have had babies before you. They will definitely give you advice from time to time – this is not a negative thing at all. We all just want to help each other. We want to pass on something we learnt in the chance that it could help you and save you time and sanity. Listen politely to them, ask them questions about what they tried and what worked and what didn’t. Learn from them. Then apply their advice to your baby and your life in whatever way you like. Take it. Leave it. Use parts of it. Try some of it and ditch it when it doesn’t work. Some of the advice will be gold! Some of it will help make your life so much easier and you and your baby so much happier. One last note on this – do not compare yourself to other mums based on advice. Just because something worked for them and it doesn’t work for you, this doesn’t mean anything about you at all – don’t make it mean something that it doesn’t. Every baby is unique and should be treated as such.
What to do now: when you encounter your next concern with your baby, share it with your mum friends and ask their advice. Listen to it and make your own decision what you want to try with your baby.
When someone offers to do something for you, say yes. This tip is as simple as that. It’s so natural for us to think and say “I can do that later” and we don’t want other people to come and visit and feel like we aren’t coping and need help. As mums we find it so easy to become martyrs and we’d rather sacrifice our energy levels and mental health rather than simply saying yes. It sounds silly when I say it like that doesn’t it, but in the moment we say “no, that’s alright, I can do that”. Yes, of course you can do that, but someone else is offering to help you, so please say yes. They could hold the baby while you shower, they could sit on the floor and talk and play with the baby while you prep dinner, they could bring the washing in for you while you do the next feed etc. The list is endless and most jobs will only take them 5 mins and they will feel so much better for being able to really help you.
What to do now: When someone next visits you and asks what they can do, have something ready in your head to answer them with.
How can I help?
I work with overwhelmed mums all the time with the goal to help their lives become easier and more enjoyable. I help them through online courses, one-on-one coaching, group consultations (perfect for mother’s groups) and group retreats. There is a service to suit everyones budget and requirements. Don’t hesitate to contact me via email to ask about any of these options at email@example.com.