Self Care for New Parent Makers

mwmgnb-106My son is two months old today, so I figured this was as good a time as any to get back to blogging. Exceeding even my own expectations, I have sewn a LOT in these two months (posts on that coming later) and have had a lot of conversations about having kids and making.

I’m also reading You’re a F*cking Awesome Mom! in which Leslie Anne Bruce talks a lot about birth, what happens after and, in particular, how difficult the transition to motherhood is difficult for millennial moms. (She also talks about this on Lauren Conrad’s podcast ) I agree with her that parents (moms in particular) now are waiting until much later to have kids and struggling more than previous generations to reconcile our new identities with the productive, professional people we were before.

This is definitely true. It’s extremely hard to go from being someone who gets it done to having your world revolve around feedings and diapers. When you’re a stay at home parent (and especially when you’re taking care of a newborn) you accomplish next to nothing in a day. It’s a major feat if you manage to shower at all. Your daily tasks pretty much consist of feeding, sterilizing, cleaning and doing laundry. Maybe you cook dinner if you are lucky and feeling very ambitious. Everything you do is repetitive and non-permanent. It feels like nothing you do stays done and you never actually get to the end of your cyclical to do list.

Bruce argues that a new mom needs to take time to herself for self care. She is not the only one to say this and I totally agree. What I think she, and most people, get wrong is what self care looks like. As new parents, we’re told to sleep when the baby is sleeping. To take a bath. Get a massage. Get our nails done. While all of these things are nice, none of them really help you feel like your old self.

For me, sewing has been an actual sanity saver. It gives me something to use my brain for. I am able to spend time doing something that isn’t going to get undone and need to be redone in two hours. I’m able to slowly work on something permanent and be able to look at a finished product at the end. When I was on maternity leave with my daughter, I spent a lot of energy making my clothes and blogging. This fulfilled my need to feel like I was working toward something and at the end of my year I was really happy with the time I spent with my daughter and what I accomplished for myself.

mwmgnb-91My advice for new parents and people hoping to have kids and take a good chunk of time off work is to think hard about how they want to use their time off. Yes, parental leave is busy and exhausting but it’s also a year (if you’re lucky!) doing something completely different than your day job and a unique opportunity to spend your time in completely different ways. Try to keep your expectations very low so that you don’t get bummed if you don’t meet lofty goals, but think of things you really enjoy doing and set yourself up to do them. Here are my tips for having a parental leave that leaves you feeling happy with your baby and yourself:

  1. Pick something you are already doing. You need easy wins while dealing with a small child. This is not the time to pick up a complicated hobby you have never done before.
  2. Pick a project that has a tangible, obvious outcome. Knitting, for example, is great because you can literally see your progress inch-by-inch.
  3. Set yourself up before baby arrives, if you can. Once baby is born, getting out of the house is hard and it’s fun to have a project to look forward to when you emerge from the newborn haze with a few minutes to spare.
  4. Set up a space for your project. You need to be able to start working as soon as baby falls asleep (because who knows how long they will sleep for!) and you need to be able to completely clean up in less than 30 seconds because baby is not going to wait for you to clean up before demanding to be fed.
  5. Set realistic goals. While it’s a nice idea to say to yourself “I will make 20 bars of soap for stocking stuffers for Christmas,” but can be extremely stressful to actually execute and very possibly just setting yourself up for failure. For me, the best goal was simply just to sew every day. Some days it was only ten minutes, other days I got to work for a half hour. As long as I got a little bit of sewing in, I felt like I had accomplished something. It’s very surprising how much ten minutes a day accumulates into a full me-made wardrobe.

In conclusion, my two takeaways are that I think creatives and professionals are much more susceptible to struggle with the transition to parenthood and that it’s important to understand what self-care actually means to you. Self-care can mean taking care of your body or your soul, but it can also mean exercising your mind. I also want everyone out there to know that having kids does not have to mean losing yourself and your hobbies. You may just need to be a litter smarter about how you fit it in.

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