By Morgan Myers, LPC-I
Can we all be honest and say, motherhood is not like what we see on social media? With their nowhere-in-sight baby gear and gorgeous white sofas? There is a faulty assumption in our culture that as soon as they have children mothers no longer have needs and they’re totally fine with it! And when they are faced with the choice of their needs or their child’s needs, they will probably choose their child’s needs. This can become a problem when a mother becomes so drained she gets stuck in postpartum depression. They become exhausted, despondent, and unmotivated. The clash of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion creates a storm of difficulty for parents with babies. As the mother becomes more drained in motherhood, the things she needs become further out of reach (i.e. healthy eating, rest, exercise, social time, mental stimulation, connecting with spouse, etc.). It seems impossible to meet her baby’s needs and her own. One of my favorite “homework” assignments for clients with postpartum depression is self-care. This is simply taking time to do something restorative and listen to the inner voice that makes you, you. This helps you have some control during a time when most aspects of your life are determined by the needs of your little one(s) and so much seems out of control.
I do a lot of self-care coaching in my sessions with mothers. I have noticed that many women think self-care = selfish. “Selfish” seems to be a label for pursuing any activity purely for the personal pleasure it brings. The biggest hurdle on the journey toward self-care is quieting the voice inside that says “selfish.” When we fly on an airplane we are all told to put our oxygen masks on first before our children! Mothers have to fill themselves up so they have something to give. As they care for themselves they cultivate their inner identity, energy, confidence, and passion. When they listen to their needs they refill what has been drained in caring for others. In doing this they model for their families what a fulfilling life looks like, and they also show their kids that they are separate, but secure individuals.
So, maybe you are thinking, how in the world do you find time for self-care? It can be so simple. Pour a glass of wine or cup of tea and take a 30-minute bath. When the kids are napping sit down and read a magazine. Go on a date with your significant other. As one of my clients said, hide in the closet (so your kids won’t know) and eat a chocolate! Ha! These are little things, but they lead to bigger changes for you. It gives you breathing room for yourself. When you take the time for yourself you are telling yourself (and your partner and children for that matter) that there is room for your needs, just as there is room for everyone else’s needs!
Here are five tips for self-care:
-Advocate for your needs. Change the thought “I’m selfish” to “I care for myself.”
-Make a plan. Think of hiring a sitter, put it on the calendar, budget for it, and don’t flake out!
-Care for yourself at regular intervals. If you wait till you are desperate, you waited too long!
-Don’t apologize for loving yourself and let go of the guilt!
-Incorporate your support system if possible. Research shows that a support system is an extremely important factor in reducing the impact of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression has an onset within a month of having a baby and can continue for up to 18 months. If you identify with the symptoms below and you wonder if you’re dealing with postpartum depression, reach out to your therapist or doctor. You may need a course of treatment recommended by a professional.
Symptoms of depression:
Morgan Myers is an LPC-intern who works for Hope Child & Family Center of Texas www.hopecentertx.com as a child, adolescent, and adult therapist. She was trained in play therapy and has experience with all ages and issues. She enjoys utilizing play therapy to help little ones and parent coaching to help the whole family. Morgan is married to an Anglican priest and has two girls, 10-month old Rowan and 4-year old Eleanor. Postpartum depression became a real interest after her personal experience with it. She is currently holding a weekly postpartum support group, for details click here: https://goo.gl/forms/kv9dHNj8NEHRHFPI2