April 23, 2024

The Best 4-Word Advice I’ve Received as a New Mom.

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Ever since my son was born, good-hearted folks kept offering me advice.

Most of them told me that I needed to ask for help and to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Some of them assured me that it was just a phase, that they grow up so fast, and that I should enjoy every moment.

As a new mom, their guidance meant the world to me, but to be honest, not everything made sense. I couldn’t sleep when the baby slept and I couldn’t enjoy every moment following the birth of my baby; I was sleep-deprived and dealing with afterpains that exhausted my body.

Although many words are often easier said than done, there are only four that have stuck with me.

I have jumped from postpartum depression right into mom burnout without knowing it. Not only have I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight, I have also shed more pounds than normal because I have been skipping meals. I’ve been too preoccupied with my family and my job that I have forgotten about myself.

When I told my friend that I haven’t been eating well, as a mom herself, she said that burnout is a common experience for many new mothers. Then, with confidence and insistence, she said:

“Elyane, don’t forget about yourself.”

We were talking on the phone during that conversation. When I heard her words, I stopped in my tracks. I mean, not forgetting about ourselves seems like a no-brainer, but the truth is sometimes we do.

I wouldn’t even call it forgetfulness; it’s outright negligence. It’s knowing that we exist without taking the necessary steps to keep on thriving. In fact, we stop living and start surviving. We can hear our breath, but we can’t hear our voice. We stop recognizing the difference between fatigue and rest. It all becomes heavy—too heavy, like our defenseless bodies.

The love that I hold for my son is unparalleled. It’s not close to anything I have ever experienced. And I think because I’ve been too in love with him, I’ve unwillingly stopped caring for myself. Putting myself last has been my involuntary way of expressing my love.

I’ve been filling his cup day in, day out without noticing that mine is empty. Like my mother and her mother and the entire generation of mothers in my family, I have equated unconditional love with self-harm. Not eating, not showering, and relinquishing the things that I love are supposed to make me feel that I’m a good mother.

But, is this what motherhood is about? Is this the example I’m setting for my child? Is motherhood martyrdom? I don’t think so.

Taking better care of myself is the best advice I have ever received as a new mom—and I’m keeping it with me for a long, long time. I’m even shocked that no one—no one—has told me that I don’t need to hurt myself for me to be a good mother. Because the truth is if we lose ourselves, if we’re constantly overwhelmed and frustrated, we won’t be able to raise happy, healthy children.

Parents are the baby’s first teachers. No matter how far our children may travel, they will always, always look up to us. They may not listen to what we have to say, but they will definitely imitate what we do—good or bad.

That said, what example am I setting for my child when I put my own needs last? I’m simply sending him the message that in order to love others, we must lose ourselves in the process. We must become martyrs and celebrate it.

But this is not how I want my son to see me. I want him to know that I love him with all my heart and would do anything for him and that having him has been a gift, a blessing—not something that has brought me to my knees and made me sacrifice myself as a person. I want to show my son the joy that he has brought into my life. I want him to associate parenting with positive feelings so he can grow up and make a family of his own (if he chooses so) without fear or hesitation. And the only way I can do this is through self-love. I can (and should) give him my all without running on empty.

That day, after that call, I asked for help and showered. Yes, I showered. I changed my clothes, I wore my favorite earrings, and I had a decent meal.

You don’t have to be a new parent to remember you. Maybe your job is burning you out—or your relationship. Maybe you’re anxious about a new project or an upcoming trip.

Whatever it is that’s making you a martyr, please know that forgetting about ourselves is detrimental. It is also equally detrimental to our families and friends—including our babies if we’re parents.

So, take the time to do the things that promote your well-being and happiness, even if it’s for five minutes every day—your loved ones will thank you for it.

You deserve it.


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