A baby can bring so much joy to a family but at the same time, the lack of sleep while troubleshooting breastfeeding issues and not deciphering the right cry can all take their toll, both physically and mentally. If you’re starting to feel burnout setting in and more than exhausted, I would like to share my list of what helped me stay sane during that first year.
Phone a friend/sister/mother
I wasn’t the first in my friendship group to have a baby. Even then, story after story, advice after advice not one could have prepared me for the life change. Beyond just the physical toll on the body, from swollen hip joints to blocked milk ducts there was the mental strain and baby brain from the lack of sleep. For me, talking through what to do, and sharing anecdotes and advice with someone who was walking in the same shoes or had been there before, helped more than words can describe. While we did not always agree on the answer it warmed our hearts to know we were always ready to share an ear and offer each other a non-judgemental shoulder to lean/whine/cry on.
Meditating / Visualising
I realise this may come across as new age but I discovered I became more meditative during and post my pregnancy. Or maybe it was just me getting older. I reflected on what I was thankful for and what kind of mother I wanted to be, and these moments were captured in my journal. With the challenges of being a first time parent, meditating and visualising allowed me to work through the confusion of differing expert opinions and the ambiguity of what was right. Side note, there never is a right answer. Just what is right for your family.
Finding an activity (or two) just for ourselves, helps in so many ways and ensures we can be in a positive head-space and refreshed for any undertaking. In my case, being active with pilates and walking as well as exploring my creativity with writing and photography put credit in my bank.
(Image by Katharina Jung)
Child care / Help
An old African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child” and while what makes up a village has changed over time the sentiment is still true. As we didn’t have any village around us, we had to enlist help through other means. For us, flying in my mum and mother in law for a month to help were a blessing. After they returned to their own families, we found a nanny who loved our little one as if he was her own. This was our next best thing when there were no vacancies in the child care centres. Then when our nanny returned overseas and a vacancy opened up with a centre where the carers genuinely loved their job, that became our new next best thing. Finding or asking for help does not make you less of a parent, rather if it helps you be present and mindful in amongst all the chaos then it’s well worth it.
Book in date nights
I have saved the best for last, although sadly it does get left last or left out entirely in the first year. In the frenzy of being first time parents and during the biggest learning curve of our lives, we became solely devoted to the needs of one little being. This tip, as we discovered early on, helped keep us on course. We started booking in dates; although not as regularly in the beginning, and took turns planning our evenings. We were able to enjoy meals without rushing and getting indigestion. We had conversations that weren’t about nap times or bowel movements. We took walks in the park, hand in hand. It sounds funny that it had come to booking in dates but it was one way to reconnect and recall the love between the 2 people that created our family in the first place.
Taking stock now, I look back at that time as the hardest and yet wonderfully satisfying 12 months of my life during my little one’s first year of life. These tips helped me achieve the resilience to counter the wonder-weeks, the teething, the many sicknesses and better still; to embrace a perspective that if something wasn’t going right tomorrow was a new day.
If you found this helpful, please share or you’d like to add your own top tip to staying sane, please do.