Do you ever feel ‘other mummy envy’? When you’re up to your proverbial in crying, clingy baby, dirty washing and dishes, haven’t left the house for days and can’t remember what your partner looks like because he never seems to be home or is asleep when he is, it’s hard not to envy the well-groomed yummy mummies with their immaculate homes, perfectly primped babies and ever-attentive hunky hubbies.
But who and where, exactly, are these women? In your (and advertising executives’) imagination, that’s where!
I have the privilege of visiting lots of new mums and I can assure you the ad-men have got it wrong – new mummies don’t all flit around with perfect make-up, perfect babies, in perfectly spotless homes with every engagement neatly slotted into an organiser (that they can actually find). Nor do they all have perfectly attentive hubbies who wait on them hand and foot and happily take second place to a tiny baby who is (literally) sucking the life out of the once gorgeous woman who used to meet their every need.
There's enormous pressure on mothers to put on a good front and show the world that we are ‘coping’(whatever that means). That’s fine if it helps you feel positive, but it's better to be completely honest with your friends, at least. (And isn’t the measure of a true friend that they accept us warts and all, and offer support without judgement?). It's stressful enough to adjust to being a mother – with little or no tangible evidence that you're doing a great job, no defined job spec and relative isolation from your ‘co-workers’ as you battle through your unpredictable days - without adding to your stress by trying to measure up to the immaculately made-up, beautifully coiffed woman in high heels who says, ‘My husband is an angel’.
So as you trudge through the unfolded washing, trying to find a clean top because your baby has vomited again, remind yourself that behind every yummy mummy you see in public, there's probably an abandoned mess at her home. If it makes you feel better, try to find some honest mums who also admit to living in disorganised chaos. (This may mean you have to ‘fess up’ yourself so they feel safe enough to do the same!) And on days when it feels as though you have absolutely nothing to show for your efforts because your baby has been on a feeding marathon or is extra clingy, remember, you are doing an amazing job – you are creating world peace (by teaching your baby about unconditional love).
Remember too, the mummy mantra for when the going gets tough – ‘this too shall pass’. It will, I promise, all too soon. So please, be kind to yourself and forget the mess for now, look deeply into those big eyes, breathe in that sweet baby smell and enjoy every delicious cuddle. And just in case it really is all too much, and you feel you need a plan to get out of the chaos and back to comfort, check out these new mama survival tips.
Your new mama survival plan
One of the biggest issues for new mothers is managing their day around a newborn. I often hear things like, “I can’t even have a shower because I don’t know how long she'll sleep for” or “It takes so long to get him to sleep that we start cooking dinner at 9pm when he's finally asleep.”
Remind yourself that behind every yummy mummy you see in public, there's probably an abandoned mess at her home
Managing your own energy and learning to multitask are keys to survival in these early days, so here are some quick tips on managing your day with a baby. I'm not advocating a rigid routine, but you can create a gentle rhythm around your baby’s needs:
- Include your baby in your daily tasks. For instance, don’t wait until she's asleep to have your shower; instead, pop her in a rocker in the bathroom. You'll know she's safe and she'll be happy enough listening to the water running and the sound of your voice if you sing or chat while you shower.If you get dressed early in the day, it doesn’t matter if things go ‘pear shaped’ later. You'll at least feel slightly ‘in control’ and can always head out for a walk (with your baby) if you feel overwhelmed by cabin fever or a grumpy baby later.
- Plan your day around your baby’s calm times. If she's more content in the morning, pop her in a pram or sling and do the shopping then, or prepare dinner early so later on if (or when) she has her arsenic hour, you won’t feel so stressed.
- Create a comfortable ‘headquarters’ for feeding and cuddling. You'll be sitting around an awful lot in the first few weeks, so get in a good book and some DVDs. Set up a feeding basket with healthy snacks, your book, phone, water bottle, pen and writing pad. Then, if you feed in different places (inside or out), keep your basket handy - this way, you can see this as a nurturing time for you, instead of becoming restless because you're ‘stuck’ or thinking about all the ‘to dos’ that are waiting. That’s what the pen and pad are for – write lists of ‘action steps’ to do when you have a free moment. Remember though, not to put too many things on your list – there's no worse emotion than disappointment!
For more strategies to help you survive (and enjoy!) your baby’s first year, check out Pinky’s book, Parenting By Heart, and her Parenting By Heart ‘Mummy Mentor’ program.