Looking back I don’t know where this piece of wisdom distilled into my life, but it’s constantly in the back of my mind and it has brought peace and ease into my new role as mother. It’s simple, but “Be Kind to Yourself” is the best advice I received postpartum. At first this little phrase seemed unhelpful. Of course I would be kind to myself, I just had a baby. Not only am I going to be kind to myself, I am going to expect that everyone around me is kind and my husband refills my water every hour. Then life went on and I began to see the wisdom of that little tidbit. Below are three examples of times when I needed to hear this sliver of wisdom.
I sat down on our small love seat with my large Boppy pillow. There is just enough room for the pillow and my husband to share the couch. I cradle Gemma over my belly and onto my boob to eat. I still used one hand to hold her head and keep everything inserted correctly. Gemma was somewhere in the 3-6 week range. This time my left hand was free so I couldn’t easily scan Instagram for the 10th time time and naturally I resorted to the remote. Netflix. As I clicked on the TV I remembered a mom who told me about all the reading she was able to do while she breastfed. With all the re-adjusting, pillows, and hands involved in feeding, reading was the last thing I wanted to attempt, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was wasting time onTV and Instragram when that mom read textbooks. Then remembered the advice, “Be Kind to Yourself.” That piece of advise allowed me to do what was easiest for me in the moment with less guilt.Example 2
It was the 5th day in a row that I hadn’t worked out. How did I get to Thursday without any sort of workout? I ran through a mental list of reasons it was hard – I drove Gemma to and from the nanny everyday, I was working in the office and in the evenings after Gemma was asleep, we had swim before work… it goes on and on – but I reasoned that I could have found 20 minutes for a quick circuit. I told myself that no matter the excuses, if I ever wanted to look or feel normal I need to make sure it happened. Then I stopped myself mid stream of self-lecturing and thought, “Be Kind to Yourself.” I was a new mom, newly back at work and it was ok if working out slipped lower on my priority list.
I see moms all the time who seem to be skinny as can be and I wonder, what’s their secret? I am still waiting to bounce back into all my pre-pregnancy jeans and on Gemma’s 9-month birthday, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Every time I’ve started to compare my body to another moms, or my tummy still spills over my old jeans and I pack them back into the drawer I have to repeat over and over, “Be Kind to Yourself.”
I’ve spent the past 29 years getting to know myself. I knew how much sleep my body needed to keep functioning. I knew what kinds of foods made my body happy and unhappy. I knew how hard to push myself on a project. I knew what kind of BS I could put up with and what would send me over the edge. I knew what limits to set when it came to extreme sports (no black diamonds for me). Then I had a baby and it seemed like all 29 years of getting to know myself were wiped clean and I had to start over.
Oh, you use to run in the morning and go to yoga after work? Not anymore. Oh, you use to go paleo for a week and have a flat stomach again? Ha, not anymore. Oh, you use to sleep 8 hours a night and have full brain functionality? Learn how to run on fewer cylinders. Oh, you use to be able to plan your day and get through a do-to list? You’re baby just ate the to-do list.
Having a baby has changed and expanded nearly every relationship in my life, but my relationship with myself has been the hardest to adjust to. Comparing myself to other people is usually not a good idea, but comparing myself to myself usually leads to constructive goal setting. Now, comparing my mom-self to my pre-baby self is discouraging and I’ve had to re-adjust. This isn’t to say that being a mom is like having a handicap, but many things are different and as I get use to it being kind to myself isn’t always easy.
The advice to “Be Kind to Yourself” has helped me adjust to being a mom more than I thought I needed it. Because it was so useful to me I hope that other moms, or really anybody, will let this small tidbit become part of their life as well.
So please, if you’ve read this far remember to “Be Kind to Yourself!” Your journey should not be compared to anyone else and you deserve the kindness.
*All images from Rachel Steed