Looking after yourself

When your children are young, your time and energy may be nearly all taken up with mothering activities, so you may not have given much thought to doing some rewarding things for yourself. Mothering has its own rewards; we all delight in watching our children's growth and development, but sometimes we forget we need time to ourselves.

Carissa

Whether you are a new mother or an experienced one, it's a simple and enjoyable task to work out what is really important to you, and plan some activities for yourself. Your plans may be fairly simple - getting to know your neighbours, learning a craft, taking up a sport. Other goals may involve a long-term commitment like training for a career, planning and saving for an overseas trip, undertaking a course of study, or improving your fitness. Some things you will be able to manage alongside mothering young children, but others may have to wait until your family is older.

Your time can appear very disorganised when there are little ones in the house. Instead of starting and completing one task at a time, you probably find yourself starting two or three amidst unpredictable interruptions for feeding, soothing, playing, changing nappies, and rocking to sleep. By the end of the day you may look back and wonder just what you've achieved. Don't worry - it's the way all mothers work, at least some of the time.

Think about interests you can pursue:

  • at home when the children are busy or asleep
  • outside home, with the children eg ABA group discussions
  • if you use child-care, either paid or family, or swapping with friends.

There are many little ways you can take care of yourself. Get enough rest. You may not be able to manage a daytime sleep, but try putting on some restful music, sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed, and breathe slowly as you relax for ten minutes. Breastfeeding mothers can feed lying down, and read a book or magazine. When you notice yourself rushing and getting tense, deliberately do things slowly and carefully.

Develop a reasonably quiet, enjoyable activity which takes about half an hour, and try to do it every day.

  • read the paper
  • have a relaxing warm bath or shower
  • a craft activity which can be done in small bits yet builds to a work of art, like patchwork, knitting, painting, needlework and carpentry
  • go to your local library for books and magazines you can read in short bursts, perhaps on family history, travel, short stories, cooking, craft, or biography
  • get to know your neighbourhood with different walks each day
  • sit outdoors or garden while your baby plays under the sprinkler
  • crossword, logic, brainteaser or other puzzles
  • plan the itinerary of your next holiday

"I remember at one stage feeling as if I wasn't achieving anything, so I started a jigsaw puzzle. It took more than a week to complete, but I could see some progress each day and felt a real sense of achievement when I put the last piece in."

How you are feeling affects your whole family. It's important for you to allow yourself some time to relax and look after your own wellbeing. The ABA booklet Breastfeeding: diet, exercise and sex includes sections on stress and relaxation, diet and eating well, breastfeeding and exercise, and strengthening your body, as well as the experiences of mothers in their own words. ABA booklets are available for purchase from Mothers Direct.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed October 2012