Congratulations on becoming a mother! Your question is very relevant. Thousands of women struggle with work pressure when returning after maternity leave and maintaining a healthy balance for the newborn and all the demands of motherhood! We hear you girl!
Our mothers and grandparents didn’t necessarily have it any easier back in the day, but we can all agree that life, as we know it now, is a totally different ball game. Everybody experiences stress in almost every aspect of life: personal, relationships, economic, political, work, etc. On top of these factors, you now also have to take care and be your best for a newborn baby. This ‘new’ position as mom has also just landed you the best and most important job you will ever do! (Don’t let anyone try and convince you otherwise, not even your company).
The reality is, you are a working mom. Again, CONGRATULATIONS! You have just joined the ranks of what I call the 21st centuries’ SUPER WOMEN! Right out, you need to know that you can do this. South Africa has abundance in super women (just look around in the Cities, seeing all the working moms – some even have a toddler on the back whilst working!) Between me and you, I really think they are actually the one’s that rule the world.
The thing to remember is the importance of Self Care!
Mothers in general, but specially new moms, always think that everybody else; dad, baby and work, come first and only if there is any time left, will she pay attention to her own needs. I see this all the time with my clients. Teaching women to practice self-care FIRTS is one of my biggest joys and challenges.
A useful analogy to consider is the principle that all airlines practice:
“In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks above your seat will deploy, please place the mask first and then assist your child or other passengers”
Airlines use this principle, as it’s the logical and most practical way to safe lives. If the adult takes care to safe herself first, it is more possible to safe the child’s life and therefore both their lives!
4 Suggestions for balancing motherhood and work-life:
1) Stop feeling guilty!
- There is no reason to feel guilty about leaving your baby at home, provided that you feel secure in your choice of caregiver.
- Remember, babies mostly sleep in the first year, so you won’t miss out on too much.
- Focus on quality time with your baby vs quantity of time. This brings me to the 2nd point:
2) Keep yourself as healthy as possible:
- Ditch the junk food! Sugar and highly processed carbohydrates are your enemy – they will rob you of the much needed energy that you will need and want to have for your baby when you return home after work.
- Eat loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, in other words, real food. They are loaded with all the vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep you strong and healthy.
- Keep hydrated. Drink lots of good quality water, especially if you are breast-feeding! Avoid sugary soft drinks, fruit juices, alcohol and caffeinated drinks like black tea and coffee. Instead drink loads of water, rooibos tea and other herbal teas.
- Sleep as much as possible! I hear your thoughts here: ‘yeah, right lady…from what planet are you?’ I am dead serious! Become a master napper – learn the art of napping at every possible moment you can. This leads to the next point:
3) Ask for help!
An African proverb comes to mind: ” It takes a whole village to raise a child.”
- Now is the time to call on all the nieces, cousins, aunties, grandparents and besties to help you. This way someone you trust can give TLC to the baby while you sleep in over the weekend, stand in to help with grocery shopping, do some bulk cooking for the week ahead, do your laundry, etc.
- Get your husband or the father involved. We live in a modern age and being a hands-on dad is super cool and hugely beneficial for the child-father bonding later. Let’s face it; this is one way daddy will definitely build credits to redeem later 🙂
- Be honest at work. Let your superiors know when you are struggling and ask them to consider a shorter workday for a few weeks, or any other concession they are prepared to negotiate. Consider that a family-friendly business is the one to stay at and be loyal to.
4) Make time for yourself.
- This could be just 10 minutes in the morning before anyone wakes up. If you are not going to refuel your own ‘tank’, you will become run down, irritable and have little joy.
- Breath deeply and slowly. By just focusing on breathing deeply into the belly area and then slowly exhaling, you can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and therefore the experience of anxiety.
- Read something inspirational – This can be an article in O-magazine, a parenting book or the wise words of Khalil Gibran, etc.
- Move your body. Go for walks, preferably in nature or in a community park. Go to gym or do some stretches on the mat in your bedroom, etc.
- Do a gratitude journal. Write down every morning just 3 things that you feel grateful for. This will energize you and put a positive spin on your day.
- Meditation has been proven to be an effective antidote for stress, to enhance energy, focus and general well-being.
- Laugh out loud! Laughter is the best medicine and releases us from taking life too seriously.
Cebile, let us know how you are doing. You can do this girl! You too are a super woman and we are proud of you!