About 6 months into my daughter’s life, I still felt tired, fried and puffy-eyed, while she thrived, rosy-cheeked, done with colic and ready to explore. She was sleeping through the night, and most nights I was too. We had breast feeding down, most of my anxiety had subsided and I had returned to work part-time. Our little routine seemed iron-clad. So why did I still feel so crappy?
Once a week, my next-door-neighbor and I would hang out between our houses to share a brew after our babies were down for the night. Her youngest was 2, and she seemed to have it so together. I asked her when she got her snap back, and she laughed, responding, “Ummm, ‘snap’? I STILL don’t have it back!” This helped me more than she knew. She had normalized how long it seemed to be taking me to feel like myself again.
You WILL get yourself back, but it’s a gradual process. It’s like coming out of a depression. You don’t just wake up one morning and think, “Phew – glad that’s over! I’m so HAPPY now!” Recovery is a slow reclamation of small joys. You catch yourself singing along to the radio, savoring the smell from the taco truck of onions cooking, catching your image in the mirror and thinking, “Damn, girl!” Bit by bit, snap returns. As your little one begins to develop a sense of herself, you also REgain a sense of yourself.
Here are three practical ways to speed up the process:
- Schedule a Girl’s Night Out. Choose a new restaurant or bar you’ve wanted to try, and get dressed UP. Go out, laugh, relax, and talk about non-parenting things. Be a woman and friend instead of a partner and mommy. A few hours of time with girlfriends, even if only once a month can make a huge difference. Dads/Parenting Partners – do this for yourselves too! You need time away to regroup and remind you of life beyond your baby.
- Schedule a pampering treatment. Get a massage, pedicure or facial – something that relaxes you and helps you feel pretty. Treat yourself to a new outfit that fits and looks gorgeous NOW. There’s a road of fit between maternity and pre-pregnancy clothes. Don’t deprive yourself of new things while your body readjusts post-baby, especially if you’re planning on having more.
- Take note of even the tiniest physical and emotional improvements you feel. Did you get a full night’s sleep, without waking up to check on your sleeping baby? Did you feel the energy to walk a little further with the stroller? Did you double over laughing at a story a friend shared with you? Did you find yourself in the mood for sex with your partner? Good job, Mama. Mark it.
Looking back, the first noticeable reemergence of “me” occurred around my babies reaching 4 months of age. My kids are now 3 and 5, and I still find myself recovering layers of strength and energy. Hang in there. The road back to yourself can take time, but it’s a beautiful one.
Here’s to Sanity and GNO,