Making Space for Yourself When You Become a Mom

Having a baby does not have to mean giving up yourself

by Hara Ntalla, M.S.Ed/CSE, LP, LP

Caring for a new baby is all-consuming – this tiny human, new to the world, looks to you to meet her needs. And instinct tells you to divert all your energy and attention into helping her thrive. Of course, it is critical to meet your child's basic needs of food, shelter, and safety. But from the very beginning of your parenthood journey, I'd like to give you permission to build in space for you and your needs as well.

From day one, not only is it ok for you to acknowledge yourself and recognize your efforts, emotions, and needs, but it's actually beneficial. Creating the mental and physical space to be empathetic toward yourself in these new challenges, and appreciating the aspects of yourself that are unrelated to parenthood are skills that will serve you – and your child – throughout life.

Here's where to start:

Put yourself first. This may seem like unusual advice, but it's absolutely necessary for a new mom. Because when you recharge, she will recharge. When you give yourself permission to continue practice good self care, she will learn to do the same. When you make your well-being a priority, you show her that this is important and necessary for everyone to do. It may sound like magic, but sending unconscious messages to our babies does work.

Take breaks from your baby. Ask your partner or a friend to watch the baby so you can leave the house and have a real break. Go for a walk, read a book at a coffee shop, or treat yourself to a nice solo lunch or dinner. If no one is available, consider hiring a sitter. If those are not options, let your baby play in her crib while you take a bath, listen to your favorite music, read a magazine, or follow a guided meditation on your phone.

Everyone needs space, so do whatever works for you to be apart from your baby, just for a little while. That way, when you reunite, you'll feel relaxed and reenergized. Being physically separate from your baby for short periods of time also helps her realize that she can happily entertain herself. Getting pleasure out of simple things and embracing individual time is so important for both parents and babies.

Enjoy your usual activities with your baby in tow. Whether it's watching an episode of your favorite Netflix series or having coffee with a friend, your baby can keep you company while you do something you enjoyed before becoming a mom. This creates a win-win situation: You benefit from doing something you like, and your baby benefits from your presence. She will sense how happy you are when you take time to do something you enjoy while she is with you. Give her something to play with and walk over to her from time to time to give her a hug and a kiss. Talk to her about how happy you are when you do certain activities.

See these steps as part of healthy parenting. The relationship you build with your baby is not based on being attentive to her every waking moment. It's based on how you meet her basic needs as well as on how you care for yourself with her in mind. Doing both demonstrates the importance of caring for herself as she grows. This emphasis on self-care, independence, and connection is the foundation of healthy relationships, and there's no better time to start than now.

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Hara Ntalla, M.S.Ed/CSE, LP, LP

Hara Ntalla brings an expertise in infant-family mental health and development—as well as depression, anxiety, and grief—to her role as clinical director of Seleni. Prior to her current role, Ms. Ntalla conducted supervision with Seleni's clinical staff since 2015. She has lectured at Brooklyn College’s Early Childhood and Art Education Department for 12 years and worked in the Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education fields as a provider and supervisor for over 15 years.

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