As a new mother, I was stuck in a rut for the longest time. I was absolutely clueless as to how to take care of a baby, and I spent my days with unwashed hair in spit-soaked grubby pyjamas. Most days were filled with mundane tasks – changing leaky diapers, getting projectile-vomited on, pacifying a crying baby who wouldn’t stop no matter what I did – and whilst I love my firstborn, it was hard not to feel isolated and lonely.
Many a time, I felt like I had lost my identity. I didn’t have time to do the things that I used to enjoy doing and it was no surprise that I got unhappy very quickly during the tougher times. It does not make much sense but I even felt resentful towards my husband at times, who had opportunities to leave for work, do something for himself, and even get distraction-free lunch and toilet breaks however transient they were.
Setting Aside ‘Me’ Time
My husband picked up on my feelings and urged me to spend some time on myself, but it was difficult to free up pockets of time in the first place, and of course, I had to get over the mental hurdle of leaving my baby behind. After my daughter slept through the night, we did manage to go out for a few dinner dates whenever we could get someone in the family to babysit.
I did feel guilty about indulging my own needs initially; it felt wrong and counter-intuitive to what I thought was parenthood, but things started looking up after that. Those stolen moments away rejuvenated my weary being and it was lovely to connect with my husband and engage in conversations that do not revolve around poop, breastfeeding and sleep. It also took me nineteen months before I really did something for myself; my daughter had just started pre-school then, and suddenly, I had six hours of me-time every week.
At first, I didn’t quite know what to do with all that time, but a few weeks later, I found myself doing what I loved most before I became a mother. I was finally baking again. The excitement of coming up with and tweaking new recipes, the familiarity of churning out old favourites, the satisfaction of making people happy with my bakes, made me feel whole.
Whilst I missed my daughter whenever she was in school making memories without me, I looked forward to those few hours of baking and to pick her up from school after that, so we could spend the afternoons together. I became a much happier person, and that changed how I parent my daughter and how she reacts to me.
Doing The Things You Love
I have not looked back since. Every now and then, I make time to do the things I love – writing, honing my photography skills, baking, cooking – because I know I need that occasional dose of chicken soup to nourish my soul. The sessions may be short and far and few between, but they are more than enough to have me bounce back into the parenting game with a more positive attitude and that rubs off on my daughter.
I am far less grumpy, more enthusiastic and patient when the going gets tough. The activities that I engage in help broaden my perspectives on how else to teach my daughter too. Having been on both sides of the fence, head-down-elbow-deep in caregiving on one hand and occasionally getting up for air on the other, I cannot begin to emphasise how important it is to look after one’s emotional well-being before one is well-poised to take care of others.
Even if it means taking ten minutes to read your favourite novel over a cup of tea, or quickly running out to the grocery store to stock up on those crisps you have been craving for, it really does make a difference to how you feel as a person, and ultimately, the vibes that your child picks up on when he or she is around you.
So if you ‘gave up’ a hobby or something you enjoyed after becoming a mother, reunite with your it again and set aside some personal time. The results might just surprise you.
By Rachel Tan.
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine.
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To read the rest of our First-time Mum series, click on the articles below.
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