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Mothering can be work that never seems to end. There are no built-in breaks or time off.

With how much energy it takes physically, emotionally and psychologically, it is no wonder that many moms feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

That’s why my main advice for new moms is to pause and take care of themselves. Self care becomes so difficult to prioritize when you are busy caring for your kids. It can be the very thing that protects you against burnout, improves your feelings about motherhood, enables you to care for your children better and models healthy choices for your children.

Self Care after Pregnancy

One thing I’ve noticed is how well moms take care of themselves while they are pregnant. They know that what they eat, how often they exercise and whether they smoke will all directly affect their baby’s development. However, once their baby is born, many moms stop paying such close attention to their own health because they are paying close attention to their baby.

While this is an understandable reaction, it is important to remember that your child is still affected by healthy choices you make for yourself, even after they are born.

Beyond Health Choices

While trying to eat healthy, getting enough sleep, avoiding excess stress and exercising are all good habits to cultivate, caring for yourself goes beyond these health choices. It is important to give yourself permission to enjoy the things you’ve always enjoyed, even after you’ve become a parent.

Try to avoid making everything you do into a practical tool to serve your family. Allow yourself to do and have things that bring you enjoyment and that exist simply to give you a break from your responsibilities.

For some moms, it may be taking time to bake a treat at the end of the evening. The comforting scent of rising dough in the oven may be what they need to clear their heads.

For others, it may be a hobby or goal that’s important to their self-worth, like painting with watercolors or knitting a blanket.

Taking a break and finding enjoyment in something is important for all people--even busy parents.

Avoid the Guilt Trap

So many moms fall into the trap of feeling like it is selfish to take time to care for themselves. They may consider it selfish to take time and energy away from their family to do something seemingly unnecessary like meditating, spending time with friends or exercising.

However, it isn’t selfish to care for yourself and it’s important for moms to be wary of falling into this guilt trap. Not only will your parenting improve from caring for yourself, but your children will learn how to better care for themselves by watching you.

If you enjoy being active outdoors, it’s likely your children will find this same joy. If you take the time to connect with people who lift you up and encourage you, your children will be more likely to see the value in friendships and social activities. You are always setting an example for your children and they are always learning by imitating you.

All of these choices are connected and will affect your children. The greatest way to nurture your children may be stopping for a moment to nurture yourself.

Katrena Lacey, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Gretna

Dr. Lacey answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Lacey is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She tells us," This specialty allows me to practice like a Family Medicine doctor and treat the whole family - but, I have that additional training in pediatrics and internal medicine." She feels she can make a big difference in the lives of children. She enjoys building relationships with people while helping them live the healthiest and happiest ...

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