I am so excited to share this blog post with you! I've been chatting with the lovely Louise from More to Mum, Mindset and Life Coach specialising in working with mothers who struggle with guilt and perfectionism. I have followed her page for a long time and love all the wonderful advice she gives to mums. For this post, I sent Louise some burning questions I have about how us mums can take care of ourselves and ditch mum guilt. Make sure you follow Louise's page on Instagram, and check out her website here.
What are your best tips for self-care for new mums?
Self-care doesn’t have to look like it does on Instagram or in someone else’s life. Your self-care
should be guided by your needs including physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social. Some of
those needs will be ongoing and some will vary day to day.
The expectations on mothers in our society are unrealistically high and in many cases unnecessary.
Many mothers feel guilty for wanting, needing and taking time away from their children, or for
prioritising their own needs. This is because our socially constructed ideal of the perfect mother
suggests we should be endlessly self-sacrificing and happy about it. But endless self-sacrificing leads
to resentment, depletion, unhappiness and burnout. The way you approach motherhood needs to
work for you and your baby.
Reduce the demands placed on you as much as possible. Not only do you have a new baby to care
for, but you are also healing and coming to terms with the beginning of one of the most significant
transitions of your life.
It is ok to rest and just be with your baby. It is ok to stay at home. It is ok to ask for and accept help.
Let others take care of you and the house so you can take care of the baby. It is ok to let some things
go and reduce your standards. You don’t have to prove you have bounced back and can carry on as
you used to with a baby on your hip. You and your life have changed.
It’s also important to remember that self-care doesn’t mean that you have to be alone or be the only
one that meets your needs. As humans, we thrive when we are connected and supporting each
other, and sadly, in our society, motherhood is often an isolating and lonely experience. Consider
what sort of connection would feel most supportive to you right now. Messaging a close friend may
be enough today, or you might want a trusted person who will accept you in whatever state they
find you to visit for a chat about how you’re really feeling or to simply be with you as you go about
Ask yourself each day, what do I need today? How can I/we make that happen?
2) Mums are always so busy - how can busy mums create time for themselves?
Unfortunately, many mothers have inadequate support and so it may not be easy to find someone
to care for your child (or children) while you have time to yourself. We need to get creative, be
courageous in asking for help and also honour the season we are in.
Some days, finding 5-10 mins here and there to do something simple such as sit down with a hot cup
of tea, stretch your body, enjoy some stillness and quiet, or breathe in some fresh air may be more
manageable than a longer period of time.
It may feel like you need to get all the chores done before you can attend to yourself. This work
before play mentality is ingrained in many of us! However, the demands of motherhood and life are
never ending, and if we don’t ever prioritise our own needs over other things we will never get to
them. So, practice taking a few minutes for yourself before you launch into chores or other tasks,
even if it feels uncomfortable. Try to do one thing for yourself first as a starting point.
In modern society, mothers are expected to do it all, but this is not realistic. It is ok to ask for and
accept help. It does not mean you are failing, rather it takes strength and courage to realise your
human limitations and create boundaries to protect your energy and wellbeing. We all do better
when we are connected with others who can support us. It is even beneficial for the wellbeing
people providing you with support!
If you are worried someone might refuse your request for help, remember it is ok for people to
create their own boundaries around what they can and can’t manage. It isn’t a reflection on you or
your relationship. Your job is to ask for what you need and it is their job to decide whether they can
manage it. They may be able to help at another time or in a different way.
The high expectations placed on mothers also means that we are often giving lots of energy and
time to things that we think we should be doing but aren’t really that important to us. Are there any
tasks you are doing that you can stop altogether, delegate to someone else, delay or do to a lower
standard so that it is easier or takes less time to complete? By doing any of these things we actually
create time, rather than squeezing more into the same number of hours in the day.
Then, if you are ready for some longer stretches of time to yourself, planning ahead can be very
beneficial. Don’t wait for an opportunity to arise, because there will always be something that needs
your attention. Commit to it like you would commit to an appointment for your child, only this is an
appointment with yourself!
3) How should mums deal with the mental load all the things we have to do?
Mothers often end up carrying the majority of the mental load – the invisible labour involved in
managing a household and family. It’s easy to recognise the visible tasks we do but each of those
tasks comes with mental work, including remembering and scheduling things, anticipating needs,
identifying and weighing up options to meet them, making decisions and monitoring progress and
While physical tasks can be delegated more easily, women tend to retain the mental load. It requires
a lot of energy and attention and can lead to feelings of anger, frustration and resentment.
To reduce the mental load we need to be released from being the one in charge of knowing what
needs to get done and making sure others are doing their part.
If you have a partner, have an open, honest conversation about what your mental load is and how it
is affecting you (try to avoid blaming). Write a list of all the major visible tasks that need to be done
in your household, and then add all the invisible tasks that go with them. Make the invisible visible.
Work together to come up with a way to divide the tasks between you (it doesn’t have to be 50/50)
and identify where you might need to bring in other people to support you. You could also identify
tasks you want to do together.
Focus on completing tasks. For example, taking the garbage out includes cleaning the bin if needed
and replacing the garbage bag. Buying a present for a loved one may also include buying and writing
in a card, wrapping the present and organising how to get it to the recipient.
Once you’ve decided on the division of labour, trust your partner to do their part. If you criticise
them, insist it is done your way, fix their work or monitor them, they won’t want to keep doing the
task. You may need to accept that things can be done a different way and let them work through any
problems that arise.
You will likely need to revisit the mental load conversation regularly to see how you are both coping,
and also make adjustments as unexpected tasks and different situations come up. Aim to be a united
team, tackling the work together.
4. What are your best tips for keeping ourselves mentally and emotionally healthy after having a baby?
Many mums feel like they are not good enough because they are comparing themselves to the
perfect mum ideal and other people’s expectations of what they should be doing. What really
matters is what’s important to you and your immediate family.
The perfect mum doesn’t exist and the standards we hold mothers to in our society are completely
unrealistic. Be really kind to yourself as you figure out this new stage of your life. Every child is
different and there is no single right way to be a mother. We have to engage in a lot of trial and error
to see what works for us. Expect that there will be challenges, as well as times of more ease and that
things will constantly change.
Social media feeds us a constant stream of rosy pictures of motherhood but we need to remember
that we are comparing the highlights of someone’s life to all the messy details of our own. We will
never win in that sort of comparison. Everyone has messy details but we are unlikely to see most of
them. Be intentional about what you are feeding your mind and unfollow accounts that don’t make
you feel good about yourself.
We don’t become a mother overnight. The beginning of our motherhood journey, is the beginning of
our matrescence – the complete transformation and identity shift that women experience as
mothers. Our values and priorities change, our bodies and brains change, the way we see ourselves
and the way others see us change, our role in the world changes. You may experience some
confusion and disorientation as well as contradictory thoughts and feelings as you navigate this
phase of your life. Know that this is normal and talking with a trusted person or professional can
really help. Journalling is also a great way to process your thoughts and feelings.
Self-compassion is one of the most supportive tools you can have in your toolbox throughout
motherhood. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we
are facing challenges or our own perceived imperfections. We can acknowledge our difficult
thoughts and feelings, and remind ourselves that no one is perfect, that motherhood is challenging
(for everyone) and that we are doing our best. Self-compassion rather than self-criticism will help
you learn and grow and be the mother you want to be.
5) How can friends/family support new mums in their lives?
There is so much focus on how to care for new babies and new mums often don’t receive so much
attention. You can care for a new mum by:
- Noticing her! Ask her how she’s doing. Give her a hug. Look at her like she’s amazing. Tell
her she’s doing a great job. Buy her a gift for herself. Find out what little things bring her joy
and make her feel more human and make those happen.
- Providing practical assistance. New mums are sleep deprived and short on time to meet
their own practical needs. Bring food and coffee. Make the bed. Walk her dog. Load the
dishwasher or hang the washing out. Send groceries or a cleaner. Doorstep deliveries may
be less stressful than in-person visits, but if she’s ready for visitors, don’t require her to look
after you too.
- Letting her do it her way and in her time. Motherhood isn’t easy and she will need to try
things out, change her mind, and try again. Assume she’s doing her absolute best and don’t
expect that she will parent in the same way as you or anyone else. Don’t rush her to the next
stage, but let her be present in the moment. Avoid asking questions such as “are they a good
baby?” or anything that implies there is one right way to do things, because if that isn’t
happening she may feel like a failure.
- Listening without judgement. She may need to talk through her thoughts and feelings and
the best gift you can give her is to help her feel heard. Don’t give advice unless she asks for
it. Don’t compare her situation to yours unless it’s obviously helpful. Just give her your full
attention, acknowledge how she feels and remind her that she’s not alone.
Louise East is a qualified Mindset and Life Coach specialising in working with mothers who struggle with guilt and perfectionism. In doing this, she helps women understand the impacts of the social conditioning of mothers and navigate their matrescence – the complete transformation and identity shift that women experience as they move through motherhood. She works one-on-one with women and also runs online and in-person events, workshops, and women's circles. Louise is mum to an 8-year-old and step-mum to three young adults who were teenagers when she joined their family.
Check out Louise's website: More to Mum.