When I attended Postpartum Support International's training on Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, one helpful takeaway is the fact that we all go thorough "seasons of giving" and "seasons of receiving". And new moms, without a doubt, are in a season of receiving.
Getting into the mindset of being in a season of receiving is not always easy for women. Often, women in our culture, are socialized to give and to put others' needs ahead of their own. There are both implicit and explicit messages for women, and they often involve putting others' needs first, while ignoring or downplaying your own needs. I talk with many moms who feel guilty when they invest in themselves and their own needs. They feel it is selfish and self-indulgent to take time for themselves. On the other hand, men generally do not have any trouble asking for what they need and getting their needs met. I have also heard of men encouraging their partners to go and do something just for herself, but this suggestion is met with resistance due to the woman’s feelings of guilt. Self-care is not selfish. So banish the guilt, and know that by taking care of you, you are then able to be a better mother and partner.
This shift that self-care is not selfish may not come overnight. Many moms to newborns still feel this pressure and drive to be meeting everyone else's needs, especially with the addition of a new baby with lots of needs. Our culture offers no rituals or "lying in" periods for postpartum women. Instead, new mothers are expected to "lose the baby weight" and bounce back. Though postpartum doulas exist, they are often out of reach financially for many moms or frown upon because mom should be able to "handle it" herself. New mamas, remember you are in the season of receiving. It's okay to decline entertaining guests, leave the dishes in the sink and skip vacuuming. It's okay to ask for help with laundry, house cleaning, and caring for the little one or the other children. Chances are, there are people in your life who are in their own season of giving, who want to help you, and would happily help.
So don't be afraid to ask for help and enter into your season of receiving. Be gentle with yourself and allow your needs to be met and supported by others during this postpartum time. It will go oh so quick, and yes, you will again enter into a season of giving. But until then, allow yourself to receive, mama.
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