Don't laugh! It's totally possible with these tips.
You know about the three trimesters of pregnancy—obviously. And maybe you've heard people refer to a fourth trimester, aka the emotional weeks immediately following birth. Now, writer Lauren Smith Brody is helping new moms tackle what she's calling the "fifth trimester," when maternity leave ends and the world beyond the nursery, diapers, and a messy house comes into focus.
In her new book, aptly titled The Fifth Trimester, Brody shares her no-BS guide to help moms, particularly new moms, cope with all the demands of the real world after a baby enters the picture—like how the hell do you return to work, take care of another life, and somehow carve out time in the day for, you know, yourself?
You might be thinking there's no such thing as "me time" once you become a mom. But Brody begs to differ. In fact, she says it's the very thing that can help you be a better mother, partner, and coworker. The former magazine editor and mother of two says that making sure you've taken care of yourself (yes, as well as baby, spouse, and deadlines) is not going to be easy. It's not going to look just like it did before motherhood. But it's doable, and you should make it a priority now before long-term dissatisfaction sets it.
Here, we share some of the tips from Brody to make the most of your precious and important "me time." (And while you're at it, here's why you should stop stressing about your work-life balance.)
1. Understand what "me time" really means.
So, you know you need to prioritize self-care, but what exactly is that and how do you accomplish it? Brody says that an easy way to determine exactly how you should spend this precious time is to think about what makes you feel the happiest and most like you. That can mean shopping for your baby, running errands, volunteering, or even sex. How you choose to define your alone time is up to you. Just get in the habit of it early on in your baby's life.
If you're worried about the word "alone" (HA! The only alone time new moms usually get is the five-minute shower they might have time for) Brody says that you should always have some backup help, whether that means daddy, daycare, or a trustworthy friend. You can't do everything at the same time, which leads into the next tip.
2. Remember, you can't do everything at once.
You're a mom to a newborn. You're human and you're going to feel overwhelmed. Couple that with getting ready to go back to work where there are deadlines and bosses and lots of people who don't have a clue what you're going through, and your stress level could go through the roof. (If you're successfully functioning throughout the day, sending emails, researching projects, cooking dinner, feeding the baby, and finding time/energy to have sex with your partner, then kudos because you're officially a supermom.) For the rest of you, Brody says, just pause.
You can't do everything at once or be everything to everyone at once. It's about what you can do. That's where a caregiver, otherwise known as your significant other, mom, sister, friend, or trusted babysitter, can come in and pick up the pieces. Don't be afraid to ask your spouse for more help, as Brody says you're not asking them as if they are your assistant. You are asking them to be your partner on this crazy journey, and doing so will ultimately help each of you take care of yourselves.
3. Spend time with old and new friends.
While researching other moms for her book, Brody found that one of the most significant factors that helped women adjust to motherhood was having satisfying friendships. Good friends, especially those you can connect and relate to, help improve a new mother's mental health by "increasing their sense of self-efficacy and providing reassurance that their babies are developing normally," writes Brody. Making new connections, particularly with other new moms, is beneficial as well. This is not the time to be shy. Check for local new parent discussion groups in the area—at your pediatrician's office, your local baby store, postnatal yoga class, or even by just searching on Facebook. If you all can relate, bonding can really benefit you and help you learn new things about motherhood. It can even be a way of networking and expanding your career in the future!
Maintaining your old friendships is just as important, so don't forget about your childhood buddy and your best friend who are nowhere near ready to have children. When you a have a moment to spare, like while you're riding the train to and from work, reach out to them to keep your connection strong. Better yet, call the babysitter and schedule a girls' night out. (Here's more on why you should be holding on to that BFF of yours.)
4. Your commute is a secret weapon.
New mom or not, getting stuck behind a line of traffic or on a stalled train on your way into the office is the worst. You could be doing so many other more productive things with that time. But Brody says to look at the standstill with a different perspective—as a time to do a little self-care because hey, there's nothing else you can do. They're working all day and parenting around the clock while attempting to function on minimal hours of sleep. While waiting in traffic, indulge in a healthy snack, listen to music, or apply a hand cream with a lovely scent—do something that targets your five senses for the perfect way to trick your nervous system into chilling out. You could also use downtime sitting in the train to catch up with friends. And here's a bonus for women who are lucky to live within walking distance of their destination. Use that to your benefit and get in some exercise. One creative mom who Brody highlights in the book asks her babysitter to bring her baby to the office, so they can walk with the stroller back home at the end of the day. (Here's why working out is beneficial to your mental health.)
5. Take advantage of vacation time.
If you have vacation time, take it. Booking a trip to Bali might be unrealistic, but an extended afternoon at a spa shouldn't be. Call the sitter and don't stress. (Here's why taking time off is good for your health.)