You know that stereotypical story that permeates our culture’s beliefs about a woman’s health after motherhood? The one that says women “let their health go” after they have a baby. Well, my health was less than stellar before I even got pregnant. But, shortly after the birth of my first baby, I learned something that enabled me to reject that narrative, and dramatically improve my health after becoming a mom.
When my daughter, Alice, was about three months old, I hit a wall. She was nursing for a few minutes, every 30-45 minutes, 24 hours a day. Exhausted and frustrated, I scheduled an appointment with the lactation consultant. “Alice is a grazer,” she explained. “She is gaining weight beautifully, so I’m not worried.”
Reading the confusion on my face, she continued. “It’s actually really healthy that she eats small amounts more frequently. She is already learning to stop eating when she’s full.” All I could think about was my own exhaustion.
I thanked her and hurried out of the office, so I could cry in private. I sat in the parking lot, nursing Alice (of course) and sobbing. After a few deep breaths, I looked at the sweet, chubby babe in my arms, and acknowledged that she was developing healthy habits. I was flooded with compassion…for both of us. I didn’t have all the answers, but as I secured her in her seat and started the car, I was determined to find a way to meet both of our needs.
Over the next year, something amazing happened. I became a master at weaving my own self-care into days filled with the care and nurture of my baby. Instead of neglecting my own health, I improved it – dramatically. In my first year of motherhood, I learned how to take care of my daughter and myself.
So often, we approach self-care (and the care of others) from a place a resentment. We don’t feel great in or about our body, so we go on crash diets or sign up for gym memberships hoping to change how we feel. But that underlying resentment catches up to us, and we fail to implement any lasting change.
That day in the parking lot with my daughter was a turning point, because I stopped resenting our situation. As I began to understand her needs, I was inspired to better understand my own needs. That understanding lead to compassion. And the compassion lead to action.
As parents, we absolutely need to prioritize self-care. But, it should be fueled by compassion. If you feel more resentment toward your body than compassion, well, you just don’t know very much about the amazing machine that is your body. Commit right now to change that. Set an intention to learn, see and understand at least one positive thing about your body everyday.
Don’t ignore your exhaustion, stress or aches and pains. But think of those things as a signal instead of a problem. They are an invitation to ask why. To dig deeper. To understand something about your body’s needs.
When we approach self-care in this way, we have the best chance of implementing lasting change. Whether we are caring for our little people or our own bodies, the journey begins with understanding. Understanding leads to compassion. Compassion leads to action.
If you don’t feel as great in and about your body as you’d like to, Alissa and I would like to invite you to join us for a FREE mini class. We’ll share some simple strategies for better understanding and caring for your body.
Start the journey.
Jennifer Hoffman (eRYT-500, CPT-RES™) is not your average yogi. A public accountant turned yoga instructor and personal trainer, Jen now balances an active practice with her busy life as a writer, healthy moving educator, mother, and wife. She is the host of The Healthy Moving Podcast. And, Jen teaches yoga and Restorative Exercise™ at HealthyMoving.com and relies on her husband Derek to keep their two (soon-to-be three) lovely children off camera through Namaste.