We all have long to-do lists that we never seem to get to the end of. Before you become a mother you can forget about it by going out for a night with friends. What happens though, when your list is not only never-ending but inescapable? This is the case for new mothers. The small creature in their charge is constantly needing food, sleep, comfort and the poor mother, exhausted and irritable, feels like she cannot get any respite to take care of her own needs. This feeling of being like a hamster on a wheel with the mind whirring through all the tasks, or fretting about things that can’t be done because of having to hold the baby is overwhelming. Every time I was feeding my baby on the sofa I would notice a book upside down on the bookshelf opposite but kept forgetting it when I got up because of all the tasks I was rushing to do, only to be annoyed by it all over again the next time I felt imprisoned on the sofa by my hungry baby.
Go easy on yourself – It is hard to do but at this point in your life relax and go with the flow. Mindfulness teaches us to be present in the moment, even if that moment is stressful and upsetting. The pushing away of worries only increases them, so really focus on what is happening now. If you are feeding your baby, notice what sounds you can hear, what your baby feels like in your arms, observe all the details of their face or hands. It is important to be more forgiving of yourself and others. Maybe the housework or life-plans slide for a while, but it doesn’t matter in the long term. Take time to sit in the sunshine, or hug your partner. It may feel like an eternity, but the period when your baby is tiny and all-consuming passes quite quickly. So instead of berating yourself on tasks undone, make an ‘achievement’ rather than a to-do list. Note everything you have managed to do for you and baby that day, especially things like changing nappies, washing-up or having a shower. Then you will see what you are truly accomplishing each day.
Other tips • Do a three minute meditation when your baby is asleep. Close your eyes, observe what is happening in your thoughts, feelings and body. Identify and acknowledge it, for example ‘just worrying’, ‘just anger’, then return your focus to your breath. • There are several phone apps to help with mindfulness (Insight Timer) and monitoring feelings. ‘Mappiness’ asks what you are doing and feeling a number of times a day, so you can observe stressful times and manage them better. • Invest in a sling so your baby can be close to you while you do chores. • Write down all the things that cause you resentment: situations, people, even your baby, then shred it.