April 10, 2019

I crashed on our bed as soon as we got settled from the hospital with our baby. Guilt started trickling in as I snuggled into my comforter: "There’s so much to get done, Sinclair. You don’t get a break."

I thought back to the cautions and warnings from all the veteran parents we’d met the past month. They told me about the sleepless nights, endless carpools, and never feeling like we’d have enough money again. What no one mentioned, though, was the importance of our own personal self-care as first-time parents. It was as if fatigue was a badge of honor; a badge I didn’t feel proud at all to wear.

What none of the veteran parents mentioned: the importance of our own personal self-care as first-time parents.

It's been three months, and Isabella Grace is growing entirely too fast. I’m slowly becoming an expert at changing diapers at 5 a.m., and mommy is rocking the breastfeeding game.

But a recent trip to my doctor’s office was sobering.

The message: I’m dehydrated, my blood pressure is up, and I need to make some changes.

I’ve been down this road before. In 2016, the doctor told me the same thing, but I had a different WHY then. Now my WHY is my family. I want to be healthier for them and feel less cranky and grouchy all the time.

I realized I needed to get back to a self-care practice—but in a modified, shortened way for my new life as a parent.

Here are my new self-care rules as a first-time parent:

1. Run errands IRL rather than always ordering online.

We love Amazon just like the next person, but I’m noticing that nothing replaces parking far from the grocery store, walking the aisles, and getting some much needed movement and fresh air.

2. Be honest with your friends and family.

It’s so tempting to text back: “Baby and mommy are good. All is well.” Now, that is necessary for certain relationships, but it’s been so helpful to have the vent sesh I need to have with a close friend about how things are really going.

I’m still working on not feeling guilty about complaining, but it’s healthy to vent, especially to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through.

3. Set up a system for yourself.

I got this tip from productivity expert, James Clear. It’s an when/then sequence. For example, when I get out of bed in the morning, then I do 5 pushups no matter what. By the end of the week, I’ll have done 25-35 pushups.

What will your system be? Remember, when you (insert action you take every day here), then you will (insert self-care related action you want to take).

4. Say no to things that don’t light you up.

I had to take a hard look at my calendar a week ago. Too much was happening, and I’d overscheduled myself as a new parent. But, instead of just cancelling appointments and meet ups, I looked at my calendar and asked: What events light me up?

If it didn’t light me up, I sent the email asking to reschedule. Then, I had much more space to parent, practice self-care, and just be.

5. Set super small goals you can hit every time.

If you’re like me, you’re an overachiever that really goes for it. But, all that changes when we have even less time for ourselves. I now try to aim for just something rather than everything.

What that looks like: Instead of expecting myself to, say, spend an hour meditating, I've started taking pride in even just the few minutes I steal to ground myself. It’s been great to just close my eyes and visualize myself in a calming place.

Parents' wellbeing often gets lost in the dance (or marathon, if you will) of caring for a newborn, but the truth is: You can’t pour from an empty cup. By you taking better care of yourself, you’re setting the tone for what personal wellness looks like for your child. And that’s awesome parenting in my book!

Read next: Confessions From a Mom Who Looks Like She Has It All Together