New studies show that 1 in 7 women can experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. Many mothers associate this directly with a lack of identity and individuality.
This makes perfect sense as our sense of identity is made up of our choices - from our relationships to our careers, hobbies, and our lifestyle. These choices drastically change and become secondary when we become new parents. As a result, we might feel “touched out” as our needs for personal and bodily autonomy are not met.
Know that if you are feeling this way (or have felt it in the past), this is a common experience amongst many mothers.
So, how does one go about reclaiming their needs for self-care and self-connection, without feelings of shame or guilt?
1) The first step is to realize that you’re worthy of having your needs for autonomy and personal time.
2) Get clear about what “autonomy” and “me time” mean to you. Ask yourself - if you could divide your time in any way you wanted, with no limits at all, what would that look like and how would that feel for you?
3) Next, communicate your needs for self-care. Express what you need more of to your partner (and possibly your child). This also allows for healthy communication and teaches boundaries. Here is a practical tip: don't be accusatory, but instead focus on “I” statements. For example, I love spending time with you, but I need 30 minutes in the morning for myself.
4) Put a plan in action. Scheduling time for yourself might not feel natural at first. But know that like anything that you prioritize, carving out time for yourself is necessary for your emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
5) And lastly, give yourself and your family time to adjust. Even after communicating your needs and putting an action plan in place, it can take some time to reconnect yourself and re-adjust to a new norm. This is completely normal.
Always check in with yourself along the way and see how you are feeling. Are you more relaxed? Has your mood improved? How is your relationship with your partner? Are you gentler with one another?
And remember to move through this process slowly and gently, and be compassionate to yourself and your partner along the way.