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Challenge: WHO Are You?

Taking Care of Me

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Mothers don’t take breaks. That’s the truth you and I accepted as soon as the baby bump looked ready to knock a few pins down. You and baby were and are still a force of nature, but some days, that baby acts like it’s bringing about Ragnarok.

Saying that mothering is hard work is a vast understatement. We say we’ll balance work with home life and be a good example for the kid by nurturing our lives, too. I said it, but as days blended into nights — and I’d wake up at 9 p.m. from a nap thinking I was late for work — I realized I’d slipped up. It wasn’t my fault. It’s what happens when you have a newborn, a toddler or a teenager — kids are demanding rugrats. That’s not their fault.

Your child needs you — every single ounce you can milk from your soul. And it’s constant. As effortless as it is to love this little one, it becomes effortless to not care for oneself. Yes, your baby comes first in your heart and life, but it is possible to give too much of yourself. The result of that burnout, mama, is that you can’t take care of anyone. You can’t enjoy motherhood fully.

Care for Yourself

Why does it have to take becoming pregnant for women to step up and fiercely love their minds, hearts and bodies? When the bun is in the oven, you take your vitamins, exercise within reason, eat healthily and honor your needs, while treating yourself. Where was that lady before?

It makes sense. A baby wakes up all the adulting and survival genes. Your sweet one wakes you up in the most mindful way of all. You take responsibility because that’s what you do, in nature and out of love, and you don’t stop responding to their needs when they’re born — it also means you need to keep responding to your needs and honoring them as much as possible. Don’t let that woman in you go!

How you lead your life after birth still affects them. What lifestyle changes can you make to be more fully there for them and yourself? You matter, too! Start with today. The smallest, consistent acts of caring for yourself add up greatly.

Peace out at the Gym

Hand your baby to your partner, a relative or sitter, and permit yourself to go to the gym. It’s freeing to lift free weights, and you can start small with two sets of ten counts. Work your upper body one day and your lower body on another day. Build up from there. Keep those bones strong!

It’s also easier to work your back by lying down and using two dumb bells to bench press — just remember to keep them even and parallel to your body. You’ll use your thighs to help lift, which works out more muscles than you thought.

You don’t have to leave your kid at home either. Go to baby yoga with your kid, even if they’re a toddler or older. Family yoga classes exist. Your baby will love floating in the air as you lift them up and spend extra time bonding. Besides, those meditative asanas help boost your brain power and improve your short-term memory while raising your energy levels — especially with a lack of sleep.

My kid’s giggles are so sweet and hilarious — she’s flying! She can be a superhero, a ladybug or airplane. I get my exercise in and watching the cuteness develop definitely motivates.

Keep up with Dental Appointments

When you were pregnant, you kept up with your dentist appointments, but your dental health still affects your self-esteem and long-term health. In one survey looking at two job candidates with equal experience, 50 percent picked the one with better teeth. Your smile radiates your inner self, but you may neglect your dental health and feel bad about the results, negatively impacting your self-esteem.

Your mouth is a natural hotbed for bacteria and the major entry point as illness strikes, so of course, your overall health is affected. Gum disease also correlates with risk factors for diabetes and particular cancers. Even if your self-esteem is solid, keep up with those regular dentist visits.

I hate to floss, but I use those single throwaways now, and it’s more bearable. Besides, I’m eliminating a risk factor to make sure I’m around longer.

Your Kid Mirrors You

Kids really are whip-smart from a young age. They remember everything you say and do and will start using that against you. At least, it feels that way when you tell them to drink water, and they stare at your soda like — “Mom, really?” We’re such hypocrites. It’s part of motherhood. Do as I say, not as I do. The problem is that isn’t the natural order of things. Synapses fire developing neurons and thought processes in your kiddo — they naturally mirror everything you do.

They’re learning, and it can be fun to mirror them too, as a mindfulness exercise. Tell your baby you’re going to play the mirror game and blink when they do. Giggle when they do.

Now, mirror your previously pregnant mom self. Well, emulate her. Do the healthy things you hope your child grows into, such as drinking water regularly. Start your day with water together, or milk for them. Eat healthier. Take more breaks. Go for a walk. Floss — ugh — but do it. Your kid is watching, and for them, mirroring isn’t a game. It’s part of their development.

Your Health Is Important

Don’t let yourself become stagnant, or you won’t grow either, mama. Let your previously pregnant self inspire you to keep up that highly motivated level of taking care of yourself.

Why do you think the ancestors had all those mini statues of pregnant women with round bellies and big breasts? Sure, they’re symbols of fertility, but they’re also symbols of health and potential. Don’t let that go for anything. Mothers take breaks, too.

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