Health & Development
Kerry Colburn: Turn off the Monitor!
Ah, summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Right? Well, not necessarily for the new moms out there.
If you have a baby or young child (or both!), you may sometimes feel that life will never feel relaxed again. When will the stress start to dissipate? When will you have nothing on your mind? When, when will you get a chance to crack open that new issue of Vanity Fair and put your feet up?
Your life as a new mom may sometimes feel not your own, but rest assured, there are a few seemingly minor adjustments you can make to reduce stress right now. Best of all, each of them is actually within your control (unlike the length of today’s nap).
In honor of summer, please try out at least one of these five stress-busting tips for new moms, culled from both hard-won personal experience and research from my book, How to Have Your Second Child First.
Do you ever stop to wonder how our parents functioned (quite well, actually) without ever using a baby monitor? Give it a try by having a monitor-free week. Trust me, if your baby really needs you, you will hear him; there is simply no need to listen to every nighttime grunt and rustle while you’re trying to get into REM sleep.
And beyond that, if you’re allowing your baby to cry for a period of time, please do not sit and listen to the monitor with your temperature rising. That isn’t helping anyone. So, unless you will truly be out of earshot, like in the backyard, give yourself a much-needed break and turn it off. It’s okay. And you’ll be much more refreshed when it’s actually time to get your baby.
- Learn to say no.
A key parenting survival skill is the ability to decide what’s worth doing and what isn’t. It can be an adjustment to accept that all decisions now involve the needs, wants, and comfort of everyone in the family, but you need to embrace the power of “no” when you need to, and not feel guilty about it.
So whether it’s a small thing, like people who want to come see the baby at an inconvenient time, or a bigger one, like a far-flung wedding, practice saying, “Sorry, we can’t make it this time.” There’s no need to roll out long-winded explanations about nap schedules or ear infections, either. Remember, it doesn’t make you a bore to say “no” to things that just won’t work for you; it makes you a parent. And a less-stressed one at that.
- Start simple and complicate as necessary.
Use this as your mantra as you navigate life with young kids. Many new moms assume that the most complicated or time-consuming technique must be the best thing for their baby, when that is not necessarily the case. In fact, by making certain tasks easier on yourself, you may find yourself with more time and energy to play and interact with your baby. It’s win-win! Some examples of where to start? Offer bottles or food at room temperature, instead of heating them up. Loosen up on sterilizing every little thing. Switch to sponge baths now and then. Shorten the bedtime ritual. Accept that store-bought baby food is fine. You get the idea.
- Find a support system.
There’s a reason for the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” If you don’t know your neighbors or other parents in your community, there’s no better time to reach out. You might start a babysitting swap, trading childcare one morning or evening per week, or just have each other’s numbers to call if you need a half-hour break or some solid advice.
Nowadays, many of us live far from family. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “joiner,” look into PEPS, mom’s groups, or co-op childcare to expand your circle and get some support. There is no better anxiety antidote than knowing you have trusted people to lean on in a pinch.
- Learn to bring the party to you.
There’s nothing like socializing, laughing, and cocktailing with friends to relieve stress and recharge the spirit. (Okay, for some people I suppose it’s exercise … just not so much for me.) But what parent has time?
If the logistics or expense of hiring a babysitter means you’re parked in front of the TV night after night, feeling slightly bitter, it’s time to rethink happy hour. For years, I’ve been having friends over at 8:30 p.m. for late take-out, drinks, or movie nights after the kids are in bed. Another family-friendly fix is a Sunday morning open house: just put out a pot of coffee, some Bailey’s, and a few store-bought pastries, and catch up with friends you haven’t spoken to all month. The key is making it so easy that you’ll actually do it, and not worrying about the house being full of toys, laundry, or dust bunnies. No one cares. What matters to everyone is time spent in good company.
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