New Moms Need to Take Care Of Themselves

woman runningSo now that it's summertime, I've been taking my little fair-haired babies to the park, to the pool and to outdoor dining spots. Of course, I'm vigilant with the sunscreen, shielding their precious baby skin from the dangerous UV rays. But unfortunately, somewhere between all that slathering and umbrella-tilting and wrestling to get their fishermen's hats on, I forgot to put sunscreen on my own skin. Then, I forgot again...and again...and again...and ended up with a pretty vicious burn, the likes of which I haven't seen since Spring Break '96. 

Yes, I know, it's incredibly stupid, especially since my mother has had to have cancerous cells removed from her freckly skin. But at least my babies didn't get burnt, right? Right? Wrong. As my husband pointed out when he saw my raw, red shoulders, when you're a Mom, it's even more important to take care of yourself. And no, being too busy protecting your baby is still no excuse.

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In the years I spent trying to conceive and then the nine months I was pregnant, my body was a temple -- all organic foods and acupuncture and yoga and healthy living. But as soon as I stopped breastfeeding, I went back to my daily Diet Coke habit, my heavily-processed low-calorie ice cream, my white flours and pastas. I've never been one to hit the drive-thrus, luckily, but I'm nowhere near as rigid about the health-value of the foods I eat anymore. Sure, my boys are eating organic fruits and vegetables and meats, but Mama's not.

Hey, I've been busy chasing after two 10-month-olds on-the-move! I've had to baby proof the house, and cook them whole, organic foods, and use BPA-free products and toxin-free lotions, and micro-examine every morsel (potential choking hazard!) that goes into their tiny mouths. I've had to keep my eyes out when they pull themselves up and subsequently plop down on the hardwood floor, often bonking their heads in the process. And there are two of them, people, two of them. So, yeah, maybe I've been a little too busy to put sunblock on, or exercise, or fill up my water bottle instead of, say, just reaching for an accessible can of Diet Coke.

While it seems that most of us new Moms ultimately figure out the need for "me time," we often forget to actually take care of our health. Sure, we'll try to get a break when we can, running out for a manicure or to go shopping or to grab a drink with some friends. But, when's the last time you saw your internist? Have you had your moles checked this year? Seen the dentist? Did you sit down to a wholesome, nutritious lunch today? Did you eat lunch at all? What about breakfast? I don't think I'm the only one who seems to keep pushing my health to the back burner.

And yes, I'm dealing with the consequences. In addition to my sunburn, my back always hurts, my legs are stiff, I'm asleep on the couch by 9:00. Would it be so tough to do some stretches? To exercise more? To reach for an apple instead of a pretzel rod? Even when I do have a babysitter or family here to help, I'd rather just sit and watch reality TV than take a long, rejuvenating walk. I'm tired, man, I'm just tired.

But I don't want to be! I want to be healthy and strong and energetic for my kids. Yes, I want to be able to keep up with them now and give them my best, but I also want to live a long, healthy life for them. I want to be there when they graduate from college and walk down the aisle and have kids of their own. I want to be there for them for as long as I can, and that's not going to happen if I keep slacking on myself like this.

So, Project Mommy has started -- I'm eating healthy, I'm exercising, and I've cut back on the diet sodas and processed junk. Admittedly, it's been a bit of a slow start (and not quite an all-or-nothing endeavour), but hey, we're on the right track. Seeing as how I'm now all healthy (sorta), I feel it's my duty to dole out a bit of encouragement. So here goes: You can take care of your baby and take care of yourself at the same time -- yes, there are enough hours in the day. Need exercise? Take a long walk with the stroller or baby carrier. Need to eat better? Make yourself clean, healthy foods that you can then puree or dice up for your little one. Need to see your doctor? Bring the baby.

Of course, we know all of this and we may tell ourselves that, starting tomorrow, we're going to be better about our health. So why don't we do it? Simple: we don't have the energy. But, what good are you to your family if you're achy and exhausted and always getting sick? You owe it to your baby to be good to yourself.

Have you been slacking on taking care of yourself since having a baby?

Image via Flickr/lululemon athletica

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