We’ve all been there. Your baby is teetering on three, maybe four months, you have exactly one week left of maternity leave and you feel….blah. Like you have NO clue how to go beyond being “postpartum” even though your babe’s getting older and you feel like maybe it’s time to settle into being a parent. After all, those work emails aren’t going to answer themselves.
Chill, mama. These expectations you’ve set up for yourself are in large part a product of culture. Did you know in other countries, moms get up to 18 months of paid leave? That means you get to be postpartum for over a year, whereas in the US we’ve taught women that by 12 weeks they should be “adjusted” to motherhood and ready to take on the world. Kind of sounds like a lose/lose, no?
“In the global context, our reentry is really premature,” says Dr. Darby Saxbe, a clinical psychologist and professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California. “Moms have this conflict. We’re pulled by so many different feelings. In some ways we’re not even biologically ready to be back to ourselves. For me it probably took two years.”
So what’s a new mama to do? First, Saxbe recommends recalibrating expectations and being kind to yourself. The transition will not happen overnight. “There’s this narrative of ‘bouncing back’ after baby,” Saxbe says. “Getting back into work or your exercise routine should really happen within years, not months.”
But for many of us, the choice isn’t ours. We have jobs, older children to tend to, and can’t afford to wallow in the haze any longer.
So if you’re looking to get out of the postpartum fog, ask yourself: are you feeling forced to even though you’re not ready? Because if so, we give you permission to quiet that inner voice down. But if you’re genuinely ready to take on life again, here are a few tips for reentry back into the world.
Get Support: “Make sure you have help,” says Saxbe. “This isn’t a transition you can make in a solitary way. It’s normal to need a lot of support.”
Focus On What Gives You Meaning: “Realign your priorities and remind yourself that what is meaningful now make look different than before.”
Realign Your Priorities: “Having kids makes us more oriented towards thinking about the future and the next generation. Maybe you want to focus on the environment or the importance of women in the workplace.”
Remember Your Mental Health: “It sounds impossible but you need to get enough sleep. People struggle so much but focus on your sleep and make it a consistency.”