When it comes to your pregnancy and your baby, you’re going to be on the receiving end of an obnoxious amount of advice. You’ll hear everything from the mundane and expected—like, “enjoy every minute,” “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “you can’t spoil a newborn”—to the more intrusive and mildly aggressive—like, “breast is best,” “your baby eats what you eat” and “never let a baby cry it out.”
I’m the first one to tell you, don’t listen to any of it. Your journey is your journey, and the only person who knows what’s best for your baby is you!
So, naturally, I’m now about to give you some unsolicited advice…but unlike all the others, I’m willing to take a chance you haven’t heard this one before. When talking to new and expectant moms, I always tell them the same thing: DITCH YOUR BABY.
It usually comes to them as quite a shock because so much of the advice that new moms receive is all about what is or isn’t in the best interest of the baby. Very rarely do they get advice that’s focused on what they need as new mothers.
The first few months with a newborn are blessed, of course, but they can be tedious, exhausting and mind-numbing, particularly for first-time moms. When I had my daughter in 2014, my transition into new mom life knocked me on my ass (so much so that I wrote a book about it, You Are a F*cking Awesome Mom, due out next year!). It’s crucial for a new mother’s mental health that she’s allowed to escape her newly assumed role.
I’m not talking about wrapping up your newborn in a swaddle and placing him or her outside a fire station. I’m telling you that it’s absolutely critical that a new mom takes time for self-care and a much-needed recharge for her overworked and utterly drained battery. Of course, leaving your baby in the early weeks isn’t always ideal, so a good goal is to plan a getaway for two to three months after your baby has arrived.
While a day away is a wonderful thing and can offer some chicken soup for the mama soul, what a new mother needs most is an overnighter. She needs to sleep without a monitor or a baby attached to her body; she needs to get into bed and drink wine while watching Real Housewives or Bachelor in Paradise. She needs a solid 24 hours to think only about herself and her needs, because since the moment the baby arrived, everything intrinsic to her identity and life has been placed on the backburner.
When my second baby came along, I decided I didn’t want to repeat the experience I had with my daughter, so I made adjustments across the board—including planning a vacation away once my son turned 4 months old. It would give him enough time to adjust to the world, and me enough time to find a postpartum bathing suit.
But around seven weeks, I could feel myself start snapping. I was short-tempered with my family, I hadn’t slept more than three consecutive hours in months and I would go days wearing the same yoga pants. That’s when my girlfriends swooped in and took me on a quick 24-hour getaway to Las Vegas. We didn’t have much time to plan, so I didn’t have much time to freak out. The day before I attempted to cancel because I couldn’t find a single dress that I felt comfortable in, but my best friend quickly dashed my excuse and we made a quick Nordstrom pit stop on the way to the airport. Yes, I was riddled with nerves and anxious about everything that could go wrong, including a list of possible natural disasters as well as the Zombie apocalypse.
But do you know what happened? NOTHING. The baby was fine. Actually, he was so well taken care of that during my first night away, he slept through the night! And do you know who else got a full night’s sleep? Me. I got dressed up, I had adult conversation, I drank champagne and wore high heels. It was a brief glimpse into my pre-baby world, and I felt like someone other than mama for a few moments. And when I landed back the next day, I couldn’t get home to my baby fast enough. I was thrilled to be with him and found myself more relaxed and more enjoying of our time together (even his two middle of the night wake-ups the very next night).
Look, it’s not easy. I get it. And don’t even bother listing off the million reasons why it’s IMPOSSIBLE for you to get away, because I’ve probably used each and every one.
“I don’t have childcare.”
You have people. I know you do. Ask your partner, your parents or a friend if they could sub in for you for a night. Even people with full-time jobs get a day off every once in a while, and so should you! It’s not easy to trust someone else with your baby, but you have to rest assured that they love your little person and will make sure he or she is safe.
“My baby won’t take a bottle.”
Because he or she hasn’t had to yet. Yes, nursing is easier and babies develop a hard-fought preference, but I promise you that having a mom who is refreshed, recharged and relaxed will be more beneficial for your baby than having to suffer a bottle for a day. The idea is to plan with enough warning so you can start to prepare for the boob-to-bottle transition (it’s not easy, I know), and once you do, you’ll find the freedom exhilarating.
I’m not saying go to Paris—find a cute little hotel or bed & breakfast that’s within driving distance. Work with what you’ve got. Bottom line: Your mental health is worth it.
In the end, I guess this advice is for the baby as much as it is for the mom—because the best thing you can do for your child is to be the best YOU you can be.
This post first appeared on The Bump in September 2018.