I felt as though I wouldn't have a life after the baby came," admits Michelle Lecks Roover, a mother of two in Newton, Mass. At some point during your pregnancy--usually just after you've held your favorite jeans up to your expanded waistline--you've probably thought the same thing. No more lunches with friends, romantic weekend getaways or even time to read a magazine. To be sure, some aspects of your life will change forever at the end of these nine months. But if you can revisit a few of your pre-baby interests, such as relationships, exercise or creative pursuits, you and your child will reap the benefits. "You're a better mother to your kids if you can take care of yourself," says Karen Kleiman, M.S.W., director of The Postpartum Stress Center in Rosemont, Pa. Kleiman advises mothers to integrate one or more pre-baby interests gradually back into their schedules when that's realistic.
Once you agree to nurture yourself as well as your child, you face purely logistical hurdles to getting your life--OK, a new version of it--back. As veteran parents will attest, a little planning and commitment go a long way.
Banish the guilt Many new moms find that guilt gets in the way of rekindling old interests. "Our society holds impossible standards for the 'ideal' mother," Kleiman says. "She's selfless, endlessly patient and devoted, putting her children first to the exclusion of everything else." Given this standard, it's no wonder that taking time out for a jog or a manicure can seem selfish.
But you should carve out a little time for yourself, since you can't keep giving without replenishing the inner well. If you don't participate in activities that make you feel whole, you won't be happy and relaxed enough to fully engage with your child. This, notes Kleiman, can sometimes lead to feelings of resentment, even meltdowns (yours, followed by your baby's).