Being a Mom is rewarding and amazing, but it’s also the hardest job that I’ve ever had. When I had my daughter 9 months ago, I assumed that she would be a laid back, happy baby like my now three year old son was–a baby who slept through the night by three months, and rarely cried. Instead my daughter cried through her first 7 months of life, rarely napped for longer than 20 minutes at a time and didn’t particularly like to sleep at night either. Having a rambunctious three year old and an extremely fussy baby made life seem *very* overwhelming at times. As a Mom, regardless of how many children you have and what their ages or temperaments are, there will be times where you feel stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed. Even though we know these times pass eventually, it can sometimes seem impossible to “keep our heads above water”. If you’ve ever felt that drowning feeling, you know what I’m talking about.
During those tough 7 months, I found it hard to stay healthy. I would forget to eat sometimes (which NEVER happens), I would grab the easiest and most convenient food around instead of being careful to eat a balanced meal, I would become dehydrated from forgetting to drink enough water, and I’d trade exercise and sleep in for cleaning my house. Although I did give myself a break and didn’t beat myself up about it (I was in survival mode, after all), I did start to feel run down, impatient, and exhausted. No doubt this stemmed from the craziness that was my life at the time, but it was also a result of not taking care of myself enough. I’ve preached many times that it is very important to take care of yourself as a new Mom, and how proper nutrition is essential for breastfeeding and so on and so forth, but here I was, totally neglecting my own health. What I learned from it though, was that as a second (or third or forth)-time Mom, you need to be creative and take a few short-cuts to stay healthy through the overwhelming times. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way:
Be creative with your activity:
If your baby refuses to nap, strap him or her into a carrier (I used the Ergo Baby), and go for a brisk walk. If you have a toddler or preschooler, get them to either ride their bike or scooter or strap them into the stroller and push them. Set up a mini-circuit in your house where you do squats and lunges, walk stairs and lift weights (or your baby). Buy a second-hand treadmill or elliptical trainer for your home (this is what I did) so that you don’t have to worry about childcare when you go to the gym. Have a dance party in your living room with your kids. I put my baby in the jolly jumper and crank music while my son and I dance. It’s fun and gets the kids moving too. This will also put you in a better mood and boost your energy (any exercise) because activity releases feel-good endorphins in the brain.
Make meals simple:
Think simple and forget fancy when it comes to meals. Start with protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy) and add veggies and/or fruit and a whole grain food. Examples are a suppertime omelette with salsa on toast, French toast with yogurt and berries, or stuffed peppers that take no time at all. Kids love these easy-to-make meals and they take less time to prepare. Here are some of my favourite (and most popular) quick and easy weeknight meals:
Need more? Here are some more quick and easy supper ideas
Cook once, eat twice:
There’s nothing worse than glancing at the clock after a busy day and realizing that it’s almost supper time, but you haven’t had a chance to prepare anything yet. This is why it’s so important to make the most of the meals that you actually do have time to cook. Recycle one part of a meal for something new the following night. For example, if you make tacos one night, use the leftover meat to make taco pizzas or taco salad the next night. If you’re barbecuing chicken one night, barbecue 3 or 4 extra chicken breasts to use in a stir-fry, quesadilla or chicken caesar wrap the next night. I find it’s easiest to recycle the protein (meat, poultry, fish etc) portion of your meal to cut down preparation the next night, but I also often make extra rice or quinoa to use for leftovers as well. Leftover grilled or stir-fried veggies are also great additions to salads.
If there’s one meal that you should not miss, it is breakfast. Research continues to support the fact that eating breakfast boasts many health benefits. It gives us a boost of energy to start our day, it revs up our metabolisms and if we include a good source of protein such as eggs, dairy and/or meat, it can help to decrease the chances of unhealthy snacking later in the day. What’s more, is that breakfast eaters (both adults and kids) tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers. This could be due to the fact that our cravings throughout the day are controlled better when we eat a healthy breakfast (including protein), therefore eating less calories overall by the end of the day.
Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go:
If you ever hang out with me in person, you know that I always have my purple water bottle with me at all times. I don’t let it out of my sight. Staying hydrated is really important. More than half of our body is made up of water. Our bodies use water to regulate our body temperature, lubricate our joints and remove waste from our bodies. Every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies need water to function properly. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to sweat more these days, carrying my baby around and chasing after my toddler, so my water needs are higher than normal. If you’re a breastfeeding Mom, your water requirements increase, as well, to keep your milk supply up. Aim for about 2.5 to 3 litres of fluid a day to stay hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink– by that point you are already slightly dehydrated.
Important note: Be sure to book yourself a doctors appointment if that “drowning” feeling doesn’t subside. As important as it is to stay healthy physically, it’s also important to stay healthy emotionally and mentally as a Mom. If you can’t seem to shake the overwhelming feeling or if your mood doesn’t improve, you could be dealing with post-partum depression. Don’t let your health slide- make sure you seek help.