How to Take ‘Me Time’ with a Toddler + One on the Way

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Caring for a toddler can be challenging, add the exhaustion and discomfort of another pregnancy, and the stress can be compounded.

We already know how important self-care is important for parents. A focus on personal needs can help keep us physically and mentally fit while decreasing stress. Even those of us who have included self-care into our daily routines often abandon good habits once we become moms. While you may think that moms are supposed to sacrifice their time for their children, it’s simply not healthy. In fact, self-care can actually make you a better parent, and even more engaged with your little ones.

I totally get it – it may be difficult, or shall I dare to say impossible, to carve out one uninterrupted hour to decompress while caring for a toddler. The trick is to be creative and take multiple shorter breaks throughout the day. Self-care is not just about mental relaxation, but also a commitment to practicing healthier habits, such as daily heart-healthy exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep.

Here are some tips that I recommend to my patients:

Get heart-healthy exercise.

Plan to get heart-healthy exercise as you spend time with your toddler. Put your little one in the stroller and walk around the neighborhood, or at a local park. Toddlers often have seemingly limitless amounts of energy, so perhaps encourage her to join you in an activity that gets you both moving. Toss the ball back and forth, or challenge her to race and see who wins.

Make a mom-friendly meal.

Toddlers often make the same dietary choices as us adults. Sometimes they will insist on eating the same things almost daily. And moms often adhere to these same eating choices because “it’s easier” than making two meals. However, it’s okay to plan and prepare meals that are designed for you: full of healthy proteins, vegetables, and fruits. The little one will see those amazing food colors and often choose to enjoy these foods as well. Win-win!

Nap time is for you too, mom.

It’s tempting to use that “free time” to get chores done or start the preparation of the next meal. Don’t; take a nap, too. We need to recharge, and it’s okay. The laundry can wait!  If you have trouble napping during the day, perhaps use this time to read a good book, or write in a journal.

Have conversations about shows other than Paw Patrol.

Of course, moms love to spend time with the little ones watching and talking about the latest episode of “Paw Patrol” or “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” but adult conversation is important. Many times, the only conversation you may have is with your spouse at the end of an exhausting day. Peer-to-peer social interaction is important, so make time to meet up with a friend, or another mom for an early morning or mid-afternoon chat.

But I’m so tired!

Fatigue is common during pregnancy. During the first trimester in particular, the body produces higher levels of the hormone progesterone, which generally creates those feelings of fatigue and sleepiness. However, there are ways to help combat fatigue during pregnancy:

  • Try to get eight to nine hours of sleep daily. Yes, it may be difficult, but this is an important goal to strive for most days.
  • Eat energy-rich foods, including lean protein, heart-healthy carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Get the recommended two and half hours of exercise each week.

Most importantly, take it easy. Slow down. You can decrease the stress of a pregnancy while simultaneously caring for a toddler by reprioritizing yourresponsibilities. During this time, it’s important to acknowledge that you probably aren’t able to handle everything. You may need to delegate some tasks, like housework, and accept help with other obligations at home and at the office. It’s okay—and even healthy—to enlist help or hire someone to watch your child to build in some time for yourself.

It’s important to remember that a mom who is mentally and physically healthy is better able to help and nurture those around her. Take the time to recharge and enjoy this new phase of your growing family.

Thank you to CentraState Medical Center for sponsoring this content. This article was written by Casandra Autry, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained obstetrician/gynecologist on staff at CentraState Medical Center. She can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.

Upcoming events at CentraState Medical Center:

Girls Grow Up
October 18, 7PM – 8:30PM
“They’re growing up so fast” is a sentiment every parent can relate to. We can’t stop the maturation process, but we can help our kids understand and cope with the changes they’re experiencing. Join us for a discussion from our health educator on the physical, social, chemical and emotional changes that will accompany puberty in your daughter. This program is for ages 9-12.
The Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus, 901 West Main Street, Freehold, NJ 07728
Cost: $18 per child, parents are free

Babysitting Clinic
November 3, 10AM – 2PM
Kids, ages 11-16, will learn the skills needed to be a confident babysitter. The four-hour clinic covers safety issues and how to handle emergencies. Childcare, safe play, first aid and CPR will be covered. Kids will become certified in adult, child, and infant CPR.
The Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus, 901 West Main Street, Freehold, NJ 07728
Cost: $40


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About Author

Erika is a yogi, writer, and world traveler. If she's not at the beach or chasing the sunset, she's looking for the best iced coffee she can find. Her favorite NJ spots include The Saint, Island Heights, and Lava Java House.

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