Motherhood. A life changing experience. There is very little that anyone can say or do to actually help you realize the true meaning of that word. People can tell you about the lack of sleep, the midnight feedings, the constant worry. They can tell you about the joy you feel when your child takes his or her first steps, says his or her first words, or goes off to school for the first time. However, nothing can prepare you for actually living it. These significant changes in your life can push you to begin to lose your identity; you can begin to feel like a milk factory at the beck and call of a person no bigger than your forearm. Loneliness, disconnectedness, depression, and a loss of self may begin to work on your psyche. During this time it is imperative for you to grasp at opportunities to maintain your identity and ward off the isolation that you can feel when life has completely changed.

Depend on Your Friends

The first few weeks and months home with your new baby are wonderful, but difficult. It is no time to be too proud to ask for help. Invite your friends over to be with you and help you fold laundry while talking over a cup of tea. Take turns walking a cranky baby back and forth, or have them coo at the baby while you steal a shower and actually comb your hair. Ask your friends if they can make extra of whatever they are having for dinner on a given night and bring it over so you don’t have to cook. There are so many little ways that your friends can help you and would be glad to do so.

Realize too, that, life is changed. Maintain friendships that you had before the baby, but also seek out mothers that may be experiencing (or had recently experienced) the same things that you are. Commiserating and sharing the joys of motherhood with other mothers can be a very powerful bond, and you may learn something in the process. If you don’t know any other recent mothers, try Le Leche League, Meetup.com or Yahoo groups. There are TONS of playgroups, moms groups, and parent groups out there.

Rekindle Your Love Life

Stress, sleep deprivation, and a change in roles can wreak havoc on your love life. Suddenly, a precious child depends on you every moment of the day. Many couples are not quite prepared to how this might this change their love life. Communication of your needs is important during this time. It is really hard for mothers not to feel totally drained and overwhelmed by the end of the day. Rekindling your love life begins with taking care of yourself. If you need time, even just 10 minutes, to refresh yourself, communicate that need to your partner. Ask gently if they can take the baby for a short period so that you can recuperate. Once you are able to step away, you will feel refreshed enough to connect with your partner like you once did.

Make time for each other a priority. Mark it on your calendar, in ink. Schedule a date night and keep it, even if that means putting the baby to bed, and curling up on the floor with a blanket, movie, and take-out. Romance need not be flowers and fancy dinners. You will find that can connect with your partner on a whole new level now that you share a child. You can accomplish this through conversation (of something other than the baby, finances or work) and through quality time spent together.

Start A Babysitting Coop

Parents always need a good babysitter, and preferably one that does not break the bank. Taking time away from your child so that you can go grocery shopping, take a class, go on a date with your partner or see a friend is good for both you and the baby. So, why not use people that you already trust: family, friends, and neighbors with children. Here is how it works. Get together with a group of friends that have children. Each of you agrees that you will be willing to babysit (and then actually do it) for their child/children. In return, you also will be able to have someone babysit for your child/children. No money actually needs to be paid, because you are all agreeing to take turns with the sitting. In order for this situation to work, however, you need a reliable and trustworthy group of friends. Make sure that the coop is not compromised by people who, for whatever reason, are unable to keep their end of the deal.

ACTUALLY Take Time for Yourself

Many will tell you that you need to take time for yourself so that you can be an effective mother. But what does that actually mean? Sometimes it is easier said than done. Know that taking time for yourself DOES NOT mean that you take the time to catch up on laundry, dishes, dusting or moping. It means to actually take time for you. It is not a selfish thing. Your baby and family need a rested and a fresh you. So, how do you do it? Here are some real tips to get you through.

1.)Make time to take a shower. This statement may seem funny, but sometimes, as you may know, we can forget when the last time we actually took a shower (particularly if we have a colicky baby). If you have to, put the baby in a bouncer in the bathroom with you. But take your time in there. Use some fantastic body wash and shampoo. Shave your legs. Allow yourself to feel clean and refreshed.

2.)Exercise. Get moving. It will recharge your body. Put the baby in a swing, put on a exercise video, and get moving. Or, join a stroller fitness class where you can get together with other moms and their babies and exercise together.

3.)Get on a schedule with your partner. Each of you has your designated “Night Out”. This night out could mean going to the bookstore and looking at the new bestsellers, taking an class, or visiting a friend. However, if you actually have a schedule that you and your partner agree on you will be more likely to actually take time away.

4.)Take turns with your partner sleeping in on the weekends. My husband and I have an unspoken agreement. On the weekends, each of us gets a chance to sleep in and/or take a nap. For example, I get up with the kids on Saturday morning at the normal time, my husband sleeps in. When he wakes up, he takes over the kids while I go and take a nap. Then we flip-flop on Sunday; he gets up first with the kids then I relieve him later. We each catch up on lost sleep that way, are less cranky at the end of the week, and are able to spend the afternoon as a family, refreshed and revived.

5.)Find a new hobby. Scrapbooking, photography, art, or a sport can help you feel like you are an active, creative person, and not just a diaper changing milk machine.

Motherhood is a wonderful journey, full of joy, trials and tribulations. By taking time for yourself and maintaining your identity, you will be able to maintain your energy needed to be the best mother you can.