It’s list time.
Truth be told, I love round-up lists. I love to read about what other people have found that they love, whether it’s kitchen gadgets, maternity clothes, skin care products, favorite books… I could go on and on. It’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration, discover new ideas, and has more than once resulted in the perfect gift (for someone else, or for myself). Sometimes the lists are totally aspirational (Goop, anyone?), and sometimes they’re very practical.
I love making round-up lists, too. That was part of the inspiration for this blog, my desire to make my recommendations public after a few months of only offering them to close friends who asked for my advice.
This list, my 10 Must-Haves for New Moms, is the latest one I’ve drawn up. And while I would love to recommend some fancy, expensive things to you, there are very few fancy, expensive things that I have actually tried. Instead, we’ll have to settle for some of my real favorites–some of which are free, or close to it.
“The best things in life are free.”
Some of these 10 Must-Haves for New Moms on this list are totally free, and I offer options to dress them up a bit if you want. But, as much as I love lists and gift-giving and all of that, I also really don’t love rampant consumerism. I especially don’t love rampant consumerism when it comes to the most sacred corners of our lives, namely birth, love, and death. These are the pillars of life, and they come to us in due time, free of charge.
Part of my motivation in making this list is a slight rebellion against the thing I love to read and make so much, the round-up list. Those lists are usually designed to sell things, and while I provide links to some optional add-ons for this list, most can be truly free (or almost free).
I hope you enjoy my recommendations for 10 Must-Haves for New Moms!
10 (Cheap or Free!) Must-Haves for New Moms
Find Your Tribe
As a textbook introvert, I hate hearing this. People? I need people? I don’t particularly yearn for company as a general rule. In fact, you could describe my need for alone time as a medical necessity, because otherwise I will lose my mind. But as a new mother, it became important to me to nurture the connections I have, both where I am and with friends far away. If you’re like me, you will shun playgroups and baby gyms (though if you’re into that, you’ll find it aplenty!) What I’m advocating for is having a core group of friends and family that you can turn to for parenting advice (“Are you still nursing to sleep?” is an example of a text I sent just this morning), and for your non-parenting self (“Have you ever made your own kombucha?” is another text I sent this morning). You may also consider parenting forums as an option for a totally anonymous place to confess parenting woes and victories–it can be very cathartic to talk these things through with strangers. It’s totally free to find your people, to keep in touch, and to grow from them.
What would you choose right now: a manicure, massage, facial? What about acupuncture, rolfing? Pilates or yoga? It’s important to take some time to yourself, and we all know that, but I think it can be hard for new parents (who are suddenly seeing a fair amount of income going to diapers, childcare, etc) to spend money on something so “frivolous.” I know that I tend to do yoga in my living room rather than paying for a class (though that’s less true since I found ClassPass). But it’s important to allow yourself some indulgences that are just yours. This one isn’t free, I know, I know, but it can be cheap: check out local massage schools and beauty schools as a great place to start! I know that I never understood why anyone paid for a manicure–as an introvert, I was much happier doing it myself while watching a great movie. But now that I’m a parent, I understand why one might want to run away to a salon where no one can find you. Today I would pick a massage. In fact, I think I will–it’s almost Mother’s Day, after all.
I’ve written quite a bit about what a game changer it can be to have beautiful, strategic scents drifting through your home, or even on your desk (or car!) It can lift your mood, and make your home a calming space. Again, okay, this one isn’t free, but it also isn’t terribly expensive. One bottle of a nice oil can last me for a year! (Also, okay, that one is for sale, so maybe jump on it). Though I often veer a little on the less expensive end, especially if I can’t agonize over a purchase any longer and just need to replenish already. You can incorporate this indulgence to enhance other things on this list, too, and to put you in the right head space. And since you can gather together your favorite basic scents and make your own blends (and blends can be more expensive) let’s call this one a money-saver! Not free, but worth it.
New Magazine or Book
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best things I did for myself was invest some good (but light) reading. I bought a subscription to Bon Appetit, one of my favorite food magazines. For $5 (yes, five dollars) I got a year subscription. I have a long, long, long list of my favorite food magazines (some more cult than others) which I should write about because it definitely fits my criteria of wellness (good food, good reading!) and motherhood (them babies gotta eat!) Anyway, this simple (and cheap!) investment has brought me hours of joy on Saturday nights. I curl up with a glass of wine, a blanket, and a distracted husband (either with his own reading or a football game or something), and I read and dream. I’ve already made 2 unexpected things from it (here and here). And even though I originally got the subscription to keep me off of screens, I recently discovered, to my horror, that reading it on my iPad mini 4 (I got mine refurbished, like this one) is one of the most delightful sensory experiences I’ve had reading. The design is gorgeous, the interaction seamless, and the money all very well spent.
Going back to work was an adjustment for my family (each time, when each of us had to do it!) and one of the things that eased our transition was the new habit of meal planning and meal prep. We make a list of meals for the week, and spend a few hours on the weekend getting all of our cooking done–in an ideal world. In the real world we sure try. But one of the tools I bought to help aid us in this struggle was this meal meal planner. It helps to visualize the week, assemble a cost-effective grocery list, and it makes the rest of the week so much easier knowing that breakfast lunch and dinner are taken care of. It can also be a way of balancing nutrition: making sure you don’t eat too much of one thing, say, refined carbohydrates by making sure that if spaghetti is for dinner, bagels aren’t for lunch (in an ideal world, because that is literally my week rn). This isn’t just true for parents who work outside of the home, either–this is a great habit for anyone to be in. And if you haven’t heard of this book, check it out!
During the months before giving birth, I gathered around me a lot of talismans. Some were things that I’d either had for a long time, or had acquired ahead of the birth as a way of marking and honoring what I was going through. Some of these items were crystals or rocks, some of these things were pieces of jewelry. For my very first Mother’s Day, which happened to be very soon after giving birth, my husband gave me a ring with our baby’s initial on it. I never take it off, and when I’m typing at work, or putting on lotion, or tying my running shoes, or any other thing I’m doing with my hands, I think of her, and of those early weeks together. (PS I also love this and this for jewelry talismans). This can be as simple as a rock you found somewhere special, or a custom-designed trinket for your home. An idea that I love is a plant for indoors and outdoors that will thrive in the coming years (consider one that corresponds with your baby’s birth month–and also that plants don’t live forever). Having something lovely to connect you to the positive aspects of birth and the postpartum period is a powerful (affordable) gesture to yourself and your growing family.
Finding a phrase that resonates with you during the postpartum period can be invaluable. Having a set phrase, or word, that can help pull you out of any negative thinking, worry, fear, or frustration is a tool for your postpartum anxiety and depression toolbox. Here are some of my favorites:
Everything has its season.
This too shall pass.
I am stronger than I think.
There is happiness here.
And, strangely, this one has helped lately: There are people in the world who would love to have your bad days.
Check out books books like this for more ideas.
A Quiet Space
Finding a corner in your home that you can commit to keeping clutter and chaos free (at least most of the time), somewhere with (ideally) a door that shuts. This will be a place of retreat for you. Bring whatever pleasure you want with you to cultivate the kind of energy you want there. Do you want a place that feels like a guilty pleasure, an indulgence of the kinds of things you spent hours doing before the baby? Then maybe bring your ipad/phone and catch up on gossip surrounding the royal wedding. Do you want it to feel serene, somewhere you can’t be reached by the outside world? Then leave the tech out of it, and bring a book, or a meditation cushion. Set the rules and communicate them to your partner: “I just need twenty minutes” may count as one of my mantras, actually.
One Cheerful Thing
Your life does not need to look Pinterest-worthy. We know this, we hear this, we happily live this, right? Until, if you’re like me, everything else starts crumbling. Then, suddenly, the dishes in the sink or the dust on the bookshelf or the unwashed bathmat all become just one.more.thing that isn’t going well, one.more.thing contributing to the feelings of chaos, or unworthiness, or failure, or whatever extreme thing women tend to internalize from minor flaws. When you’re really feeling overwhelmed is not the time to make a to-do list, or to brainstorm improvements, which I keep learning the hard way, because the to do list of things to fix, clean, replace, find, purchase, cook, etc, becomes pages and pages long. If we’re focusing on the flaws, the flaws are all we see. So, instead of trying to do everything, pick one simple, cheerful thing that you can do brighten things up. Keep fresh flowers in the house, or buy a few houseplants. Even if its temporary, the power of simple touch-ups can really add up.
Okay, it doesn’t have to be rosé. But there are indulgences, perhaps things you loved before becoming pregnant, that you couldn’t do while pregnant (or breastfeeding). There will come a time when you’re ready to integrate them into your life again. Some women pop champagne in the delivery room, others wait until their children are fully weaned, others hate wine and prefer other vices. A good starter list for me to indulge in right away was cured meats, soft cheeses, and runny eggs. The things pregnant, most-rule-abiding women tend to abstain from. Whatever it is for you, when you find a place for it again, enjoy! Yes, even something as minor as eating brie can be a chance to reconnect to your true self, the one you were before you became “mom.”
(PS a good gift idea for me would be this book on wine… let’s call it research).
Consider checking out my ebook, Coping With Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Holistic Guide.
What would you add to this list?