When my first daughter was born, I was actually surprisingly good at the “self-care” thing. I slept when she slept, didn’t fuss too much about cleaning and laundry and that type of thing and gratefully my husband took over making sure my stepson had lunches packed, breakfast made, and that he was off to school on time and picked up. (In that regard, it was also very helpful that my daughter was born 5 days before school ended, but the same went for camps during the summer.) However, I know that I was in the minority of Western women. It seems we’ve hit a bizarre stage where women are expected to give birth and then return to all the pre-baby responsibilities without missing a beat. This is compounded if you happen to have to return to work before you’ve fully recuperated. With this in mind, I was very interested to read Kirstie Stockx’s new book Self Care for New Mums: A Practical Four-Step Guide for First Time Mothers with the hope that it might be the right book for many mothers to read and embrace. Heck, with my next baby due any time now, it may end up even giving me some new ideas to incorporate as well.
Unfortunately for my expectations, the book is not what the title suggests. The book has very little to do with self-care for new mums at all (one exception being the section on healing the body after birth which was appropriate, but is only a few pages of the entire thing). As such, I couldn’t recommend this book for moms looking for ways to care for themselves after giving birth or even exclusively for new moms – in fact, with the amount of “mini exercises” and the tips included, I actually believe it would be overwhelming and too much for new moms. If I had my way, I’d scrap the title and rename the book entirely. However, the positive is that if you ignore the title and focus on what it is, the book is generally good.
So if not about self-care for new mums, what is this book about? It’s a type of self-help book that focuses on finding oneself and a balance when we can end up stuck in situations that aren’t working for us anymore, especially as moms. There is a “mum” focus in that the tips probably will resonate more with moms than individuals without children and moms more than dads, though I think that anyone could read it and take something from, even if the entire thing doesn’t apply to them (as I found for me). As such, I would say the target audience for this book would be mothers of older infants/toddlers who are feeling stuck with where they are at in their lives. One important caveat is that there’s a certain level of privilege in these suggestions and as such won’t be applicable for all mothers, especially those who have had to return to work early or don’t have help or even those who don’t have a relatively easy-going baby. Although I would have liked to see more diversity in terms of who this book could apply to, I understand that sometimes you just have to write to who you can and hope that later on, more is done for those that don’t meet the criteria you’ve set out.
The book is divided into four main sections: Mind, Body, Organise, and Connect. Right off the bat I’ll say the Organise section was most helpful to me and I found it the one that I would imagine most people who are feeling stuck would most relate to. The breakdown of goals and finding passion is something that can overwhelm us and Kristie does a great job of simplifying things that – in my head at least – aren’t so simple. If this section were expanded and put into a book of its own, I’d probably highly recommend that one as I really felt this was the crux of the issue for many moms who reach a bit of a crisis stage after their baby has moved on from being a baby and they find themselves trying to juggle more and figure out what their goals and plans really are. I especially liked the slower-pace she takes to change because there is nothing more obnoxious than someone telling you that you can “have it all” in two weeks or something equally asinine. Kristie does no such thing, laying out long-term changes that are set to benefit you for years.
The other sections were more hit or miss, especially from a parenting perspective. The Mind section focused on finding one’s core values and as it started here, I was still in the “new mum” mindset and found the discussions on core values and deciding what parent you want to be to be (a) overwhelming for a new mom, and (b) confusing as the idea was to find one’s core values without researching, but then research which seems like it would lead to confirmation bias only (though I’m thrilled to see someone talk about the importance of doing research these days). This was also the “be consistent but flexible” section which seemed odd to me. It seemed like there was an attempt to dish out some parenting advice here, but it wasn’t quite clear and seemed rather contradictory as she promoted being consistent at all costs (a suggestion that makes me cringe a bit) and then be open to being flexible (more realistic). I’m not sure which would win out here, but I’m hoping flexibility.
The Body section was, as mentioned, the closest to the “self-care” bit I expected, but still overshot things. The little bit dedicated to resting the body and sleeping when possible after a new baby was fantastic; however, the later discussions about specific diets and exercise would have sent my “new mum” head spinning as my personal take is that in new first weeks and months, you aim to survive. However, a few months down the line, being aware of how you feel and how food can influence this is important and something many moms can forget about as life takes over and you spend less time caring for your body.
The Connect section was important in terms of reminding moms who may feel lost that it’s okay to have something else outside of being a mom to focus on and that we need to nurture our relationships. In our society, mothering has become a very isolating role and this can hurt a lot of women. Being reminded of how important it is to socialize and develop connections with others is something that shouldn’t be lost on any mom – new or old. However, in line with the ‘hit or miss’ view of the section, I found the focus on “needing” something “more” than “just” being a mom to be part of our problem today.
Let me explain. I was actually really enjoying this entire section until the very end when Kristie shares her own experience of needing something more than being a mom because to only have that is “disempowering”. To be clear, the story is as follows:
Being a mother while also being known for something else is powerful. It builds self-esteem and gives you an easy answer to those dreaded questions: What do you do? And, when are you going back to work? Mothers who aren’t clear on what to say often shy away or even lie about their answer. Not having a clear easy answer to questions like these can wreak havoc on one’s sense of self. When somebody asks me those questions, my go-to answer is ‘I’ve chosen to stay at home with Alice and I’m loving it. I’m also writing a book.’ That generally leads into questions about the book and it becomes an empowering conversation. I could simply answer, ‘I’m a stay at home mom and I’m loving it’, but they will then likely ask me when and if I’m returning to work. This then becomes a disempowering conversation.
Here is my problem: There is NOTHING wrong with being happy and fulfilled being a stay-at-home mom. If someone else doesn’t get that or thinks you need to be doing “more”, it is THEIR problem. Raising and socializing a human being is nothing short of amazing work and it’s a miracle we all manage it, with or without other commitments. Now, if you feel that you don’t have enough or have “lost” yourself, then finding that something else is essential which is why I liked the earlier parts of this section, but if you’re doing it to please others or to make other people feel that you are worthy of having a connection with, then you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.
All in all, the book is good if you can take from it what you need. I wouldn’t recommend it as a book you follow each and every step, and I certainly don’t recommend it until you’ve crossed a threshold in parenting where you feel you can take much of this on. When that stage is will be highly variable and so no mom should put a timeline on it, but suffice it to say that you will probably know when you’ve reached that stage. At that point in time, you may find some good pieces of advice to help you move forward with a better sense of self and a deeper appreciation of who you are and what you want with your life in the long term.
Kirstie Stockx is offering a free copy of her book to one lucky winner, anywhere in the world! If you’re a mom who has hit that “stuck” stage and needs a little boost to get out of it, enter below and you could be one step closer to getting your life onto a track that you are happy and content with, whatever that happens to look like. Her online launch is also approaching, she is co-launching with another author, Cherie Pasion. You can learn more about the event over at: https://www.facebook.com/events/183420748668227/
The following giveaway begins on November 24th at midnight and ends Dec 1st at midnight, PST.