The Life-Changing Magic of Doing Absolutely Nothing Postpartum

You’re not a bad mom if you don’t take on the world after you have a baby.

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Hear me out for a minute: What if, in a world of girl-wash-your-facing and hustling and #girlbossing and bounce-backing, we completely changed the way we look at the postpartum period for moms?

What if, instead of assaulting moms with messages of how they can get organized and sleep train and meal plan and work out more, we just gave permission for new moms to do… nothing?

Yes, that’s right — absolutely nothing.

That is, doing nothing at least for a little while — as long as possible — given other life constraints, whether that’s returning to full-time work or tending to other young children in your home.

It feels weird, doesn’t it? To imagine that? I mean, what does doing nothing even look like in today’s world for women? We’re so used to multitasking and constantly having a running mental list of a million things going at once and thinking 12 steps ahead and planning and prepping that doing nothing almost seems laughable.

But I believe that all new moms should make a plan for doing absolutely nothing after having a baby — and here’s why.

The case for doing nothing as a new mom

Having a baby today generally involves a ton of prep work. There’s the baby registry and the shower and the research and the birth plan and the setting up of the nursery and the “big” questions like: Will you get the epidural? Will you delay cord clamping? Will you breastfeed?

And after all that planning and prep work and organizing comes actually birthing the baby, and then you find yourself at home in sweatpants wondering what the heck comes next. Or trying to determine how to do all the things in the few days you have before you need to be back at work.

It can almost feel like with all the preparation that comes before the baby, the aftermath should be equally as busy. And so, we fill it, with things like post-baby workout plans and baby schedules and sleep training and baby music classes and schedules for you to get your self-care going again.

For some reason, we seem eager to frame having a baby as just a momentary blip in a woman’s life — think Duchess Kate smiling atop of those stone steps in her perfectly pressed dress and coiffed hair — instead of treating it the way it deserves to be treated: like coming to a giant, screeching, usually painful, halt in the road.

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Having a baby changes everything in your life, and while everyone is focused on the newborn, mom’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health just doesn’t get the time and priority that it deserves.

We give women some arbitrary timeline of 6 weeks to recover, when that’s barely enough time for your uterus to return to its previous size. This disregards the fact that everything in your body is still recovering and your life is probably completely in upheaval.

So I say it’s time for women to demand a change — by declaring that after a baby, we will do nothing.

We will do nothing but prioritize sleep above all else in our lives.

We will do nothing for our personal appearance if we just don’t have the energy to care.

We will do nothing toward giving a flying toot what our stomachs look like, or what our thighs are doing, or if our hair is falling out in clumps.

We will do nothing but prioritize our own rest, recovery, and health, right alongside our babies.

What doing nothing as a new mom looks like

If this sounds lazy to you, or you’re internally aghast, thinking, “I could never do that!” allow me to assure you that it’s not, and you can, and perhaps more important, you should.

You should because doing “nothing” as a postpartum mom is actually doing everything.

Because let’s be real — you probably still have to work. I mean, diapers don’t buy themselves. And even if you’re lucky enough to have some maternity leave, there are all those responsibilities that you had even before you gave birth. Like other kids or parents you care for or just managing a household that hasn’t stopped just because you delivered a baby.

So nothing isn’t exactly nothing. But what if it were nothing extra. No more above and beyond and no more, “Yes, of course I can help,” and no more feeling guilty for staying home.

Doing nothing might look like being OK with not recognizing who you are, or what you want to be, or what the future will hold right this moment.

Doing nothing as a new mom might mean that when you have the opportunity you spend actual hours just holding your baby and binging Netflix and attempting absolutely nothing else because it’s giving your body time to rest. It may mean allowing a few extra hours of screen time for your other kids and breakfast for dinner twice in one week because cereal is easy.

Doing nothing as a mom means bonding with your baby. It means making milk with your body or spending your limited energy mixing up bottles. It means helping your little one learn about the world around them and becoming the center of someone’s universe for just a short, little while.

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For moms who are able to, taking a stand toward doing nothing can help all of us reclaim what the postpartum stage is supposed to be: a time of rest, recovery, and healing, so that we can emerge stronger than ever.

How I finally learned to do nothing postpartum

I will admit to you that it took me five kids before I finally gave myself permission to do absolutely nothing in the postpartum stage. With all of my other kids, I constantly felt guilty if I wasn’t able to keep up with my “normal” schedule of laundry and work and exercise and playing with the kids and fun outings.

Somehow, in my mind, I thought I would get some kind of extra mom points for getting up and out there earlier with each baby.

I did things like going back to grad school when my first was still a baby, taking them all on outings and trips, and jumping right back into work full-speed ahead. And each and every time, I battled postpartum complications and even wound up hospitalized twice.

It took me a long, long time to get here, but I can finally say that with this last baby, I finally realized that doing “nothing” in my postpartum stage this time around didn’t mean I was lazy, or a bad mom, or even an unequal partner in my marriage; it meant I was being smart.

Doing “nothing” has not come easily or naturally to me, but for the first time in my life, I have given myself permission to be OK with not knowing what comes next.

My career has taken a hit, my bank account has definitely taken a hit, and my house hasn’t been kept up to a standard anyone is used to, and yet, I feel a strange sense of peace in knowing that none of that stuff defines me anymore.

I don’t have to push myself to be the fun mom, or the mom who bounces back, or the mom who doesn’t miss a beat when having a baby, or the mom who manages to keep up her busy schedule.

I can be the mom who does absolutely nothing right now — and that will be perfectly okay. I invite you to join me.

Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of five. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.

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