Every mom gets caught in the multi-tasking conundrum when there is a newborn and a shower on the “to do” list. Both are important and both require time, often not a luxury that moms afford themselves as they focus on a new little life.
Taking a long relaxing shower somehow doesn’t fit in with things that can be multi-tasked like cooking, doing the laundry, and tending to your little one at the same time. Shower time is important, it’s a necessary selfish indulgence that gives mom a daily fresh start to dealing with her all-important and ever-demanding baby.
Baby sleep time is not mom free time
As a new mom, I got caught up questioning the free time I had when my little one was asleep. The big problem I faced was not really knowing how long my baby would sleep for.
Would it be enough time for me to take a shower?
I weighed this up against my own feeling of suppressed anxiety that I felt whenever I would be away from my baby for a few minutes. If I was in the shower, would I be able to hear my little one if he woke up and started crying because I wasn’t there?
Every mother is familiar with the phantom cries we hear while showering. I would oftentimes muscle up the courage to take a quick shower and find myself hearing my baby cry. With shampoo filled hair, wet all over, and only a towel to cover the necessary parts, I would run to my baby only to find him sweetly, fast asleep.
With these thoughts constantly in my mind, showering was never relaxing when I was alone at home with my little one. I had to get creative.
Advice from a soldier
Part of my creative improvisation was to try a military style shower that I recall my father talking about some time ago. It certainly is a time saver but not very practical for women, especially new moms who have to pay more attention to their personal hygiene.
A military bootcamp or basic training shower takes less than a few minutes and is basically a shower to clean the necessary bits; 30 seconds under the shower to get wet then the water is turned off (you can hear your baby during this time) while you soap up for a minute or two. Once done, you turn the water back on and rinse off for a minute or a little more if you have long hair. It’s a 5-minute turnaround from smelly mom to squeaky clean mom.
I know, this is not everyone’s cup of tea and it certainly wasn’t mine. More improv necessary.
The ‘Bushveld’ routine
I must say, hair washing days have never been so much fun. All you need is some nice shade in the garden or patio, a basin/bucket, all your hair products and your garden hose with a spray attachment (the same spay you get from a showerhead) on the end; the one that you turn on and off at the spray attachment and a soft blanket with a few pillows for you little one.
After a bit of tummy time and a nice feed, settle down on the blanket with your little one and watch them fall asleep; now get on with washing your hair, ‘Bushveld’ (camping) style.
Wet and lather up your hair with shampoo, rinse and apply conditioner then rinse and towel dry your hair. During this time, you have an eye on your baby full time and you can interrupt your hair wash to attend to your baby if need be.
Your baby might not fall asleep at all or may wake up while you wash your hair but the change of environment does wonders for your little one. They will watch you in amazement and study the tree above as it moves in the wind. Anything that attracts their attention will hold their fascination long enough for you to focus on washing your hair. If your baby likes these outdoor sessions then it solves the leg shaving problem as well. When your baby is awake, interact with your little one and use the sprayer as a distraction. Most babies are intrigued by water.
The best part of the out of the ‘Bushveld’ experience is that you get to relax while taking care of yourself and your little one at the same time. Mothers are not blessed with the gift of time, but we do excel when the going gets tough. Our secret is that we have to learn how to multi-task. Thankfully we are fast learners!
Shorter shower time
Washing your hair and shaving your legs, ‘Bushveld’ style, frees up a lot of time that you would otherwise spend in the shower. This gives you time to focus on the rest of yourself. Getting clean is the only purpose of taking showers during the first few months of motherhood. This will drain you of much-needed energy so you need to find ways for a bit of R and R (rest and recuperation).
The long relaxing showers
You need to take a nice long relaxing shower every now and then, but it can only really be relaxing if you have someone watching over your little one. Your husband, an older responsible child, or a caregiver will afford you the few hours you need to wind down and pay attention to yourself. This is very important for all mothers so don’t feel guilty and slog on like a true patriot while you neglect the all-important you. Here are a few pointers to consider:
- Set your long shower time directly after your baby has had a really good feeding session.
- Be prepared in case your baby still wants to feed while you are in the shower. Have some expressed milk in the fridge that dad or a caregiver can warm-up for the baby.
- Make sure the person taking care of your little one knows how to warm up your baby’s milk correctly. They must also have everything at hand needed to clean and change wet or soiled diapers.
We may have to modify parts of our home to create safe spaces for our little ones and that includes the bathroom. There will be challenges no matter what type of home you stay in. To deal with the different challenges of showering while your little one is in the bathroom with you requires a bit of creativity.
I know many bathrooms are shy on space and can turn into a steam room with a hot shower constantly billowing steam into the confined space. Not exactly an ideal situation for your little one but you can regulate the amount of stream build up in the bathroom by keeping the door open and having an extraction fan set to high. On another note, if your little one is congested, this is the perfect place for them to open up their nose and breathe better.
Baby rocking chairs are great to keep your little one secure while you shower, but mom behind a curtain or shower door may not be your baby’s idea of fun. If you have a shower curtain, try shortening it to shoulder height so you look over it and see your baby on the other side.
Turn your shower into a fun time by playing peek-a-boo with your little one. A detachable showerhead can also create an interesting puppet show for your little one. A soapy head of hair the one minute versus a clean flat head of hair the next minute will be good for your baby’s perception and sense of permanence.
Have fun at shower time but be careful not to slip and fall in the shower. Play some music while you shower; something that both you and your baby like. It’s a great bonding experience.
Moms personal hygiene is a non-negotiable necessity. Although babies initially bond with mom through her scent, there is really no need to overdo it by going days on end without freshening up. Shower or bath time is essential for mothers as it is for every member of the family. In fact, it is more important for mothers because they put in overtime every day taking care of the new addition to the family. Moms need to be fresh and ready to go so their little ones can get the best of them 24/7.
Alone at home with your little bundle of love can be taxing and this is something that many moms relate to. The need to wind down now and then without all the creative improvisation is truly a breath of fresh air for new mothers.
Uninvolved people do not understand how much stress moms go through when they have to leave their little ones unattended for a few minutes to attend to other things. Being on maternity leave is no holiday camp where you can snuggle up with a good book or binge-watch your favourite TV series. It’s hard demanding work that requires moms to always be at their best. A little R and R becomes necessary to balance the books.
Moms have come up with ingenious ideas to take care of their personal hygiene through the ages. My advice to all new moms is to get creative with your shower time and include your little one whenever you can.