From the moment our children are born, we put their well-being and health before our own. We instantly understand how precious these lives are that we have been entrusted with, and we understand just how important the job of parenting is. But, parenting can be an all-consuming job, as well. As mothers, we juggle constant responsibilities – child rearing, household upkeep, meal planning and prepping. We schedule all the activities for each family member, and then remember each appointment, practice, and meeting. We work – either in the home putting all of our time and effort into shaping little minds or outside the home contributing in our communities. And after all of this, we have very little time for ourselves. There’s a common phrase among us mothers – “I’m a mom. I don’t have time for that.”
Even when we get time for ourselves, there’s guilt that comes along with it. I’ve experienced the mom-guilt. I have felt shame over leaving my son with family members in order to be with friends. I have felt guilt for being in the same house as my son and choosing to spend time alone instead of spending time with him. I have felt bad for taking a small trip with my fiance and not taking our son with us. We get mom-guilt if one hundred percent of our time isn’t spent doing laundry, cooking nutritional dinners, and making sure our children are staying entertained. But, answer this – how can we continue giving any percent of our time and energy to our families if we run ourselves down to zero?
Doing the same things day in and day out can cause discouragement and burn-out. We can begin to lose the energy to play with our children or the patience that parenting requires as we become exhausted and short-tempered. Almost every one of my friends who are parents have talked about experiencing anxiety or depression at one time or another. And, we don’t experience these feelings because we don’t love our children or don’t enjoy spending quality time with them but because we need to invest in ourselves, too – our physical, emotional, and mental health. We need to prioritize our needs as we prioritize the needs of others. Caring for ourselves will make us far better equipped to care for our loved ones, and it will help us be more present and available.
Self-care is not selfish. It can actually be a good example for our children. When we focus on ourselves, we’re giving our children time for creative play. As parents, we often feel we need to plan out every single activity for our children and ensure they are entertained at all times of the day. But, it’s important for children to use their imagination, explore, and be creative. When they see us taking time to do something we enjoy, they begin to understand how feeling joy and having fun are important aspects of life. Children observe how we treat ourselves. They hear us speak about ourselves. They see how we eat and how we treat our bodies. And, they see what we prioritize and how we choose to spend the hours in the day. Therefore, by modeling self-care, we are teaching our children to take care of themselves. We are teaching them that their minds and bodies are important, and they should take the time to nourish them.
So, what does self-care look like? It looks however you want it to look. What makes you happy? What makes you feel content? Where do you feel the most comfortable? What activities make you feel relaxed? How do you de-stress? What can you use a break from? Take some time to answer these questions, and then do those things.
What is going to help you keep your mom-sanity?
Most of the time, it’s our schedules that fill up our brain space. We are always focused on accomplishing the to-dos. Our minds are constantly running, and sometimes, it feels impossible to calm them down. A form of self-care if taking time each day to gear our mental energy into something different – to give our brains a break. Write in a journal. Meditate. Draw. Paint. Find an interesting podcast to listen to. Dance to your favorite music.
Exercise. If you have the time, join a gym. You can get a break out of the house and work on your physical self at the same time. If not, try an online program with at-home workouts. Take a walk. Do yoga. Invest in your health. Make sure you’re staying up-to-date on appointments and checks-up. Take your vitamins and eat healthy foods. Get an adequate amount of sleep. When we feel refreshed and recharged, we have the energy for dance parties and the focus for Lego building.
Nurture your relationships. Girls, we need our friends. They are our social networks, our support systems. Text your friends and check on them. Reach out when you’re needing adult connection. Schedule a coffee date, a brunch, or a girls’ night. There are times when I just crave adult conversation, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. Our friendships provide such value – people to vent to, people who understand us, people who will listen, people to laugh with.
Pamper yourself (my personal favorite form of self-care). The list is endless – manicures, pedicures, facials, massages. Get your hair done. Go to a spa. Take time for a long, hot bath. Buy new pajamas and watch movies under a cozy blanket. We often live life in a frantic pace. I find that making myself comfortable and doing something that encourages relaxation helps me slow down and breathe. Order dinner in. Drink that wine. Eat that pie.
Get an adequate amount of sleep. Take advantage of early mornings. Drink coffee on the porch. Watch your favorite show before the kids wake up. Read a book in silence. Do a morning devotional.
I don’t know what it is for you – cleaning, shopping, eating Chinese in your car, so you don’t have to share? Maybe it’s taking ten minutes and doing absolutely nothing. Self-care does not have to be a luxury. It’s something that, as parents, we all need on a regular basis.
Just because we have children doesn’t mean we have to give up our hobbies or our ambitions. Take the time to work on your goals. We will be better for it, and our children be better for it. If it means you have to schedule self-time into your schedule, do it. If it means you have to say no to something to make time for yourself, do it. Carve time out in your schedule. I know sometimes it is easier said than done, but caring for yourself doesn’t mean you have to schedule a two-week vacation alone in the Bahamas (unless you want to, of course). Sometimes, it is just taking five minutes a day to do something, anything for yourself.
Another form of self-care is asking for help if you need it. Seek out counseling. Ask for advice and guidance when it is needed. Ask a family member to help with child care. Ask your spouse to provide extra help around the house. Moms, we don’t always have to carry the weight of the world on the shoulders. Even though we are capable, we don’t have to do it all alone.
Moms, be good to yourselves. Shut your eyes and breathe. I know how much time you spend focusing on your children. Today, take some time to focus on you.