Self care. It’s a weird phrase. It sounds a little selfish or narcissistic to be throwing around a phrase like that all the time, but it’s something I’m developing a deep belief in.
Self care is essential for everyone, especially moms.
My whole life I looked forward to being a mom. But when I got there, I’ll be honest that the biggest shock for me was how my self care went out the window. With the birth of my first baby I suddenly had no time to take a shower, brush my teeth, make healthy meals, or heaven forbid: sleep. I couldn’t even pee in peace anymore. I knew taking care of a baby would be busy and that I’d be up all night feeding him. But for some reason, I imagined I’d be doing all that fully rested, with make-up on, and perpetually happy. As is on par for reality, that wasn’t the case.
That little baby is now 17 years old (SEVENTEEN! Yes, it goes by so fast. No, you won’t enjoy every minute of it). It’s been hard work raising him and 4 other kids. One of the hardest parts has been figuring out how to take care of yourself while you’re in the process of taking care of your children year after year. I mean, kids need stuff. You can’t just hide in the bathroom ignoring them all the time. Some of the time, yes. All of the time, no.
When I started having kids, I knew my role as a mother was important.
I took that role seriously. I wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom to lots of little babies. I thought that it would be fulfilling for me. I thought it was a noble calling. I thought I wouldn’t really need anything else. It can be fulfilling, it’s definitely noble, but it’s not all I need. I need hobbies. I need friends. And heaven knows I need some freaking alone time.
I still love being a mom and love my big family.
But your kids will drain your well dry if you don’t keep filling it up by caring for yourself. Obviously there’s only so much we can do to take care of ourselves. We can’t just leave the babies home alone and say, sorry, I need a girls night! But there are things we can do to sneak it in around our more immediate responsibilities. In fact, it might help us to think of self care as one of our responsibilities. Schedule it. Prioritize it. Make it happen as often as possible. And get Hubby or a sitter to help make that girl’s night happen.
I have an eBook where I talk about the importance of self care and give 45 examples of how us moms can get it. They are all things that I’ve done at one time or another. And they work. When I come back from an evening of writing or reading at Starbucks, for example, I am so much more refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of motherhood. OK, I’m still not ready then. But I’m MORE ready than I would be if I never got away for an evening every so often.
If you worry that your kids will mutiny against your care of self, just keep in mind that this is good for them too.
Kids want a mom who is happy. Not they they ever think about whether or not you are happy, but there’s truth to that phrase, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” A grumpy mama can make a home a miserable place to be. But if you take good care of yourself and do the things you know you need to do to be happy, your kids will be happier too. Sure, they may very well try to mutiny at first. But they’ll get used to it. And they really will benefit from you being happier.
I’ve struggled with the concept of self care for many years.
I didn’t know how to get it, I was afraid I was being too selfish, and I thought I didn’t deserve it. And whenever I did fulfill some need for myself, I’d feel guilty. Anxiety and depression didn’t help either. It’s just a tiny but hard to be happy when you feel hopeless and despondent. which is exactly why I needed to practice self care.
Which brings me to mental health.
It’s absolutely essential to take care of the health of your body, and that goes for your brain as well. If you are feeling hopeless and miserable, and no matter what you try, you just can’t seem to be happy, you might want to talk to your doctor. Just your normal doctor. They can point you in the right direction. They can tell you whether what you are feeling is the normal stuff everyone goes through, or if there’s something more you need from the medical professionals. They can refer you to a therapist who does counselling or a psychiatrist who prescribes medication. Let them help you. Sometimes our bodies don’t work quite right, and sometimes our brains don’t either. The only difference is that it’s harder to see a broken psyche than a broken arm. Thank goodness for modern medicine!
Another way to start taking care of yourself right now is to quit it with the guilt.
We all have it: that all-pervasive mom-guilt that eats away at us constantly. No matter how great of a mom you are, you will always feel guilty for not doing more and being better. Stop it. You are only one person. You can only do so much. Some say that guilt is a motivator for change, but in my experience, guilt is a paralyzer. It makes me want to curl up and die. I get so overwhelmed by how awful I am that I completely cease to function. But when I extend myself a little grace and forgive myself for being an imperfect human, I feel much more able to move on and do better.
I challenge you to do whatever you have to to get that self care into your life.
Schedule a little “me time, ” enforce a naptime, wake up early to be alone for more than 5 minutes, or ask a friend or your spouse for help. The key word there is “ask.” Your husband loves you, but he can’t read your mind. He doesn’t know what you need unless you tell him. Tell him you’ll be in a much better mood when you get home if you can just get out and leave the kids behind with him for awhile. He’ll miss you, but he’s capable of holding down the fort. You won’t regret it, and your whole family will be happier.
It’s already hard to deal with the constant flow of diapers, vomit, carpooling, meal prep, discipline and whining. But when you are a frazzled mess, the chaos is drowning you, and your well has run dry, it’s dang near impossible.