How many times have you felt like at the end of the day, there was just no time left for you?
Moms are constantly juggling multiple responsibilities - the kids, the house, the bills, the shopping, the work… Even though men's parenting time has increased, women's has too. A study published by the American Sociological Review concluded that women spend 10 more hours per week multitasking than fathers do.
With all of that going on, mothers are just too busy taking care of everyone else that they end up forgetting about themselves. Maybe at the encouragement of generations who have come before us, it seems that in order to be a good mom we have to put ourselves last all the time. Even though it may seem like the right thing to do, routinely dismissing your own needs will have an adverse effect on your health. A mom can end up looking back on her day and realize she hasn’t showered or eaten a proper meal in days. Especially new moms - they might end up just eating scraps off the kids’ plates or go through the day with a cup of coffee without realizing it.
Mom burnouts due to lack of self-care are happening every day, and it can lead to both physical and mental health problems, which are often reinforced by senses of guilt, shame, and loneliness. Finding a mom who admits she parents better when her own needs are fulfilled shouldn’t be as rare as it is. Why should you be ashamed? Your kids are a part of you, and they are only doing great if you are.
“self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you.”
Katie Reed, a writer, speaker, and mental health advocate, says “self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you.” - it’s as simple as that. Your kids deserve a mom that’s on her best, and you deserve it too. Think about it this way, if you go to pieces, everyone is going down with you. So you have to give yourself time, and that’s far from being selfish or narcissistic. This actually reminded me of something: have you noticed how on planes they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help others? That sums it up. Because if you run out of oxygen yourself, you can't help anyone else with their oxygen mask.
Sometimes this might be a hard concept to understand: Self-care… Who has the time and resources for that these days? In fact, self-care has been totally commercialized by the wellness industry, but it doesn’t have to cost you anything. It’s about the ability to know your own needs and prioritize your own well-being.
Self-care is different for everyone
Yes, free time is a scarcity, however, even as little as 15 to 30 minutes a day will help you decompress. A lot of moms tend to think that they have to earn self-care. “I will relax after my house is cleaned”, they say. Well, that’s absolutely not the way to go. It is not something you have to deserve. Self-care is essential to our well-being, it’s different for everyone, and it can be incorporated into our daily life in simple ways. Where to engage is totally up to you, is it emotional self-care you need? Journal your feelings, utilize mantras, talk to a friend. Is it physical self-care? Do a yoga class, take a relaxing bath, sleep well, dance. Is it intellectual self-care? Listen to an interesting podcast, solve a puzzle, read a book. Is it social self-care? Go have dinner with your friends, go on a date with your significant other, write cards to loved ones. The options are endless, and cost nothing more than a little free time - not much for a mind free of chaos or overwhelm, and a life without so much stress and anxiety in it.
Make the time
The only thing you need to be aware of is that self-care needs to be something you actively plan. Add certain activities to your calendar and announce your plans to others. Although self-care means different things to different people, there are ways that make it easier for you to enjoy life as a mom and not neglect yourself:
- Create a no list. PsychCentral suggests creating a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. For instance, not check your phone on the weekends, skip meals, don’t get enough sleep.
- Writing. Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor suggests a writing exercise for women who can't figure out how to get a little time for themselves. List everything you do during the day on one side of a sheet of paper, and then list everything you would like to do on the other side. The goal is to add at least one thing a day from the "would like to do" list to your daily routine.
- Rethink your days. Things are never the same. It might be a pregnancy, a new baby entering your world, a new job, a new house… It will change then, and soon it will change again, and again, and again. For that reason, you need to allow yourself some flexibility. Just because you can’t religiously go to the gym every morning anymore doesn't mean you should stop training. Rethink your day and squeeze in an occasional yoga session over the lunch hour, for instance.
- Exercise. Moms usually find it hard to squeeze their workouts into their daily routines. However, there are ways to make this easier. If you are a gym kind of person, try to take an hour just for that either before your kids wake up, or after they go to bed. If otherwise, you love outdoor activity, why not take your kids along? You can go swimming or cycling with them. If you find it easier not to leave the house, take advantage of your kids’ napping time, play a workout video on YouTube and follow along.
- Sleep. People tend to devalue sleep, a basic practice of well-being. Just because there are moms out there that brag about only needing 5 hours of sleep, everyone is different. You should find out how much sleep you really need, and don’t cut back on sleep because it impairs cognitive function and puts you at risk for serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Eat well. Make sure to take the time to eat and drink water, or else you’ll be dehydrated and with low energy levels. Many moms admit they forget to eat because they are learning to navigate their new life with their little miracle (or more than one). Stock up on healthy snacks and eat something regularly. Also, try to make a meal plan - by doing so you are less likely to skip meals, or stress-eating a bag of chips for dinner.
- Increase your energy. Dr. Eva Cwynar, an Endocrinologist and Metabolic Sub-specialist, says women are often told fatigue is normal; that’s either in their head or it’s because they’re having kids, raising them, managing the household, working too hard, or getting old - she wants women to know they can get their energy back. In Forbes’ article “The Fatigue Solution: How To Increase Your Energy In Eight Easy Steps” she gives you tips on how to get your energy back: change your diet, clean out your gut, get better sleep, have more sex, move more to boost your metabolism, get your thyroid checked out, prepare for “that time of the month”, and see a specialist.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
In an interview with Forbes, Dr. Brené Brown, who studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, said: "Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It's tough to do that when we're terrified about what people might see or think. When we're fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that's constantly whispering “You're not good enough” in our ear, it's tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it."
Doing it all is hard, and it will always be hard. But what if you did stand in your worthiness? Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help - that’s the key to getting all the things done. You’ll be a better version of yourself if you can get yourself out of being overwhelmed. Your partner, your mom, your sister, your friend… There are people around you that can help, you just have to delegate. We tend to worry if things aren't done just the way we want but isn’t your mental health more important?
Though we might not all be a mom, we’re all daughters. In any way it’s healthy for a child to watch their mom being addicted to self-sacrifice, experiencing pain, stress, and anxiety for the sake of others. Self-care is a sign of love - you are showing love for yourself, your family, friends, and all those you interact with.
If you’re a mother who is struggling to enjoy life as a mom and not neglect yourself, remember that your happiness depends only on you. Find the time to make up for the life you’ll miss by not practicing self-care. Be kind to yourself and do it without guilt :)