I follow a fair amount of mom groups and blogs and a common theme I see repeated a lot is that moms don’t get their needs met as often as they should. This is obviously a problem a lot of moms can relate to, if the frequency of which it’s brought up is any indication. So why are so many moms lacking the self care department? How can we fix that?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that at least part of the problem is that we’ve made it a habit to put ourselves last, take on too much, and be the go-to person to solve everyone’s problems. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we don’t do it, no one else will and as a result we’ve put ourselves and our needs on the very bottom of the pile. What’s worse, this has gone on for so long that breaking these habits seems impossible and some mothers (obviously not all) are almost comfortable in this “put myself last” dynamic. We’ve certainly normalized it, and that’s unfortunate.
So now let’s normalize undoing it.
It’s great for your mental and overall health, prevents burn out and is a great way to safeguard against developing feelings of resentment towards your spouse or your family in general. Plus it’s healthy for your kids to see you putting yourself first. The importance of self care should be fairly obvious when you look at the consequences of not getting enough, or any.
Figure out what self care means to you. It doesn’t have to be bubble baths, massages and getting your nails done. I mean, it can be if that’s your thing, but it’s not the only option. Self care can be going for a solo walk, or having uninterrupted reading time or time to watch your favourite show. It can be a night out or taking a class. Whatever the thing is that makes you feel recharged and reconnected to who you are as a person outside of being a mom, that’s something you should be trying to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.
Steal little pockets of time where available, get creative if you must. It can be tough to just find the time to indulge in any type of self care when life gets so busy, so sometimes you need to think outside the box to make it happen. If your kid plays a sport for example, that likely takes up a large chunk of your time. But what if you coordinate with one of the other moms to alternate taking each other’s kids to practice? It doesn’t really add anything to your plate to bring along an extra kid on your days to drive, and it gives you a chunk of time that’s now free on the days when the other mom is taking the kids. Now go do something just for you with that time.
Put other things on the backburner, and prioritize yourself. What is the worst that is going to happen if you sit and read for 20 minutes instead of sweeping? Can you let the kids put the laundry away so you can get a quick work out in? Sure they may not do it exactly the way you would, but does it matter? Really?
Let go and let others take some stuff off your plate. Trust that they can handle it. Resist the urge to micromanage.
Communicate your needs and be firm about them. It would be so nice if your family could read your mind and anticipate your needs, but they can’t. So be realistic and tell them what you need and how you’re going to ensure that need is met. Then hold firm on that. If 7-7:30 is your time to relax in the bath and the kids come knocking on the door asking for a snack: Nope. This is Mom Time. Go ask your dad or figure it out yourself.
Will it always work? No. But if it works even 5% of the time that’s still more than usual so that sounds like a win to me. Plus, it will very likely get easier over time. Think of it this way, it’s like building any other type of habit or skill. It takes practice and repetition.
It can also help if you try to make the self care activities you choose take place outside of the home so they don’t even have the option to disturb you. Call it hiding from your family if you must but sometimes it’s necessary to remove the temptation (that’s you) so they don’t just fall back on the easy solution for all their problems (again, that’s you.)
Find cheap or free alternatives. Sometimes we stop doing the things we enjoy because the expenses of family obligations take priority and anything for ourselves starts to look like an unnecessary indulgence. It’s why so many mom’s will update their kids’ wardrobes every season while they’re still wearing the same yoga pants they’ve had for 6 years.
Ideally, just breaking that way of thinking and learning to treat yourself sometimes would be nice. But until you get to that point, try exploring cheaper or even free options. If buying the newest hardcover novel you’ve been eyeing makes you cringe at the price tag, check your local library or see if there is a used book store or some type of book swap nearby. If getting massages, or getting your nails done is your thing but out of your price range, look for local training schools where you can often get fantastic service by someone learning their trade (guided by a professional in that field.)
Something is better than nothing, so start small if you have to. Making self care a priority is likely a difficult thing to do because you’re not used to it. So any small thing you can do can add up over time. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Your family may even start learning to anticipate some of your needs because you’ve made a point of showing them that they are a priority.
This one may prickle a few feathers but I’m saying it anyways because some of you need to hear it: Don’t make excuses and don’t be a martyr. You know what I mean.
“But I have to–“ No you don’t.
“Well I can’t–“ Yes you can.
Stop neglecting yourself on purpose just so you can complain about being neglected.
Now, I completely acknowledge that a lot of this can be trickier when you’re dealing with circumstances outside of some of the examples I’ve given. If you’re a single mom, that makes it difficult because you can’t exactly hand the kids off to a partner so you can sneak away. Depending on the age of your children, this is still a great opportunity to model that self care behavior. There’s no reason why you can’t have a conversation with your kids and explain to them how every person needs a little time to themselves to do something they enjoy so they can recharge and feel good, modifying the language as needed based on their age. You could ask your kids what activities they think are their own self care activities, and explain to them some of yours. Maybe discuss ways you can help each other practice self care. Start the conversation now so they’ll have a healthy attitude towards self care as they get older.
If you have very young children and a partner that absolutely refuses to help out or accommodate your needs in any way, well…I’m not at all qualified to tell you how to handle that but that might be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed in a more substantial way before it get’s even worse. I’m not saying end your relationship, but having a good serious talk about these things could be beneficial, as well as looking into counselling or other outside sources of support if it seems necessary.
What are your preferred forms of self care? Do you feel like you get enough of it in your life or are you usually putting your needs last to take care of everyone else? Leave me a comment and let me know.