As a mom we strive to support our families. Often we find ourselves surrounded by the demands of young babies and children, older children needing assistance with their own projects and tasks, and the upkeep of a home and all the things associated with it. Even vacations are packed with schedules, things to get to and do, ensuring every need will be met while hours away from the normalcy of home. How many times do we justify skipping a healthy meal for the ease of something less? The last time you looked at your workout shoes, did you put them on and go? Or maybe, like me, you looked at them and then tore yourself away to referee another conflict between toddlers.
While self-care is something that is often referred to, it is not something I felt comfortable explaining. This last spring I began a gentle habit of stretches and yoga in an effort to help hips and lower back pain. In the process I have found that I have 3 copy cats. This made me realize ever more strongly I have a duty as a mom I have been overlooking. I need to take care of myself so that they can see and learn how it is done. Just as I teach them how to take turns with toys, and how to count to 20, I must show them how to be whole.
As I mentioned, I have been working on my flexibility more. I have even built my way back to doing a backbend! That was something I used to do without a thought. Now, after ten or so minutes of stretching I can get there. I challenge you to find a small bit like this. Choose one thing and go after it. It doesn’t have to be every day. Do it a couple times a week. Maybe you loved shooting hoops, or you could do cartwheels. Work at it and let your kids watch. Let them see you fail. Then let them see you get back up and try again. My three year old loves to tell me “I give up”. She says it usually as she is trying again. Hopefully, she never does different.
Another key aspect for moms with self-care is time to oneself. Many of us work, where we are tending to others at one place and come home to take care of our families. This constant drain can leave you feeling frustrated and cranky. My husband offers often for me to take some time by myself, and I don’t take him up on it most the time. So, grab a book and sit out in the evening air, or get up for a few early minutes before the rest of the house wakes up. Back in the days when I had a baby nursing at 2 in the morning I would even turn on an episode or two of my favorite tv show. It’s amazing how nice it is to watch a good show with minimal interruptions! If the kids want to make you feel guilty, explain to them. Let them know you love your time with them, but sometimes everyone needs a quiet minute.
Health & Happiness
One more portion to keep in mind is your overall health. We all have something we do really well, and something that we slack on. I know for myself that with family history I am not careful enough regarding risk of diabetes. Look into your history and visit with your doctor about what you should be watching more. Maybe you are like me and need to pass on the sweets a little more, or you should take the time for a little more aerobic exercise. For all of these there is hundreds of moms right in this area that have the same concerns as you. Invite some to be your team and hold one another accountable.
Lastly, don’t forget your mental health. While it is a main goal of self-care, it is also often neglected. I spoke with Robert L Jones LCSW (my husband) about a couple of the best things people can do for their mental health. “Do something that refreshes your spirit. Let’s say you weren’t stressed and you just wanted to really enjoy yourself, what would it be. Remember self-care is reinvesting in yourself. If you don’t invest in yourself, you become depleted.” Along with this he mentions that it can be anything from watching a favorite show with a special snack to cleaning the house with your headphones on.
Additionally he explained there is no pill (almost) you can take that can beat going for a 20 minute walk with your dog (yes, he loves his dog). Taking the dog for a walk is his number one recommendation for someone who is feeling depressed. Fresh air, vitamin D, exercise, and a change of scenery all add up to a big mood boost. Rob compared it as do you want to be a parent with half your energy and patience and thoughts, or do you want to step back for 20 minutes and then come back as the best you for your family?
While you are tending to yourself remember, it doesn’t get better overnight. There is no magic pill, but there is magic in effort. One mistake or side step doesn’t negate all the other efforts. Remember it’s not just for today. AND do it for yourself. As a mom it is ok to be a little selfish.