We easily spend money on our kids, don’t we? Lessons, sports, clothes, treats. And we make sure they get lots of down-time and exciting opportunities to grown and learn. But us, not so much. I’ve still got old hoodies from 15 years ago. And I feel guilty sometimes when I want to go out with friends. What’s up with that, right? I know some dads feel the guilt too, but this one’s for you, momma. We could delve into gender roles and society’s expectation of women’s self-sacrifice, yada yada, but my fabulous editor will cut me off well before I could do that topic justice.
So let’s get right to remedies.
Is it selfish to take care of ourselves? No! Let’s release that notion. The Educarer approach to childcare states that, “If we want to learn to be kind, patient, and compassionate with children, we need to first be kind, patient, and compassionate with ourselves.” We all know what it feels like and how the family dynamic changes when we do not make our own needs a priority. Who has never been a bit short with their child when overtired, for example? So if we cannot care well for others when we are overwhelmed and depleted, let’s change our approach. When we feel good, rested and happy, we are more fun, empathetic and calm. And what’s the best way to help our children learn? Through play, compassion and having a cool and level head. See the connection?
Next step: Get help. Help with chores. Help with shifting your mood. Help understanding your needs and lack of self-care. Remember that phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child?” It’s true. Is no one stepping up to help? You may just need to ask. If that doesn’t work, invest a little time teaching your family the skills they need and what you need to be at your best. Let them know the benefits to them. Persuasion 101. Tip for the perfectionists: Decide if you want it done “well enough” or do you want it to stay on your to-do list? Repeat after me, “It’s good enough,” and move on.
Take time for yourself. A no-brainer to say, but critical to create this habit. It is so exhausting, especially in the early years when babies are awake all night and nurse all day and the toddler keeps having meltdowns, and our partner is away for work. Sometimes we need to get a little creative to carve out a few moments to recharge. But make it a regularly-scheduled program. Yes, a weekend away with the girls would do wonders, but if that isn’t in the cards for you right now, grab as many of the little moments as you can. Don’t wait until you lock yourself in the bathroom, crying, to escape the unrelenting little groping hands. Teach everyone what you need. Teach them how to help you. Schedule it in and stick to your guns.
Here are some simple ways to start. Create the habit, even if it is only 5-minutes a day: sleep as much as you can, meditate, keep a stash of (organic, fair-trade, free-range…) chocolate in a safe place that’s easy to get to, find a support group, pump a few ounces for hubs and go have “tea” with a friend, join or start a babysitting co-op, listen to empowering podcasts while you breastfeed for the 68th time in one night, hire a mommy’s helper from middle school to come by for an hour after school every day, go to bed when the kids do a few times each week, get up 30 minutes (or even just 10!) before the family to just breathe, do a few affirmations, stretch or walk. Use whatever works for you, find ways to recharge your batteries and you will feel more patience, more energy and joy. How’s that for a healthy family? Happy Mother’s Day, momma. You’ve got this.