As so many moms can attest, motherhood while being a source of meaning and joy can also be difficult. Difficult like pushing a boulder up a hill in a snowstorm or like running a marathon every day for the rest of your life.
One of the most challenging periods of motherhood I’ve experienced occurred during my second daughters first year of life when I found myself chronically sick with minor illnesses. Taking care of a baby, and a preschooler while being constantly sick and sleep deprived left me feeling exhausted and depleted with no time to recharge. It was during these months that I began to realize I couldn’t really continue to function unless I began to prioritize self-care. I came to understand that to be happy in my life, to cope and be able to enjoy being a mom, taking better care of myself was a necessity.
Some phases of parenting are innately difficult and one of the few things we can actively do to cope with them is to find ways to nurture ourselves. It’s easy to advise self-care but the truth is many moms, (myself included) bump up against obstacles when trying to put it into practice. Finding the time, space, energy, motivation, or adequate finances to engage in self-care can be daunting. To compound the problem many moms struggle with internal and external messaging that tells us we are never doing enough and encourages us to feel guilty about spending time away from our kids. This 'mom guilt' can at best hinder our ability to fully enjoy our self-care time and at worst block our ability to engage in self-care at all.
With so many potential barriers how do we make time to prioritize ourselves even just a little? Some things that have helped me prioritize self-care include having a supportive partner, learning to value my own happiness over the opinions of others and being motivated to really show up joyfully for my family with patience, and compassion.
Let’s be honest about something here. When we’re run down, exhausted and overwhelmed we’re often unable to show up for our kids as our best selves. These are the times we loss our patience and lose our tempers. Every parent has experienced those moments when at the end of our rope we snap and yell or use harsh language. These moments don’t feel good, not to us and definitely not to our children. It’s important to note we will all lose our tempers once in a while, to be imperfect is to be human. However, I’ve found that the more I practice self-care the less frequent and intense these emotional outbursts have become. The truth is no matter how we may try to spin it, we are not super-women. All human beings need breaks and time to recharge. Furthermore taking care of ourselves and taking care of our kids are not mutually exclusive activities. Taking time for self-care does not harm our children, it is not selfish or neglectful. In addition to benefiting us it also benefits our families; not only does it role model for our kids how to balance care for yourself and others in a healthy way, it also enables us to really show up for our families with willingness and gratitude.
Thanks for reading, I welcome your thoughts and perspectives!