I don’t know of a single solitary mother who reported having a healthy self-care routine from the day her baby was born until they graduated high school. Not one! So don’t worry…you’re not alone. And by “self-care”, I’m not talking about a day at the spa (although that sounds dreamy, I must admit!). Self-care is a journey, not a “one-and-done” kind of switch.
From the moment our baby arrives, we seem to dive right in, nurturing and caring for that baby like their life depends on us—oh wait…in many ways, it kinda does! By our very nature, we place our own needs on the back-burner and baby comes first! (Yes… husbands often take the back seat in this phase of motherhood. We will address that in another blog post because it’s real and it matters!) But, how do we know if the scales have tipped too far and we are straight up neglecting ourselves?
Here are a few ways to spot self-neglect:
- You can’t, for the life of you, remember what you used to do to have fun or relax.
- Your daily activities of living (showering, changing your clothes, brushing teeth) have flown out the window.
- You tell yourself “doing something for just me will have to wait until I’m empty nesting.”
- Your spouse continues to remind you “I’m perfectly capable of handling the kids solo, you know.”
- Friends and family members are offering to take the kids for a night “so you can get away.”
- You tell yourself “my mom never left us to do things for herself, so why should I?”
Experts say it’s no surprise that women forget, or even disregard, the need to take care of themselves. Women often feel guilty about taking time for themselves, says psychiatrist and TODAY contributor Dr. Gail Saltz. “There is some maternal ideal of being self-sacrificing that just isn’t consistent with having time for yourself,” she said.
So how do we balance the scale of self-care so we can manage the guilt and take intentional time to nurture ourselves, too?
We’ve all been on an airplane when the flight attendant reminds us to “put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting your child.” That still doesn’t land well with me after hearing it a zillion times. I think to myself, “Yeah, right! Never in a million years would I sit by and watch my child suffocate and calmly pull the straps tightly over my own nose and mouth before rescuing him. Never!” But then I think about the long term goal… to be alive and breathing in order to be able to help others. Ahhh, yes! That IS truly what I want. So I’m grateful for the constant reminder from the flight attendant to do what is necessary to be able to continue helping others because in a state of panic, without the frequent reminders, I may very well forget about myself.
If you are reading this feeling like you’re running out of oxygen and are low on energy… It's time to make a change. We never want to wait until there is an emergency to take action. We’re all about preventing the emergency in the first place—being intentional in our decisions as parents.
So, here are a few ways the moms in our Families of Character Community suggest implementing a healthy routine of mommy self-care, guilt free! Whether you have a supportive partner, a not-so supportive partner or are parenting solo…we support you doing what’s necessary to take care of YOU!
- Implement a simple DRW 3-step morning routine: set your alarm for 30 minutes before the baby/kids wake up so you have uninterrupted time. 3 Steps = DRW—Drink, Read, Write. Pour your favorite morning drink, read a book or magazine for 15 minutes, and write down how you imagine having success in your day (this is proven to be effective!)
- Book a weekly appointment with your favorite mom friend. Don’t break your commitment to each other. Give it a fun name like “Fill the Cup Friday!” By chatting and validating each other’s experiences and encouraging one another, you’re filling your cup so you can pour into your spouse and kids.
- Block out 1 hour of exercise in your day, just 3 days per week. Mark it on the family calendar, arrange childcare and stick to it. And don’t reinvent the wheel. Choose an exercise activity you’ve already done in the past and enjoyed and go back to that. Keeping the plan simple helps with follow through/accountability.
- Consider doing a childcare trade with a mom friend. You take her kid(s) for 3 hours once a week and she takes yours. During your free time, do something that recharges you or relaxes you. And there’s no judgment if you choose to run to the store solo so you can leisurely browse, stop and have a coffee and organize your pantry when you unload. You do you!
If you’re having trouble communicating your self-care needs to your spouse or family member…remember, you know yourself best.
- 1st, write down 2 feasible ideas you think could work to implement self-care. (Pro Tip: if you come to your spouse or friend with a problem, they are much more likely to respond positively if you have a few solutions ready!)
- Timing is everything! Ask for a 30-minute window of uninterrupted time with them. It’s best to have the conversation when both of you are emotionally available (not moments after the witching hour or on the fly when you’re in a rush). Schedule it and have a conversation about what you can do to be sure you are both doing something that fills your cup. If they aren’t already doing something for themselves, brainstorm ways you could work that into your schedule too!
- And ask confidently for the time you need to care for yourself. YOU MATTER! And if you don’t get the outcome you want, don’t be discouraged. Go back to the drawing board (or list above) and brainstorm a few other options that might work better for this phase of your mom life.
- And finally, look around you. Who do you see in your circle who has a healthy self care routine? Ask them how they started…ask them what benefits they get from prioritizing themselves…ask them what life was like before they started implementing self-care. It’s a night and day difference!
For more positive encouragement and practical support, jump on over to our private facebook group, Thrive by Families of Character. This is a community that supports self-care and making intentional time for the things that matter most in family life! We see you, we support you, we believe in you!
Start your self-care routine with our adult journal, included in our signature Adventure into Character series. It’s full of serious solutions for life's silly adventures.