I am having the best time with the self-care challenge going on in the Whinypaluza mom group. I didn’t realize how fun the monthly challenges were going to be. It’s making me think every day what I am doing for myself to take care of myself.
I would say that for 12 years it was all about my kids. I really devoted my life to raising my kids and there were many times I lost myself in childcare. I thought that putting my all into my kids was what I was supposed to do. I would tell women to take care of themselves when I wasn’t doing it myself. I’m a strong believer in walking your talk and I wasn’t doing that.
I will say that 8 years ago I discovered that writing about motherhood was a form of self-care for me. I would get lost in my writing and found that I felt so much better after I got it out onto paper. The more stressful the topic, the more I needed to write about it.
I remember women telling me how much I needed to take care of myself and if I was honest with myself, I didn’t think it really applied to me. Seth would tell me not to feel guilty going out, but I still did. I tried to convince myself that dates with Seth, friend time, nail time, book time were all important for me, but I felt this pull to motherhood. I saw some of my friends taking good care of themselves but sometimes I found myself thinking they were selfish. Then something clicked with me.
I realized I was burning myself out. I realized I was being more reactive with my family. I started to realize that I wasn’t taking care of myself and that it was negatively impacting my life. I lasted for about 12 years and then I couldn’t do it anymore. I understood why the flight attendant told me to put the mask on myself first before my children. I need to fill my cup before I can fill anyone else’s. How was I going to give my family my best self, if myself was burned out?
I hear so many moms use the word guilt in their description of how they feel. They think they have to give more to their kids. They think they need to work less. All of these expectations swirl in their minds. I want to take away your guilt as best I can and tell you a few things.
You don’t have to give your kids 100%. Your kids don’t have to be happy all the time. We don’t have to entertain our children all the time. Our generation of parents have such higher expectations than our parents did. My parents didn’t entertain me all the time. My mom didn’t feel badly for going to work. She limited my activities so that she wasn’t going nuts driving me everywhere. My parents did a lot right. I would find myself bored as a child but that was okay too. I would find things to do like reading all of the Babysitter’s Club and all of Sweet Valley High. I would spend hours playing video games with my brother and we spent hours and hours in our pool.
Your spouse and your children don’t need you to be perfect. They don’t need you to give of yourself all day. What they do need is for you to take care of yourself. You won’t ever be perfect for them, but you will give them a happier mother. You will also give them a mother who sticks around longer if you focus on what you are eating and give yourself time to exercise.
I hope that I have made a good sales pitch on self-care. As I researched self-care for the Whinypaluza mom group challenge, I learned a lot along the way. I want to share with you what I learned.
It only needs to take five minutes of your time and it is a fabulous way to reset yourself and take care of yourself. We think self-care needs take a long time. However, even when I walk away, take a deep breath, and reset myself, that is a form of my own self-care. Telling my children what I am doing is also teaching them how to do it for themselves. As you do things for yourself tell your children what you are doing. Five minutes ideas:
- Write down three nice things to yourself.
- Step outside for some fresh air.
- Have a glass of water.
- Do a short breathing exercise.
- Book an appointment for yourself.
- Listen to a song. Extra points for dancing to the music.
- Find a cute or funny video online.
- Say “No.”
- Set a boundary.
- Ask for what you need.
- Put yourself first.
- Ask for help.
- Take a step back.
- Forgive yourself.
- Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit with it.
I also learned that there are a lot of different forms of self-care. Some you might not even realize are self-care.
- Exercise – I love to get lost in miles and miles on my exercise bike. Yesterday I tried Pilates. I feel so much better after I exercise. I’m trying to do more and more strength training too.
- Nutrition – I love when I take time to make myself a healthy meal. I started to realize that I was making everyone else meals and wasn’t making anything for myself. Take time to plan your meals and cook for yourself.
- Walking – walking my dog is one of my favorite things to do.
- Sleep – this is one of the biggest things that I see mothers skimp on. We need to take care of ourselves and get enough sleep.
- Play with your dog.
- Take a shower or bath.
- Stress management
- Coping skills
- Talk to a friend.
Social Self Care
- Support system
- Social media
- Alone time
- Sacred space
- Lists of gratitude
- Attending a service of your place of worship online or in person.
- Bible study
- Hobbies – if you don’t have one find one. If there was something you used to love doing it’s a great time to pick it back up.
- Creativity – painting, drawing, coloring, crafting
- Goals – always good to be growing. Set goals for yourself and evaluate them. When you achieve them make new goals.
- Healthy environment
- Clean space
- Money management
- Paying bills
- Time management
- Work boundaries – I see my husband struggle with this. He goes to the office and then he comes home and works more. I know he enjoys it, but I hope he is setting boundaries for himself. Now with so many people working at home boundaries get even fuzzier.
- Breaks – even a 5- or 10-minute break will make you more productive.
What about examples of self-care for families:
- Family movie night (I love doing these with my family).
- Write each other a note.
- Craft together.
- Family game time.
- Family walk
- Family swim
- Spend time outside together.
- Kids yoga and/or meditation
- Clean together
- Plan meals and a grocery list together
- Family dinners
My latest forms of self-care for myself:
- Making myself healthy meals
- Friend time
- A date with my husband
- Family adventures outside
- Fresh air
- Walks with my dog.
I hope that your guilt vanishes after reading this. I hope that you learned some new ways to take care of yourself. I hope that you leave this realizing how important it is to take care of yourself. It took me 12 years. I hope it doesn’t take you as long.
We are in this together. You are not alone. I believe in you. I am your cheerleader.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R