You Matter: Making Time for Self Care
Nothing could have prepared me for being a mother. It has been the most wonderful and challenging experience of my life, so far. I have to say that my daughter and my husband give me such an incredible amount of joy that it is not surprising that I want to spend most of my time enjoying them and taking care of them. The only problem I have is that there is a certain amount of guilt that I feel when I take any time for myself. By taking care of myself, I feel like I am taking time away from them. Unfortunately, by continuously putting their needs ahead of mine, I feel that I have sent them the message that their needs are more important than mine and I feel that somehow they have almost come to expect that I will work myself to the point of exhaustion for them.
Pre-motherhood, my life was centered around the things that I wanted to do. Now my life is overflowing with obligations and it doesn’t matter what I want to do, because there are millions of things that need to be done before I even begin to consider myself. There will always be a room that needs to be cleaned, a meal to cook or an errand to run. Although I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that my to-do list will never be done, I feel drained by the fact that most of my time is devoted to others.
We have all heard the saying that “When Mom is happy, everyone is happy” an it is certainly true in my home. When I am feeling good, I will go above and beyond to make my family happy. I devote all of my time, focus and energy to them. When life becomes stressful and busy, however, and I put everyone else needs before mine, I start to feel depleted. I have less patience, I find life to be much less amusing and I have to survive through my days rather than be able to enjoy them. Nobody wants to feel that way and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone in that state of mind to be in charge of taking care of my family.
I have come to realize that my daily routine shouldn’t involve an effort to try to get everything done, because I know that is impossible. Instead, I feel that my day should reflect my priorities. To maintain my sanity, my needs have to become my priority. How I care for myself is just as important or maybe even more important than how I care for others. Psychologist know that the consequence of a mother, constantly putting her needs on the back burner will put her at risk for burn out, developing feelings of resentment, unhappiness and low self esteem. To spare myself the suffering I have to find a way to factor my desires and interests into the day.
So, how do we as mothers prevent this downward spiral? The answer is self care. As with most things in life, it is not so much the quantity but the quality of the time that you take for yourself that will make the difference. It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters how the activity makes you feel. What you do will change depending on the day and how much time you need will vary depending on how you feel at any given moment. The important thing is to find time for yourself every single day. Choose activities that make you feel authentically you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money going to the spa to feel cared for. Your self care can include something as simple as taking a warm bath, writing in your journal or talking on the phone with your best friend.
Just as eating the right foods fuels your body to have energy to get through the day, self care is meant to fuel your spirit and calm your mind, so that you are happy and motivated throughout your day. Self care enhances well being and helps to diffuse the stress that inevitably builds up during the day. You will feel more relaxed, productive and fulfilled. You will no longer be at the mercy of your dreaded to do list and your confidence and self assurance will be restored. The love and compassion that you will be showing yourself, will be well worth the time that you are carving out of your day.
Although I am committed to continuing to love my family in the best way possible, I am no longer willing to do it at the expense of my own well being. I matter, and what I want matters and I believe that it is important to practice and acknowledge that fact everyday. Finding time for myself makes me a happier person and a better mom, who is rested, relaxed and ready to take on the world.
How do you practice self care? Please share your favorite mommy time stories in the comments box below.