You’ve heard those words before. “Self-care”. It seems to be a buzzword nowadays wherever you look, whether it’s on the news or whether you hear it from friends, it’s all everyone talks about. You might have your own list of things that you classify as self-care, things that make you feel pampered and help you escape from the beautiful chaos of motherhood. But, being a mother is so time consuming and emotionally draining that your self-care list sits in the back of your mind gathering dust because you never seem to have the time to use it.
Besides, being a mother means sacrificing yourself for the sake of your children, right? Wouldn’t it be selfish to try to take some time away from your kids for yourself?
What is self-care?
To answer those questions, let’s start by defining what self-care really means. The National Institute of Mental Health defines self-care as “Taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health”1. Too many times, we think of self-care as this extravagant getaway trip where you don’t see the kids for over a week (although that would be nice), but that isn’t in any way sustainable and it sounds more of like an escape rather than taking care of yourself.
The reality is self-care doesn’t have to be something big or complicated. It consists of small and simple things that help you feel restored and reenergized. It may be as simple as putting in some headphones and dancing around to some of your favorite music. Whatever it is, it should always be focused on improving your physical and mental health.
Why is self-care important for mothers?
You can’t pour water out of an empty cup. As a mother you’re constantly trying to be the best mother possible for your children and that often means giving all your time and energy into them. This can work, but sooner or later you might start to feel burnt out. You might find yourself losing patience more quickly or even feeling overwhelmed. Ultimately, without proper care, you’ll just be running yourself thin.
WHO reported that in developed countries right now about 20% of women are diagnosed with depression after childbirth2. This doesn’t include the fact that you could be diagnosed even later on in life. This also doesn’t take into consideration that you may have kids who experience their own struggles with mental illness. Regardless of your circumstances with mental health, practicing self-care is a great way to continually refill your “water cup” and be the best mother that you can be.
Take care of yourself the same way that you take care of your kids. Being a mother is hard and it can never be done perfectly. The idea of taking care of yourself might bring some of that “mom guilt” but at the end of the day, not only are you helping yourself, you’re also helping your kids. Remember that you are worthy of the same care that you so willingly give to your children.
What does self-care look like in motherhood?
Self-care looks differently for everyone but there are certain principles that you can focus on when taking care of yourself. Here are a couple of suggestions for self-care practices that could potentially help you:
Get adequate sleep
Get the sleep you need. Not only will it help with your energy levels, but it will help with your mood throughout the day. Try sticking to a schedule by falling asleep and waking up everyday at the same time. Doing so can help in getting good, quality sleep.
Eat regularly and eat well
You care about your children’s diets meticulously, do the same for your diet. It’s not fair to tell yourself that you can eat later and wind up spending all day not eating at all. Healthy, regular meals can help with boosting your energy and mood, it can also set the precedent for your own kids as they learn to establish good eating habits.
You don’t have to go to the gym, but performing some sort of physical activity for 30 minutes everyday can be beneficial. It doesn’t even have to be all at one time, you can split up your physical activity throughout the day because it adds up! Even if it’s just a light walk around the block or traditional at home workouts, this will also help in boosting your mood.
Take time to do something that you really enjoy
This can be dancing around, watching a comfort tv show, reading a good book, or even just wearing makeup to help you feel confident. Whatever it is, just do something that you enjoy doing!
Build a peer support system
A sense of community is always important no matter who you are. Building a support system with friends, neighbors, family members, etc. can help in the long run. A support system is there to help you out on your really hard days. They can also be a great resource for babysitting every once in a while when you need some alone time!
Reach out for professional help
Often even after expending your best efforts, you may find yourself continually struggling. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help, there is no shame in doing so. Keep in mind that being a mother is one of the hardest things a person can do in their life. It is hard to keep up and sometimes it may feel like you’re never doing enough. Rest assured, the best mothers aren’t the perfect ones, rather they are the ones who keep on trying.
Meeting with a therapist is always a great way to receive professional counseling on how to deal with especially hard challenges. Talk to your primary care provider to see if meeting with a therapist is the right thing for you. There may also be instances in which medication may be necessary. No matter the circumstance, remember that receiving any type of help is a signis sign of strength and should never be looked down upon.
If you or anyone else you know is seriously struggling, especially with suicidal thoughts/ideation and/or at risk of harming themselves or others, please call/text 988 for immediate help.
This blog was written by Alessandro Gemio, edited by Izzy Maire, and reviewed/approved by Taylor Madsen, LMFT, and Hailey Maire, LCSW.