This week I had the opportunity to be the speaker at a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) meeting at Klein United Methodist Church. We discussed Mom Self-care, a topic I have come to be very passionate about. I want to share with you all some of the themes and conclusions I have come to in preparing for and participating in this discussion.
Prior to organizing my presentation, I polled several mothers to discover their answers to some self-care related questions. Here are some of the answers I received:
What are your favorite forms of self-care?
“monthly mani/pedi, and reality TV”
“taking a bath, listening to audio books”
“Going to a movie by myself, getting a massage, my morning coffee”
“Art, alone time, worship, baths, reading”
“Walks, brunch or coffee with girlfriends, time to myself, sleep”
“Yoga, reading, exercise, Bible study”
What are the obstacles to self-care?
“time, sleep, ‘the list’”
“All the shoulds: I should be more social, I should clean the house, etc, etc”
“Chores for the house, money, other things to do”
“Time and lack of childcare”
“The mommy guilt”
How has self-care changed since you became a mom?
“I have to ask for it before it becomes desperate”
“It takes way more planning to make it happen. Usually coordinating with my spouse.”
“Quiet time alone definitely wasn’t at the top of my self-care list before becoming a mom.”
“It requires help to make it happen. And I can’t be afraid to ask for help.”
“You have to be creative about carving out the time to do so.”
“I’ve had to be more intentional, learn to say ‘no,’ and prioritize.”
“I have to state my needs to my partner and ask him if we can make room for my self-care.”
Do you think self-care is a priority?
“yes yes yes!”
“Not the highest.”
“Yes, I try to make it one.”
What tips and tricks do you have for fitting it into your schedule?
“Make it a priority. Be creative. Ask for help.”
“Make it a routine – whether once a week, once a month, etc.”
“Planning, planning, planning! Worth the babysitter or hubby stepping in.”
“Make the most of the little moments that you get – don’t waste it scrolling on my phone.”
Self-care, what’s the point?
“To not go insane as a mom.”
“To mentally be joyful and present! Pour into yourself so that you can pour into others.”
“We were designed to rest. Recreation and leisure helps my mental and emotional state.”
“Can’t pour from an empty cup.”
These thoughtful answers helped me to jumpstart my thinking about this important topic.
Let’s begin by defining it. So, what is self-care?
This could certainly be it’s own post. This could certainly be several posts. Self-care is a broad term and covers many areas of life – things were are committed to doing, things we are committed to not doing. However, as a jumping off point, I have gathered some of the self-care definitions I like:
Self-care is the pursuit of health, happiness, peacefulness, well-being, and kindness towards oneself.
Self-care is the intentional care of one’s mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health through everyday practices and activities.
Why is self-care the first to go? Rubber balls vs. Glass balls.
As mothers, life always feels like a juggling act. While one ball is in the air, several others are waiting for their turn to be front and center. For example, we are juggling parenting, friends, work, spousal relationship, house work, meal prep, etc. Often, the problem is we view our own self-care as a big rubber ball in the juggling act, hoping that we can let it fall and eventually it will bounce back up during a more opportune time to attend to it. The problem is our own self-care is more like a glass ball, it falls and it breaks, and everything starts to come down with it.
We must view self-care as an example for our kids.
Somewhere along the way we have adopted this notion that self-care is selfish. We believe it somehow takes away from our children and our other “more productive” responsibilities. On the contrary, the truth is self-care gives to our children. It helps us to set an example to them that valuing mental health is as important as valuing our physical health (which we do by taking vitamins, eating regularly, getting good sleep, going to the doctor, etc). I asked the mothers in my audience on Tuesday to consider what it would have been like for them to learn this skill early on. Many of the ladies mentioned that their childhood would have been completely different had the learned the importance of self-care at a young age. Some said they would have been completely different. They also discussed recognizing the weight of teaching good mental health practices can help to keep them motivated to practice their own self-care. There's no doubt about it: The little ones are watching. Self-care yields passion, energy, compassion, and patience – these are exactly the kinds of gifts we want to be able to offer our kids.
We must view self-care as an act of gratitude.
Anna Hathaway was recently quoted saying, “I just figured out how to say thank you to life by taking care of myself. By not apologizing for taking up space, which is not something I knew how to do 10 years ago.” Self-care is our thank you note for the gifts in our lives. It is a way to say express gratitude and to celebrate our health, our spouses, our children, our friends, our interests, our feelings, our well-being, our existence.
Self-care is a life response similar to that of receiving a precious gift – it’s polished, cherished, cared for.
We must view self-care as an act of perseverance, longevity.
White-knuckling it can only last so long and it comes with it’s own sacrifices. Most of us who have been bad at self-care at any point in our lives, know that the neglect of it comes with its own sacrifices. It shows up in some way, something else is sacrificed. We peter out; we yell at our kids; we have panic attacks; we are disconnected from our spouses; we are disconnected for ourselves. Self-care allows us to move from a "white-knuckling it" position that may last for a sprint, but motherhood is a marathon, perhaps a triathalon. The aim here is not short term - but long term happiness and health.
We must view self-care as an act of kindness and a way to protect our thoughts.
Self-care is one of the ways we protect our thinking from destructive, high-anxiety thoughts. Perspective is a big deal. Our thoughts are important. Self-care helps to renew and refresh our thinking so we are ready for the tasks and challenges at hand.
This week's challenge is two parts.
First, begin by committing to do at least 10 minutes per day of self-care. Here are some ideas of self-care activities that should not take more than 10 minutes: doing yogic stretches, listening to a favorite song, meditating, praying, journaling, texting a friend, stepping outside, reading an inspiring quote, breathing deeply, reading a blog, snuggling with a pet, lighting a candle, giving a self massage, enjoying a coffee, getting rid of extra stuff, watching a funny youtube video, taking a hot shower, coloring, enjoying a cup of coffee, listing things you’re grateful for, doing a face mask.
Second, commit to doing one self-care activity this week that is longer and will take some arranging – scheduling, asking for help, etc. Here are some ideas of what that might me: exercising, reading a book, opening up to a trusted friend, getting a massage, going to therapy, taking a walk outside, cooking, getting nails done, doing one thing at a time, serving, getting hair done, seeing a movie, limiting social media use, attending church, going on a date, knitting, taking a class, scrap-booking, painting, gardening, playing video games, writing, exploring a new place in your hometown, mindfully enjoying a meal.
One way you can do this weekly if you are local is through my group “Mindful Mommas”:
As always, if you have questions about this or want to schedule a session to discuss further: Brittany.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You got this, mommas!