Chances are you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that moms are usually the most selfless people in the world. Whether you are a mom yourself and spend your days putting everyone else first, or you are someone who has seen and experienced a mother’s love and sacrifice, you know that moms all over the world would choose their kids over themselves any day of the week.
Most of the moms I know are constantly lamenting their lack of ability to do the things they want. We make jokes about Mom Life because the experience is so universal that pretty much anyone with kids can relate.
Mom Life means reheating our coffee three or four times each day. It is four-minute showers without shaving our legs. It is chipped nail polish and yoga pants and spit-up in our hair. Mom Life is Cheerios under the couch and all over the floor of the minivan. It is rocks and salamanders in pockets and gobs of glitter stuck to the kitchen table. It is answering a thousand questions each day. It is being a chauffeur, a doctor, a short order cook, a lawyer, a teacher and a maid.
We give so much of ourselves to others that we forget that we are people, too. We had lives before we had kids. We were once full of passions and interests that didn’t include learning every lyric of every Disney song. We discussed reality tv with our girlfriends while sipping wine or cocktails every weekend. We read books and went to the gym and took long bubble baths. We slept. Oh, god, how we slept!
And now, we live only for our children. Where once we might occasionally stay up late to catch up on our favorite TV show, now we go to bed as soon as possible while our shows build up week after week on our DVRs. While we once woke up early to put on makeup and do our hair, we now sleep as long as humanly possible because we’ve been woken up several times in the night by our babies need water or food or comfort. Our hair is short and unruly, or we scrape it back into a ponytail. Our jewelry is limited to our wedding rings because anything else will be destroyed by grasping toddlers. Our makeup routine involves moisturizer and lip balm if we’re lucky.
And we tell ourselves it’s okay. We are mothers. Our jobs are to look after our children. We are not supposed to worry about ourselves. How could a bubble bath and a good book compare to getting down and playing Chutes and Ladders with our kids for the sixteenth time today? So what if we haven’t been to the nail bar in six months? So we have a muffin top because booking the daycare at the gym is a nightmare? So our fitbit tracker shows our average nightly sleep is only just over five hours? It’s for the KIDS.
Here is the truth. Self care is NOT selfish! Taking care of ourselves means that others are given our best self. It’s like on an airplane. The safety card always tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. It isn’t selfish – it’s smart. If you are helping your child to get oxygen, and you pass out from lack of it, how can you take care of him? If you’re taking care of a sick child, and you get sick, too, you’re no good to him.
The fact is that practicing good self care is paramount to being a good mother. Self care means giving the world the BEST of you instead of what is left of you. Self care means taking the time to listen to what your body and mind are telling you they need.
There’s so much talk nowadays about self love – accepting yourself as you are, whatever your flaws. But self care is about doing whatever it takes to make that self love easier. Healthy minds and bodies come from getting rest, getting active and getting spoiled occasionally. It is not selfish to take care of yourself. Selfishness is giving others less than your best because you are too busy to practice self care.
Do you ever find yourself snapping at your kids for asking too many questions? I know it happens to me. But it’s not my kids’ fault. They are naturally curious and think we know everything, so it’s only natural that they ask. But the only times I get snippy with them is when I haven’t had enough sleep or I haven’t eaten well enough. So now, not only do I suffer, but I’ve just made my children suffer, too!
When we start seeing ourselves as vital to our own lives, we can begin sloughing off the guilt of self indulgence.
What are some little things you can do to take better care of yourself? Whether it’s taking medicine BEFORE your headache turns into a migraine or shutting off your phone an hour before bed to allow yourself to properly relax, putting yourself first is going to make you a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.