I thought I understood motherhood. In my mind, I had it all figured out. I knew what to do and what not to do. I was confident in my ability to raise a happy, confident, vegetable-loving, piano-playing, toy-sharing little kid. I also knew how I would manage to have time for myself in the midst of all the chaos. That was all well and good – except for the fact that I wasn’t a mother yet. You see, it’s much easier to imagine the kind of mother you will be before you actually become one. The game totally changes when you have a real, living human depending on you for survival. The child stops being a figment of your imagination and becomes real… as real as they get. Motherhood then takes on a completely different form. So how can we, as mothers, still keep it together, care for ourselves, and meet our own needs post-baby?
When we hear the words “self-care”, the images that usually pop up are of pampering sessions, massages, luxurious facials, and a day at the spa. While these are definitely nice (and recommended) on occasion, the type of self-care I am referring to is a simpler and more basic level of care. It is about meeting our fundamental needs on a daily basis, which are often neglected when we’re busy – and, as mothers, when are we not?
Almost every mom I know has an ongoing to-do list, one that keeps getting longer and longer. Some write it down and some have it memorized. Personally, I love to-do lists. Sometimes, if I do something that wasn’t on the list, I’ll write it down just so that I can scratch it off with a long sigh of satisfaction. If you are like me, always carrying around your to-do list, take a look at the one you have today and ask yourself: where am I on the list, or am I even there at all? Apart from grocery shopping, buying a present for a kid’s birthday, inviting a few friends over for dinner, and scheduling a doctor’s appointment for one of your children, what else do you have on there?
What I have come to realize is that it is easy to put self-care on the back burner when we are caught up in making sure our families are taken care of first. However, focusing on everyone else’s needs and neglecting our own does our loved ones more harm than good. Yes, we might be getting things done and knocking them off the list, but at what expense?
With that in mind, here are six tips to help you find more time for yourself.
Practice Self-Care Intervals
You don’t need to schedule an uninterrupted two hours daily to practice self-care. Instead, try building short intervals into your day, during which you are not doing anything for the house or for the kids or for work. It could be as short as ten or 15 minutes twice a day, and you can choose to stay still, doing absolutely nothing and going inwards, or to make yourself a cup of tea.
Find Joy in the Mundane
Whenever you’re doing something that is not particularly fun or stimulating, ask yourself: how can I make this moment more enjoyable? How can I enjoy what I am doing right now? Being mindful can make dull tasks more fun. For instance, when you are washing the dishes, choose the perfect water temperature, lather the plate and make bubbles, and play music in the kitchen.
This doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym for an hour and a half every day. Find some time to do something useful with your body, like squats while you’re brushing your teeth, parking a bit further so that you can walk, or taking the kids to the beach for sunset and walking barefoot on the sand.
Sleep at a Decent Hour
As moms, we need to get enough sleep in order to function properly and care for our families the next day. What usually ends up happening on the nights when we don’t have social commitments is that we put the kids to sleep and then play “catch-up”, whether it’s series we’re addicted to, work that’s been piling up, or rooms that need tidying up. Try to get as much sleep as possible every night. You will thank yourself for doing that the next morning.
Learn to Say No
Most of us don’t like to disappoint or offend people. As people pleasers, we often do whatever it takes to accommodate requests. It’s important to learn to set boundaries and to say “no” to helping a friend move when you are already super busy doing other things or to housing your cousin’s pet because they’re traveling. It’s also important to be able to say “no” to social commitments that bring you more stress than joy. Large group outings with people in noisy restaurants can sometimes leave us feeling anything but refreshed and nurtured. Just say “no”; it won’t be the end of the world.
But Also Say Yes
More specifically, say “yes” to help when it’s offered instead of insisting on doing everything yourself.
Self-care means something different for each one of us, but the end result is the same: to maintain your internal balance and see that reflected in your external world. Taking care of yourself is not selfish or indulgent; it is an absolute necessity for your wellbeing. So what will you do for yourself today, mama?