This isn’t the Mum I wanted to be…
Do you find yourself yelling or snapping at your kids all the time?
Are you constantly telling them to hurry up, or stop mucking around, insisting that they pick up after themselves, stop bickering, get in the car, do their seatbelt up, stop annoying each other, get out of the car again, and on and on and on?
Always telling them off, always tired or grumpy or focussed on something else.
This isn’t the kind of Mum you thought you would be, and these aren’t the memories you want your kids to have of you.
You aren’t this person because you are a bad Mum – on the contrary, you are exhausted because you are a great Mum. And because you look after everybody and everything else before yourself, and put your own needs at the bottom of your list of priorities.
Looking after yourself isn’t a selfish idea, it’s actually vitally necessary for you and really beneficial for your children. Let’s have a look at why.
Self-care tips for Mothers: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
We have such a natural tendency to compare ourselves to other Mums around us, or to the ideal Mum that we think we should be. Then we feel guilty when we don’t match up.
Mum-guilt – it’s the worst, am I right?
It’s easy to think that self-care is a luxury we don’t have time for, when we already feel over-extended and guilty for not being good enough.
If the house isn’t tidy and the kids aren’t in half a dozen extra-curricular activities and you haven’t finished that work your boss gave you weeks ago – why should you be scheduling in some self-care time?
It’s the last thing you have time for.
(And if you do take time to do it, you spend the entire supposed ‘self-care’ time thinking about what you should be accomplishing instead. So, you waste it anyway.)
Think of it as Preventative
Self-care is about looking after yourself to make sure that you don’t get sick. It keeps you mentally, physically and emotionally well.
Even a small amount of self-care time such as a bath, long cup of tea or a massage helps your health by releasing something in your body called the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is basically the opposite of the ‘fight or flight response’, which is when your body perceives danger and gets ready to act.
The relaxation response is your body’s way of telling itself that all danger is gone, there is no reason to stress, and your mind and body calm completely as a result.
Self-care also builds resilience, which is one of those buzz words that we all seem to pay attention to at the moment. This means that we are more likely to hold up well in the face of anything life throws at us. Resilience means being able to be consistently strong – which is another word for ‘Mum-power’
It’s kind of like taking vitamin C tablets but for your entire well-being – to boost up your defenses against anything the world has to throw at you.
But you need to do it properly
Don’t just schedule something in and then waste it by spending the whole time:
- Planning dinner or chores for later on
- Feeling guilty about taking money or time away from another part of your life
- Worrying about things that are on your mind
Put your head, heart, and body fully into your self-care activity when you are doing it. Be in this moment completely, and you will get the full benefit from even just a short period of time.
Self-care is an excellent way to get some much needed and well-deserved alone time. You may not realise, but as a Mum, you can go days and even weeks without the chance to be alone with your thoughts. Scheduling in self-care guarantees you some alone time every day and helps you to reconnect and refocus your mind.
Schedule in at least 15 minutes twice a day and fully experience your activity while you are in it.
Through scheduled self-care time for you, you become a better Mum
Through scheduled self-care time for you, you become a better Mum and a healthier human being.
And you are teaching your children wonderful habits in the process.
They will quickly get used to knowing that certain times a day are just for Mummy, and that she will be back focussing on the children again soon. And when she comes back to focus on the children, she will be far more relaxed and lovely.
They will grow up knowing the worth you put into yourself and your own health, and they will model this as adults and parents themselves.
They learn to take time out and have a few deep breaths when they are tired or frustrated or angry, because they see you doing this.
Self-care tips for Mothers: What does Self-Care Mean to You?
Often self-care means something pampering and luxurious, such as a bubble bath, getting your hair or nails done or having a massage. But it doesn’t always have to be about beauty and pampering – it’s whatever connects most with you.
Choose things that are accessible in terms of location, time and expense. If you are home with a small baby or on a tight budget, then you can’t just spring for a massage anytime you like. Don’t let your personal situation stop you from scheduling something nice in for you.
- Brew a proper cup of tea with leaves in a teapot, and use your favourite teacup
- Some adult colouring
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Going for a run, swim or walk
- Reading a book or magazine
- Taking off your shoes and walking around in soft grass or sand
- Streaming some guilty-pleasure television
- Fifteen minutes of yoga
- A romance novel and a tub of good-quality ice-cream
- Fifteen minutes of a mindfulness or meditation app
- Placing a lavender eye-pack over your eyes and having a quick nap
And don’t schedule in something for self-care that you feel like you should be doing – do something that you actually enjoy and feel good while you are doing it.
Here are some basic rules for Self-Care to take away with you:
- Schedule it in and stick to your schedule
- Choose something that makes you happy
- Be in the moment – don’t feel guilty about what you should be doing instead
Recognising when Self-Care Isn’t Enough
We are big fans of Mums (and everyone, really!) scheduling some regular self-care into their day, but sometimes self-care isn’t enough.
If you are really struggling, if you feel beyond help and are burned out by the amount of stress you feel or burdens you face, then you might need a little more than just self-care time.
Scheduling in a hot bath or getting your nails done will not help to reverse a serious overload of duties or backload of stresses. If you have taken on too much, you can easily get wiped out.
Sometimes you may need to take a closer look at the number of burdens you are facing, and seriously consider cutting back something. This can be a very hard decision to make, as reducing paid work to focus on kids, or putting kids into care to focus on yourself is not usually an available option.
You wouldn’t be working as hard as you are if you didn’t have to – right? But if you don’t reduce your stress significantly, you may collapse completely. And if you don’t function, nobody does.
Self-care is a great preventive option to keep your healthy and balanced, but if you have tipped the scale into exhausted and burned out, then self-care alone might not be enough.
Talk to your family or support network about the possibility of reducing at least one of your burdens. Alternatively, you might like to talk to your GP or a counsellor about ways to lighten your load and improve your health.