Taking time for yourself when you have little ones attached to you, crawling around you, or running circles around you might seem impossible. However, it’s not only possible, it’s important and vital! There’s a common myth that moms should do it all, look good doing it, and make it look easy. These kinds of unrealistic expectations lead mothers to conclude that they just have to keep going and self-care is a waste of time.
On the contrary, building healthy self-care rhythms is an investment in yourself as well as your family. Establishing habits that give you energy, rest, and refreshment enable you to care for your family better in the long-run. The demands on your time and energy are very real but if you’re constantly pouring out without taking time to fill up then you will eventually get to empty.
A common objection to practicing self-care is that it’s selfish. This certainly qualifies as another myth that needs abolished. It is not selfish to recognize your own needs and to take practical steps to meet those needs. A common objection to self-care is that it takes too much time. Self-care can take many different forms and can be adapted to fit your life. Maybe taking a whole day to go to the spa is not in the cards for you right now. Instead of binging, create and develop daily habits that respect your needs and give you the strength to care for your little ones.
One aspect of self-care is your mental and emotional health. A big way to care for you is setting realistic expectations for yourself. You cannot do it all. Accepting this and many other realities will lay the groundwork for healthy expectations. Accepting that things are hard, along with the whole range of emotions that accompany this life stage, is important.
Practice validating your emotions and avoid stuffing them away. Ignoring your emotions does not make them go away, they just come out in other ways that may not be helpful to you or your family. Write about them in a journal or talk to a trusted friend. Also, set healthy boundaries to practice self-care, learning to say no and expressing your needs in relationships.
Another significant aspect of self-care is healthy relationships. This looks like turning to others for support and not trying to do everything on your own. Use assertive communication to let your partner know how they can help and then take a deep breath as you actually let them do it. Since you likely spend the most time with the baby, at least at first, it can be hard to let others help, especially if they do things differently. But giving your partner space to figure things out and build confidence will be good for all of you. It will allow your partner and the baby to bond. It will also give you much needed breaks. If you live near family, take them up on offers to help out with the kids so you can have time to yourself. Connect with friends in different life stages. Ask you partner to watch the kids while you get dinner with some friends. Call or email a friend to check in with how they’re doing. Build relationships with other moms. You might have to initiate these friendships by offering to host a playdate or going up to introduce yourself at the park. Or connect with other moms by joining a class or neighborhood moms group.
Spiritual and physical health are other aspects of self-care. Where do you derive purpose and meaning? What gives you peace and hope? Are you part of a faith community? Answers to these questions might point you to where you can invest in your spiritual growth and development. Also, make sure to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Exercise can take various forms so find one that you enjoy and that fits well with your life so that you are more likely to stick with it. Some suggestions are walking, hiking, bike riding, swimming, tennis, and yoga. You might also consider asking your partner or a friend to join you every once in a while. This can be great combining self-care, healthy relationships, accountability and social support you need.
I’d love to help you figure out some useful and sustainable self-care habits. Call me today!
Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt
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