In 2016, I picked a really simple resolution. It was simply one word: Gina. I was allowed to be me, read and buy books when I wanted to, and to even sometimes put myself before others. As a people pleaser, this was at times uncomfortable to me. The weirdest thing happened though. I was happier, and I had a lot more energy to give to others. I started to realize what self-care really meant, and that since becoming a mom, I hadn’t been doing that great of a job of taking care of me.
Part of this shift came from reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. She explains that focusing on your own happiness is not in fact selfish. The happier we feel, the better people we are, and then we are able to influence more people for good. This makes total sense, but as moms, we are wired to care for our kids before ourselves, and many times we do it at the expense of our own mental health. Simply put, moms suck at self-care.
Here are 7 ways moms aren’t taking care of themselves:
Not getting your own back.
Gah. I can be terrible at this. Quieting that evil twin in your head can be hard. My brain has a good habit of waiting for others to validate everything that I do. Moms don’t get many pats on the back for changing diapers, making meals and lunches, and many of the little things we do all day. Instead of leaving it up to others to make you feel good, work on positive self talk. You may feel silly at first, but little pieces of praise that you say to yourself can go a long way.
Not having hobbies:
Be yourself, and embrace it. All of you. How much social time do you need? What does a fulfilling day look like for you? What are your quirks, and what makes you unique? Is there a way to get in touch with things you truly enjoy? What did you enjoy as a child? Could you join a sports team or a local theatre, or find other activity that really makes you feel like you, for no other reason than that it is fun for you? Don’t sacrifice your own identity just because you have children who need you. Be creative and find little ways to embrace being yourself.
Defining yourself by “outside” standards.
I’ve always loved reading, and I was an English Major in college. I’ve read plenty of books. However, I’ve always struggled to define myself as a “reader” because there are so many people who read more than me, faster than me, and remember what they’ve read better than me. I felt like there was some kind of club out there, and once I had read enough classics, my name would somehow appear on that list. It’s silly, I know. Well, one day I decided that none of that mattered. I like to read, so I’m a reader. I told myself I was, and I decided to believe it. The same can be true for anything you like to do or want to become. YOU get to decide what makes you legitimate. Don’t wait for others to grant it to you.
Choosing cynicism or criticism over kindness
When we love others, we are the ones who get to feel love. Loving people feels great. It feels way better than resentment, and we free up brain space for better and more important thoughts. Let things go. Look for the good in others. Choose kindness over criticism or gossiping. When you find the good in others, you’ll start to see it more in yourself too.
Not taking care of your future self
Instead of living for the day-to-day moment, take care of future-you. It can be hard to plan ahead when the laundry is piled high, and cheerios line the floor, but doing things for your future self is a great hack to reframe the way you get things done. Think about doing things on your to-do list as a gift to your future self. The more you do this, the more present you’ll be able to be in the day-t0-day moments.
Letting your kids think you’re supermom
When my kids get home from school, they must think I have super powers. They’re talking all at once, and think that I can listen, respond, get them a snack, a drink, sign papers, help someone with piano practice and change a diaper at the same time. Sound familiar? When they’re all talking at once, melting down, and trying to get my attention, I don’t handle it well. I used to (okay, I still do!) get really frustrated as I tried meet all their needs at the same time. I’m learning to tell each of them to stop and wait because I’m just one person and there’s no way I can meet all their needs at once. I try to remind them that there’s just one of me, and I’m just a regular human. Taking turns, doing chores, and not getting their needs met right away, is just part of having me as their mom, and in turn gives me the head space to be a regular, not super, human.
Not getting help when you need it
I went through a really rough bout of depression a few years ago. Pregnant and overwhelmed with a busy toddler, my brain chemicals were out of whack, and I didn’t feel like myself. I really struggled for a long time before I finally got the help that I needed for myself. It was so hard for me to ask my doctor to refer me to someone to talk about my depression. I wasn’t even sure if it was depression, and felt so much shame in not being the happy person that I used to be. If I could go back, I would tell myself to just do it instead of putting it off, or waiting to see if it would just get better on its own.
Luckily for me, the therapist I was referred to was fantastic. I learned some tools to deal with parts of my life that were causing me unneeded pain, and I went on an anti-depressant as soon as the baby was born. Getting on the drug snapped me out of that low that I was in, and I felt so much better. I remember waking up and feeling a sense of relief, and thinking, is this how everyone else feels every morning? Well, no wonder it was so dang hard! Since then, I’ve kept a close check on my mental health, noticing when I need a “tune up” or some extra help.
As a mom, you have small people depending on you to be your best self, and you can’t do your best parenting when you are being unauthentic and feeling inadequate. Take little steps each day to treat yourself a little better, and you will be that much closer to living your best life.