Sometimes, stress can overwhelm us to the point that we put self-care on the back burner. The irony of it is that self-care is what will help us reduce stress. So, how do we begin?
About 15 years ago, I had our first child. I took our baby to visit a friend who had three school-aged kids in school. Her words have always stuck with me and I think we need to remind ourselves of them from time to time: “Take care of yourself first,” she said. “You’ll be a better mom when you feel better… like a human being again.”
As hard as it seems, with all that we have going on, self-care should be a top priority, but how do I take care of myself first? She must have known that it wasn’t as easy as it sounded, because she would repeat the same thing to me months later when I was going on day two of no shower, ponytail, and yoga pants.
Now, years later, when asked for my best advice for new parents I always quote her. “Take care of yourself first.”
Take Care of Yourself First (and be a better mom!)
I was reading an article by Barbara Markway, Ph.D. about self-care and stress the other day and she said, “When we’re stressed, self-care is the first thing to go.”
Parenting is stressful and, for moms especially, self-care gets put on the back-burner. We put the needs of our family ahead of our own and sacrifice sleep to tend to them.
Basic actions like showering, eating right, and even sleeping become luxuries.
The important thing to remember is that if we’re not at our best, we’re not going to give our best. Taking care of yourself actually makes you a better parent. How? Let me explain.
When you’re well-rested and have had time to tend to your own needs, you have more patience for others. That whining toddler at 10am doesn’t seem quite so bad if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, a hot cup of coffee, and eaten a healthy breakfast. Your patience level is higher and you’re better able to cope with the stress of his meltdown. Things don’t seem so overwhelming and that makes the day go smoothly.
Parenting is tough work, and in the daily grind of raising amazing little ones, it’s common to feel like you’ve lost some of who you were. Those fun hobbies that you used to enjoy are now gathering dust in the corner next to fishy crackers and wooden blocks.
You wouldn’t trade being a parent for anything, but that loss of identity can put you in a funk. Self-care gives you permission to dust off that book you started reading two months ago or doodle in your journal during naptime.
It’s about being kind to yourself so that you gain back some of that confidence and passion you once had.
Give yourself a mental high-five for squeezing in a quick nap or doing something you haven’t done in awhile. The positive attitude you extend to yourself will naturally be reflected in your interactions with your family. Your kids would much rather have a happy, positive mommy than a grumpy, grouchy one.
Can I tell you a secret? When I had my oldest, I started exercising first thing in the morning. It wasn’t because I was super excited about doing jumping jacks at 6am, it was because I knew that if I exercised, I had to get a shower. And, as any mom knows, even a 5-minute shower can be a huge luxury.
Not only did I feel better thanks to the exercise, but I also felt better because I was taking care of myself every morning. That was a powerful change in my parenting because I was starting the day filled with energy, patience, and power. The exercise got the blood flowing, the shower swept away the worries from the day before, and the day just went better.
Now, taking care of yourself is not going to make parenting magically easier, but it will make it easier to cope with the ups and downs. There’s a saying that you can’t fill from an empty bucket and that’s so true when it comes to parenting. If you have nothing left for yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.
So, go take wildly good care of yourself and know that each moment of self-care could quite possibly be the best thing you do for your child all day.
More Encouragement for Moms
Motherhood isn’t easy, and sometimes we can feel self-conscious about whether or not we’re doing a good enough job! Here’s how to Gain Confidence as a Mom. If you’d like to keep your daily schedule more organized, try using some of these Printable Planners for Moms! Are your kids about to get off summer break soon?
Check out these Tips Every Mom of a school-aged child Should Know.
Leave a comment: What is your favorite way to practice self-care?