Women are told that being a mom is the most rewarding experience of their lifetime. Women are also told that they can have it all — parenthood, families, career, relationships, and community involvement.
Women are not told, however, that by juggling all these hats they put themselves at risk for … Mom Burnout. We become so busy taking care of kids, partners, parents, in-laws, pursuing careers, and managing the day-to-day maintenance of running a home (cooking, cleaning, shopping), that everyone else gets our best. We get shortchanged. We often feel dissatisfied, unappreciated, haggard, cranky, disheveled and even unattractive. Many moms put basic needs on hold — doctor’s appointments, haircuts, coffee with a close friend. Having it all leaves us with no strength and no time to care for ourselves.
I remember a particular Mother’s Day, sitting in one of my favorite cafes overlooking a park in bloom, surrounded by my two daughters and my then-husband. I was absolutely exhausted — caring for two small children, working, taking care of the house, attempting to keep it all together. Sitting there, on Mother’s Day, fighting to keep my eyes open, all I could think was, “What about me?”
Research has shown, as documented by WebMD, that women today are less happy than they have been over the past 40 years. Why? Theories abound, but l suspect a lack of “me-time” is a major reason.
“There’s a tremendous amount of stress and pressure put on women: being parents, being daughters, mothers, wives, professionals. All of these roles combined leave many of us not taking adequate care of ourselves — which is what sustains us and gives us the energy to take care of all these other responsibilities that we have,” says Randy Kamen Gredinger, EdD, a Wayland, Mass., psychologist and life coach specializing in women’s issues, as quoted by WebMD.
I ask you: “What do you want for you?”
As Mia Redrick, author of Time for Mom-Me: 5 Essential Strategies for a Mother’s Self Care explains, most moms have “a clear understanding of what the members of their families need to feel whole, loved and enriched.” And yet, the same moms have no idea what they need to care for themselves.
There is more at play here, however, than just “not knowing.” There is an insidious undercurrent of guilt many moms feel a for taking care of herself. Perhaps she internalizes the implied message that if a mom is taking care of herself, she is taking time away from caring for someone else. It’s our duty, after all, to minimize our needs in order to take care of others.
Or, is it?
Here’s the perfect analogy: Think of yourself like a bank. “You can’t give more than you have without bankrupting yourself,” explains psychotherapist Ashley Eder, as quoted in the article, How To Stop Feeling Guilty About Practicing Self-Care. “You also can’t invest your money in making more money if you give it all away. Having the resources to share with others depends on conservation and renewal of your own supply.”
Whether you are a brand-new mom, wrangling toddlers, or waiting up at night for teenagers, every mom requires self-care for peak performance. In other words, practicing self-care helps us help others more effectively.
There are many reasons for moms to regularly practice self-care. Taking care of yourself will:
- make you a better parent — you will be more patient, more attentive and more attuned.
- make you a better partner, sibling, professional, daughter — for all the same reasons taking care of yourself makes you a better parent.
- demonstrate to your children what it looks like to be an amazing mom. Do you want to show your children how to put their needs last as a parent? Or, so you want to show your children that rest, attending to one’s needs, and “time out” are essential?
- be better equipped to communicate your needs and what support you require to your partner, family and friends.
- make you healthier and stronger.
- raise your level of contentedness and happiness.
- make you feel cared for, nurtured and loved.
- recharge your battery and feel more rested.
- promote feeling appreciated, and in turn, you will feel more appreciative and grateful toward the people in your life.
Ultimately, self-care is essential and non-negotiable. From getting enough sleep, to taking care of our basic needs, to setting personal limits and boundaries, to being honest with our partners, it’s making our health and wellness a non-negotiable priority.
After all, when you watch the airline demonstration at the beginning of your flight, the attendant says, “put the oxygen mask on you first, then your child.” You cannot help another to your full capacity until you help yourself first.