Before having my daughter, I always vowed that I would never become the woman that completely lost herself to motherhood because I knew many women that this had happened to and how it affected them. Despite my strong resolve, it DID happen to me and it happened in less time than it took to grow the baby! After experiencing it myself, I now understood how easy it was to become the all-sacrificing (and complaining), mom. Most days as a mom are spent feeling inadequate because you can barely keep up with everything that needs to get done in a day and the idea of self-care just seems frivolous. That being said, as hard as it is, now that I am a mom, I understand more than ever how important and vital self-care is to a mother’s well being but with so much to do and only 24 hours in a day, where do you even find time to do anything for yourself?
Self-care starts with the necessities like showering, eating and sleeping (as I type this, it sounds absolutely insane to me that one could get to a point where they don’t get to perform basic human functions!) The basics are hard to get to, especially in those early days and, often, if you have an hour or two where the baby is sleeping, you have to choose between showering, eating OR sleeping. My recommendation in those early days is to completely forget about self-care and just focus on survival. When you get those extra minutes, do whatever your body needs most. As the baby gets older and your days get a little more predictable and the baby is sleeping longer stretches, meaning that you’re sleeping longer stretches and finding yourself less zombie-like, you may find yourself able to squeeze in those necessities more often. Which means now you can focus on the fun stuff! Those non-essential activities that are basically all the things we loved to do before becoming mothers like going to the movies, exercising, shopping or whatever it is that you enjoyed doing in your free time. The issue that most moms have though is that “free time” goes from being an actual thing to a fantasy concept.
I’m still struggling with finding time for myself and I truly believe that as mothers, we will ALWAYS struggle with it, but I have gotten better at it and I’ll share some of the things I’ve implemented. 1) Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If I decide to treat myself to lunch or a movie and as a result, I don’t have time to do the laundry, it’s not the end of the world. More times than not, it just means that Sydney has to go without a bib or wear a pair of pants and a onesie to bed instead of pajamas. 2) You can do it all by yourself…but do you really want to? If you’re not a single mom, you’re not in this alone. If you are a single mom, use your community to the best of your ability. Delegate responsibilities and ask for help as much as you can, which will free up time for you. There’s no shame in asking for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman or any less of a mom. Use your team, whether it is your partner, your family or friends. It will only make your family unit run better. The only thing you’ll get from trying to do it all on your own is burnout. 3) Accept your new reality and retrain your brain! If you enjoy reading, you probably used to enjoy getting lost in a book for hours, if you were a couch potato, maybe you enjoyed binging on Netflix. Well, guess what…those days are over…but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you love. Instead of reading for hours on end, try to sneak in a few pages whenever you can. I fold laundry and as I’m putting it in its designated places, I have my phone in hand with a book open on my kindle. It may take me a month now to read a book that it previously took a week to read but that’s my new reality. I still get to do something I love, just in smaller doses. If you’re the Netflixer, the pause button exists for a reason. There are many days that I’ve watched an episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale” in three twenty minute segments. I call it mini binging. If you were a person who was an exercise buff, try trading in those hour-long workouts for an extremely efficient 20 to 30-minute workout.
If you manage to take all of these tips and find time to do something for yourself, there’s one last obstacle that you’ll have to overcome…mom guilt. As moms, we pretty much feel guilty about EVERYTHING, including prioritizing our needs but not prioritizing our needs leads to feeling worn-out and resentful. When I’m feeling worn-out, instead of having a truly fun time playing with Sydney, I’m counting down the time until naptime or bedtime and instead of enjoying doing things for my family, I’m just going through the motions. I am a better wife and a better mom when I’m happy and I’m happy when I’m doing things that I like to do. Whenever I get a twinge of mom guilt I remind myself of this. As moms, we are the glue that holds our families together and our family thrives when we thrive.