How I practice self care as a mom is very much like I practiced self care before I was a mom. Which strikes me as incredible really, and got me thinking about something that happened months and months ago.
A long while back, I was deeply bothered by a Facebook post by a mom of two young children berating everyone for talking about self care and saying, that as a mom, she simply had no time for self care. She worked full time, was a part time student and had two small kids. She thought it was insulting I think, to be told, to practice self care. And I thought to myself, she sure has a lot on her plate, but she doesn’t have time—bullshit.
Self care is very important to me. I suffered when I was single and living on my own with stress, enough stress, that over time it gave me serious work related anxiety. This was going on for a few years before I even met my hubby, and we met back in late 2013. I was constantly told that since I wasn’t a mom, I couldn’t really be stressed. And I tried so hard to de-stress, to shake things off, and all of that only led me deeper into anxiety and stress.
I felt like this mom was doing the same thing. Saying that she was too busy for self care because she was a mom with no time suggested to me that she was stressed, and refusing to address that, as I had done. I had ignored it because I was told I couldn’t be stressed (at least that was partly why I ignored it) and also because I thought the stress would go away if circumstances changed. Which, ultimately, wasn’t true. So in that blog post I called bullshit on that mom—not that she has any idea I did so.
And I stand by what I wrote then even though I’m a mom now. I still believe that if we as moms can and should practice self care.
Personal Care is Self Care
Personal care is pretty basic–showering, brushing your teeth, eating healthy meals, getting out of the house for a walk or a yoga class. I really want to emphasize that if you are doing some of those things, that you are practicing self care. Sure, it’s not the kind of self care that involves a massage or a glass of wine in a hot bath, but personal care counts as self care, and is very important. I really do encourage you to try dress nicely around the house and get your make up done so that you feel good. And make sure you are preparing healthy meals that you and the kids can eat. Personal care is the first area of self care we need to address before diving into other parts.
Every day, I make sure I brush my teeth and moisture my face. I just feel dirty otherwise, and feeling dirty won’t promote an overall good feeling so I make sure to do that. I put on make up some days, but mostly I just make sure to be clean and dressed comfortably but nicely. I put on jewelry because that makes me feel good. This kind of personal care greatly helps me feel good about myself.
Engage with Others
Don’t forget to stay engaged with friends. I know it’s important to make connections with other moms, and that you might not always have a flexible schedule with work and kids, but be sure to carve out time to get together for dinner, coffee or even a much needed girls night. Getting to be yourself, to have adult conversations that aren’t about diapers or groceries is very important. It’s also important to remember you were and are a person outside of a being a mom, so be sure that you aren’t always engaging in activity and conversation that is about your kids or the challenges of being a mom.
I’ll admit, it’s hard to keep in touch with others. I do try to text friends, to call them and I have gotten together with my bestie since having my baby. I never had a huge circle of friends, so I was never out and about partying much, even in my twenties. I do like that I have been able to keep up with my friends as I have in these few first months of Baby J’s life. Being able to engage with others has been a surprising part of my self care as a mom.
Keep Up with Hobbies
If you paint, or do yoga, or have any kind of hobby, keep it up. These will help you maintain your own sense of identity, but also they are excellent self care. I’ve talked a lot about hobbies, so I don’t want to go on too much about this. Hobbies give you a sense of meaning and accomplishment that really does promote good mental health.
I have been reading a lot after Baby J goes to bed, and I have been crocheting quite a bit too. I know I am super lucky to have a really happy baby who doesn’t fuss much and sleeps well, so being able to keep up with my hobbies hasn’t been too tricky at all. But do try and get in an afternoon’s worth of hours of time for your hobbies. If you can’t get an entire afternoon that is.
Maintain Your Physical Health
This is so important. Right now, I have baby weight on my body, and that is okay. I’m not talking about physical health in terms of weight or fitness, although that certainly is an a part of your physical health. I’m talking about your overall health. I have noticed moms not eating well because they had no time to pack a proper lunch, or coming into to work sick because they feel their sick days ought be taken when their children are sick, not themselves. This strikes me as nonsensical because if you are sick, you aren’t really much good to your kids. Especially if you are wearing yourself out by powering through on coffee and cold medication. I hope that Covid has changed these attitudes.
Right now, I am on maternity leave. I am lucky enough that in Canada, we can take a year off to be with our babies. My employer will protect my job for eighteen months, so I won’t be returning to work till this time next year. My main focus has been to eat well, and we try and prepare healthy meals most evenings.
I fully recognize that we are all in different places in our lives, with different circumstances. What I do may not seem at all realistic to you. However, my purpose here to encourage you to take care of yourself, of your mental and physical health and self care is a big part of that. Motherhood hits all of us differently, and how you manage your routines and lifestyle and self care has to work for you. But I hope that you never let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that motherhood is so self sacrificing that you just don’t have the time to do things for yourself. Your child will benefit far more from having a mother who is calm and healthy than from having a mom who is frazzled and tired and on auto pilot more often than not.
Do you have small children? What does your self care as a mom look like? Share in the comments below.