Yesterday, I saw a commercial for a "mom" show on a major cable network. The hosts were describing (and showing in graphic detail) all of the things that frazzle them as moms -- kids screaming and crying, messiness everywhere, never getting a break -- basically all the unpleasant things about being a mom. It made me tired just watching it.
In the fast-paced world we live in, I've noticed more moms making appointments with me because they feel their lives are out of control -- they feel burned out. One of their major concerns is that they no longer get a break, or have any "me" time. They also express a concern that they feel selfish wanting this "me" time -- they wanted kids, so didn't they automatically give up any "me" time? No.
You still have a right to "me" time, whether you have one kid or six. You are still a human being who needs rest, stress relief, and time off. You are not a perfect human being, and you have a right to do less than what is humanly possible. Yes, you read that correctly. You have the right to do less than what is humanly possible. It's time to practice a little mom self-care.
When describing self-care, I've always liked the analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane. The flight attendant instructs you to put your mask on before you put your child's mask on. Likewise for taking care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, it's even more of a challenge to take care of anyone else.
The beauty of "no":
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is by using the word "no" more often when demands are made of you. You might feel it is rude to turn down an offer or request, but setting up boundaries and deciding what you will and won't let into your life is a healthy thing to do. Shutting the door to what you don't want in your life also makes more room for the opportunities you do want.
If you are having difficulty figuring out what you do and don't want in your life, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this person or activity healthy for me?
- Does this person or activity help me be a better person? (Or in the words of Oprah, does it "lift you up?")
- What would happen if I discontinued this relationship or activity?
- Is this person or activity essential to my life?
- Am I engaged in this relationship or activity because of what I want, or because it's what others want?
- Am I teaching my kids good self-care by maintaining this relationship or activity?
Find the time:
Practice self-care even in the little slivers of time you have during the day. Spending just 10 minutes thinking of a calm, peaceful scene (mine is the beach), can change the way your brain functions. It can physically alter the way your neurons communicate. And who doesn't want happy neurons?
Trade off "me time" with a friend. You get your "me" time while your friend watches your kids, and vice versa. Remember, this is "me" time, not go-to-the-grocery-store and buy-food-for-the-masses time. Do something you want to do. If you want to go to a movie with the additional benefit of not having soda spilled on you or listening to "Why? Why? Why?" incessantly, go for it. Enjoy that time. Remember, you are human. You need to refuel like everyone else.
And always keep in mind that taking time for yourself and refueling makes you a better parent.
If it just gets to be too much:
If you find that you are feeling blue or teary for no reason, you have feelings of worthlessness, you don't feel any attachment towards your kids, or you wish you were no longer around, get help immediately from your doctor, a counselor, or a crisis center. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can learn more about the Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.com.
If you've recently had a baby and are having a difficult time coping, information on postpartum depression can be found at PostPartumProgress.com
Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength.
If you have any suggestions or tips for how to practice good Mom Self-Care, please share with us!
Follow Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stephaniesarkis