Daughter. Wife. Sister. Friend. Confidante. Colleague. Boss. Healer. Caregiver. Heroine.
A woman can be any one of these and more, but perhaps one of the most challenging hats you can wear is that of a mother.
Some may only be taking their first steps as new mothers. Others already consider themselves the doyenne of mothering with their years of experience. No matter where you are in your mothering journey, it will definitely be one of the toughest, albeit rewarding, experience in your life.
Being a mom, you will take on more responsibilities than you had while you were single. You will now be considered the primary caregiver in your family. You will be on the constant lookout for ways to make your family thrive. You are chief homemaker (and not just housekeeper, mind you) who will do everything in her power to make sure that everything is as it should be.
In this role, you might find yourself juggling a myriad of things – husband, kids, parents, work, social life. The list of things to do could be endless as our brains tend to work overtime (even when we don’t want to!). And while you surely think you can skip it, you also have to realize that even wonder moms need to take a break.
It is imperative that you do.
The world will not stop turning just because you took a breather. It is important that you recognize your strengths and your limitations if you want to have a happy and healthy home life.
Nowadays, more and more emphasis is given on caring for oneself. Self-care is the ability to take conscious steps to engage in activities and behaviors that promote positive physical and mental health. In a society where there is a pervasive culture of putting women in specific boxes and labeling them as simply one type or another, this unified drive to consciously break free from the Stepford Wife stereotype is a much-needed move.
The shift from “martyr mom” to fierce and fabulous female has gained traction and continues to empower women to turn the limelight on themselves. Not to say that womenfolk have discarded the need to nurture or care for their loved ones; it is simply stating that the femmes of this generation now realize the value of taking care of themselves.
How, then, can women continue to tend to themselves while caring for their husbands, kids and other family members? In the movie called Your Life, here are some things to do to be in the starring role:
…saying yes to everything. Some friends, family, and other people around you seem to think they can ask you for favors and that you are obliged to give it to them. You are not. Let them get over their meteoric sense of entitlement by saying no. Refusing to do things that do not serve your needs or the general well-being of your loved ones is completely acceptable. Say yes to things that help fulfill and enrich your life.
… feeding yourself junk. Your body is not a trash bin. It is easy to fall into the trap of takeaways and fast food when you’re flitting from one appointment to the next, but this isn’t the way to go. Sometimes, convenient does not necessarily equal healthy.
Opt for a more balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Steer clear of sugar-laden, processed food. Combined with proper exercise and enough sleep, you can ensure that your body is equipped with the right amount of energy to take on the numerous tasks ahead of you.
…feeling guilty. Get to the bottom of why you have mommy-guilt. Is it because you think you don’t spend enough time with your kids? Are you stressed from work that you sometimes unintentionally snap at them? Halt your counterproductive thoughts! There’s no perfect parent, so stop comparing yourself to others.
Instead, look at the bigger picture and perhaps, you have been micro-managing. Learn to delegate and trust your family members. If you cannot make it to your kid’s dental appointment, be assured that your husband can take care of it. Your friend is running a marathon with his child? No biggie, you also have fun with your youngster making soap bubbles while washing the dishes.
You have your own style, your own way, and your own means of showing how you love and take care of your own.
…and take a break. As the author Etty Hillesum said, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
Even just five minutes of getting out of the laundry room to enjoy a cup of coffee can already break the monotony of daily tasks. Learn how to take mini-breaks throughout your day to recharge your mind and body. Get a nap. Stare into space and daydream. Take time to count your blessings and be thankful for them. These breathers allow you to stay calm and relaxed. They also serve as a way to refocus and come back to your responsibilities feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
…and do something else other than parenting. You are the same person you were before you got married and had kids. Maybe just a little more experienced, more loved, more special. If you are athletic, pick up your old sport or try a new one. Cannot spend as much time with your book club? Join an online one. Love dancing? Enroll yourself in a salsa class.
Doing these things will help you reconnect with yourself. It also shows your kids that mommy has her own personality. You lead by example, and who knows? Maybe your kids can pick up a thing or two from your admirable traits.
…indulge yourself. Schedule a special mommy-only moment and pamper yourself. Work out a schedule with your husband wherein he can take care of the kids while you take time out to do things you enjoy. Call up your friends and shop for fantastic postpartum clothing. Have a movie date with your mom. Treat yourself to a day at the spa.
Whatever it is that you feel like doing on your own that will perk you up, do it. A day away from the circus that is your house can be good for your sanity and peace of mind.
First things first. Have you ever wondered why the instructions on airline safety says, “Put on your mask first before helping your child or other passengers”?
In case of an emergency, masks drop down from the compartments above you containing enough oxygen for about 12 minutes. If you’re flying at altitudes of 20,000 ft. or above, people can go unconscious due to hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) within 20 to 60 seconds. Putting on your mask first then attending to your child will give you a better chance to save other’s lives.
This otherwise cliché example only stresses home the point that before you can nurture and care for others, you must take care of yourself. Before you pay attention to the needs of the whole family, direct your attention to yourself first.
Is it being selfish? No, it is a necessity. You need to make your happiness a priority so you can also bring happiness to others. You have to love yourself first before you can love others around you. When you are full of love, life and joy, it will be easier for you to pour it out and share with others.
Why do you need to do this?
Because YOU MATTER.
About The Author
At 16, Merril Bainbridge began her career in the Australian fashion industry. In her early 20’s she left to launch a successful Pop Music career which saw her at the top of the US Music Charts. Retiring to start a family, she found a new purpose helping breastfeeding women with her fashion label, Peachymama.
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Also published on Medium.