Three Tips for the Mom Who Sucks at Self-Care

I’ve heard it said that sometimes, people who have been very bad at things can actually be the very BEST people to teach about those things. Wisdom born of struggle, they say, is often deeper than wisdom born of ease.  I’m counting on that to be true because I’m about to talk to y’all about self care.

I am a proud possessor of a first-class ticket on the Self-Care Struggle Bus.  I have always had a pretty healthy (or UNHEALTHY) workhorse complex. I was that way even before I had kids, so when my son was born and I quit my job to stay home with him, it reached critical mass. I always felt like I had to be somewhere doing something for someone, not letting anyone down or missing anyone’s need and yes, proving my worth.  

But that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. I became exhausted, impatient, resentful and was NOT even enjoying this motherhood thing that I had waited my whole life to do. So, I reluctantly (after a scolding or two from my own mother) conceded that “self-care” needed to actually be a thing for me. So embarked on a journey that would require me to get better at doing something I that had a lifelong pattern of proudly sucking at. And I’m still not great at it, work in progress is an understatement.  But, here are a few things I have learned along the way that are CRUCIAL if we ever hope to be successful at taking better care of our minds, bodies, and spirits.
 

  1. You’ve gotta treat it as a need and not a want.  It is a stone cold fact that when we are depleted, our mom game slips.  Our kids love and need us so deeply. Our smiles, our laughter, our hugs, our grace when they make a mistake- and all of those things are in short supply when our own cups are empty.  They might even worry about us- it’s heavy as heck to for me as an adult to worry about my parents, I cannot imagine carrying that burden as a child. When you think about it in that context, self-care stops being a self-indulgent frivolity and becomes a RESPONSIBLE act of motherhood.  Taking care of our babies’ mommies is one of the very most important things we can do for them. When we make that thinking shift (which is TRUTH, by the way. We are not just spin doctoring here), the work of making it a priority becomes a whole lot easier.

  2. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you find your jam. Trying new things can pay GREAT dividends when establishing a self-care routine. I mean, some people know exactly what things they can do to fill their cup, but I am not those people. Also, we might THINK we know what our “thing” is, but there are actually others out there just waiting for us to stumble on to them.   Prime example: You wanna know what my thing is right now that relaxes and strengthens me? CROCHETING! I know, right? I’m not the least bit crafty and have tried and failed at it before, but I tried it again, stuck with it, and now it’s soothing and contenting and I can even do it when I’m with my kids. Who knew?

Here are some ideas of things to try (and try it a few times before you toss it out, the first few times of doing things are awkward anyway)

  • Exercise

  • Reading

  • Crafts (YOUTUBE, people. It’s how I learned to crochet)

  • Walking outside in nature

  • Time with YOUR PEOPLE (#MotherLocal Group, anyone?)

  • Napping

  • Gardening

  • Eating healthy foods

  • Drinking enough water

  • Spiritual practices

  • Listening to music

Note: it’s also important to recognize the things that may masquerade as self-care, but are really deepening the pits of despair in our lives  Examples include: Scrolling through social media and comparing ourselves to everyone else, spending money we don’t have on stuff that isn’t really going to fill us up, spending time with “friends” who actually make us feel really terrible about ourselves, binging on drugs, alcohol, food, etc.  Identifying the unhealthy things in our lives and finding better ways of doing and being is CRITICAL for this journey

  1. Make. Yourself. Do it.  “I mean, I’m having an OK day. I don’t need to take time for myself.  Plus, I just don’t FEEL like going to the gym. I really need to do one more load of laundry, I just don’t have TIME to sit and read…”  NO! STOP! NOT TODAY, SATAN! You guys, we have got to MAKE ourselves do the things that feed our souls. We are taking care of our kids’ moms here. Also, we will find that the people in our lives will be perfectly happy letting us NOT do these things.  I mean, we can *maybe* count on our partners (if we have them) to recognize when we need a break, but our kids will just keep taking and taking as long as we keep giving. Most of the time, we will need to draw these boundary lines for ourselves and MAKE OURSELVES take the time because nobody’s going to do it for us. When that’s a struggle, re-read bullet point number one.  Also, I’m skipping the gym today. And yesterday. I’m still not good at this, but I’m trying. Which brings me to my next point, a bonus point...

  2. (Yes, I added another one)  Give yourself grace. In this, and in all things.  Giving ourselves grace as we do the crucial and at times uncomfortable work of establishing self-care patterns and routines is important.  Giving ourselves grace is also PART of self-care- perhaps the single most important part. We moms need to stop being so critical of ourselves, especially since this work we are doing is so danged hard.  When we see our kids doing new things, difficult things, BIG things, we are quick encourage them, pick them up as they fall, and cheer them on. We need to turn that same lens on ourselves and each other.

So there you have it. My top 3 (plus a bonus) discoveries on my still in-progress journey toward doing a better job of caring for my mind, body, and spirit amid the mess and chaos of motherhood.  I would love to meet you and talk more about this. Come find me and other moms in the Project Mother Facebook Community. Also, connect with moms in your local area (or start a group) by following this link: http://projectmother.co/meetups.  And above all, take care of yourself, Mama!