Taking Care of Yourself: A Guide for Moms
“If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” – Truer words never were spoken.
Too often we moms put ourselves last on the list, seeing to everybody else’s needs, making sure everybody else is happy, but often neglecting ourselves. There can be a certain amount of guilt associated with taking care of ourselves, as if it’s selfish.
But it’s not. It’s absolutely necessary.
Looking after the person who looks after everyone (you) is essential to everyone’s well-being. There’s a reason why the airline safety video instructs us to “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”.
Moms are the ones who set the tone in the family, who provide the heart and soul, the care. If we are beginning to fall apart, everything begins to unravel.
I speak from bitter experience. As a mom who has an ongoing battle with my Achilles heel of anxiety and depression, our family has often experienced what happens when mom runs out of Go Juice. It ain't pretty.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s essential. I’ve had to get better at it for the sake of everyone – something I’ve never been very good at (the guilt, remember?). Otherwise the whole family suffers.
Here are some of the things that help me – my “medicine for the soul”, my oxygen mask.
ASK FOR TIME FOR YOURSELF
Men are really good at taking time out for themselves. My husband makes the time in his busy week to play indoor soccer, have a round of golf, go for a cycle or work out at the gym. He feels no guilt.
But like many other mothers, I usually forget to ask for time for myself.
But just as much as our men, we moms need time with other grown-ups: uninterrupted conversation, coffee, or a movie with a friend. It’s energizing, revitalizing and necessary if I want to have gas in the tank for my family.
But if I don’t ask for that time, I probably won’t get it. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” – so before everything falls apart speak up and say, “I want to go out with Mary-Jo tomorrow night…” and let daddy take over for the night.
Here are some other ways we can re-energize our mom-souls even if time is short…
Beauty soothes me, calms my ragged nerves and is like a kind of tonic. By that I mean, sitting in a sunny corner with a cup of tea, looking out at the trees waving; or some fresh flowers put on my windowsill (I love the freesias that are out at the moment, they smell so delicious).
I am not an outdoorsy person at all, but there is something very healing about getting outside into nature. (I have discovered that gardening really refreshes me).
A walk on the beach (or in the countryside) can be like a tonic for the soul.
Calming music is something that I have turned to many times. For a long time I couldn’t pray or read my Bible; the best I could do was to fill my house with music that would lift me up when I was down. I would just put on one of my mix CDs (all my current favorites) and sit with a cuppa and let the songs wash over me. When I start to feel overwhelmed and swamped with noise, sometimes all I need is “the sound of silence” (rare as that may be).
There’s no point faking it; if you’re struggling, people can see right through the plastic smile and calm veneer. We all need at least one friend that will stick with us through thick and thin.
We were never meant to do this mom-thing alone, although it can be very isolating in the early days. The reality is, we moms are all in the same boat, so we might as well reach out and let others “in”. Sometimes that can be scary, but vulnerability is worth the risk.
When my kids were preschoolers, I would often invite other moms over for morning tea so our kids could play together and we could indulge in treasured grown-up conversation. It’s a way to grab friend-time in the midst of a busy day with duties – open up your home, expect mess, enjoy a moment of connection. (And remember that old saying: if you want a friend, be a friend).
It’s hard to be creative when you are juggling kids, but if you can find some time and space for something creative, it’s amazing how it will energize you. Blogging is part of my creative outlet, as are my kids’ birthday parties. Sometimes I paint or do DIY.
I have a Visual Journal, which works like a written one but with colors and paints instead of words.
My counselor taught me this technique as a way to connect with God and also to work through things. When our minds are all frazzled and our thoughts tangled, it’s next to impossible to write in a journal, but painting by-passes our brain, and comes out of our spirit. It’s been amazing sometimes the things that have come out when I have painted.
I also love to paint canvases, in acrylic; mainly seascapes. I find it very calming, mixing colors right on the canvas and seeing where it takes me.
I love to read; I’m the world’s biggest bookworm. I find that reading helps me escape into other worlds and keeps my imagination firing. Books are highly portable and can be tucked into your bag (or downloaded onto your phone) so you can grab half an hour here or there while waiting on the sidelines at Susie’s dance lesson or Jack’s soccer training. Yay for reading, I say.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s essential. Kick guilt to the curb and look after yourself, mom. Put on your own oxygen mask first, remember?
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