Growing up, I never saw my mom make time for herself. She comes from a culture and a generation that taught mothers they were supposed to cook, clean, and selflessly sacrifice their needs for everybody else’s. On top of taking care of the house and three kids, my mom also worked overnights, oftentimes on very little sleep. Yet she never “indulged” in anything for just herself, whether that meant buying herself something nice or just asking to be left alone so she could sleep in.
Not surprisingly, my mom was a yeller.
Looking back now, I can see how desperately she needed to engage in self-care. She was chronically sleep deprived and running around trying to pour from an empty cup; no wonder she was the way she was! I wish I could go back and tell her self-care is anything but selfish.
What is self-care?
Bubble baths, massages, and pedicures. A few years ago, it seems like these were the images invoked when talking about “self-care.” Today, the meaning of that buzzword has become a little more sophisticated. Here’s what some of you mamas had to say about it:
“[It’s] any maintenance to keep sane!”
E.T. – full-time, working mom to kids ages 14, 12, 3, and 1
“Self-care means taking time, shame-free, to fill my cup.”
E. M. – full-time working mom of 2, ages 3 and 10 months.
“Self-care is my time to recharge/refresh.”
L.M. – married, working mom of a 2-year-old
“[It’s] understanding and prioritizing the needs in my life that protect my overall well-being and bring me joy and peace.”
R.M. – married, working new mom of a 7-week old
“Trying to escape without guilt, but realizing I need and deserve this time.”
A.V. – working mom of 2 boys, ages 5 and 10
“It can encompass anything that makes you feel ‘more’ like yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, or socially.”
M.S. – married, entrepreneur mom of 2, ages 4 and 2
Why is it important?
Motherhood is hard work, regardless of what your mothering journey looks like. We have all heard about how we need to put our own oxygen masks on first and that’s because our mental health and well-being can start to suffer when we don’t prioritize our own needs.
When our own well-being starts to deteriorate, the effects ripple out and impact all areas of our lives. It can affect the quality of our parenting, friendships, work, and relationship with our partners.
“[It’s important to prioritize] your emotional wellness in order to be the best parent, partner, employee, etc. that you can be!”
R.M. – married, working mom of 2, ages 4 and 1
“Self-care looks like doing inner and outer work to positively impact your relationship with self and others.”
L.P. – working, married mom of 2, ages 3 and 7 months
Additionally, engaging in self-care sets a good example for our children. I don’t want to raise daughters who put themselves last or think they are undeserving of “me time.” Our children are keen observers and they’re always learning from us. They will notice the way we treat ourselves and what that says about our values.
What does self-care look like for you?
“We shouldn’t have to use showers or taking an extra-long pee to have self-time [or] self-care,” says A.D., a married, stay-at-home mom of a 2-year-old.
Agreed! Basic hygiene shouldn’t be your only source of self-care, but it can be if that’s what you need in the moment.
“[It’s’] being able to figure out what you need, making it happen, or asking for help,” says M.S., a therapist, and mom of 2.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-care nor is there an all-encompassing definition of what it means. It’s in the eye of the beholder:
“Getting alone time and uninterrupted spicy time with my husband.”
K.H. – married, full-time working mom of 2, ages 4 and 17 months.
“I try to move every day for 30 minutes, find some quiet time to read a book, or just get outside and listen to the birds.”
S.H. – divorced mom of an 18-year old
“I silence phone notifications every day 6 PM to 8 AM”
R.M. – married, working mom of 2
“Waking up early on the weekends so I can enjoy a cup of coffee before Elmo’s World gets turned on.”
P.B. – divorced, working mom of 3, ages 14, 12, and 3
“Going to the nail salon and requesting no one talk to me. My husband says it’s rude, but seriously silence is sometimes just the best gift.”
L.B. – part-time working, pregnant mom of an almost two-year-old
“Consistent therapy sessions.”
S.C. – working two jobs and mom to 4 kiddos, ages 17, 14, 13, and 12
“Ignoring the 3,000 chores I have on my list and prioritizing myself. Pouring a glass of wine and watching an hour of reality tv.”
R.C. – working mom of 2, ages 2.5 and 4 months
“Taking a drive and listening to my music at whatever volume I want!”
L.H. – married, stay-at-home mom of 2, ages 19 and 10
“Ensur[ing] my physical and mental presence for my daughter at home and out and about cheering her on from the sidelines of all her activities. I was not able to give her that presence early in my career so establishing new professional boundaries and personal expectations are important to [my] self-care.”
B.M.-K. – single, self-employed mom to a 12-year old
“My part-time job is my self-care because I get to get out of the house and socialize with other people.”
L.E. – married mom of 2 under 2 working part-time
Bottom line, self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence.
Take care of yourself, mama!