(CMR) Today as mothers are celebrated in many countries across the world, it is important for mothers also to know that it is ok to take care of themselves.
“If you feel guilty about self-care, know this, mama: Taking care of yourself isn't a luxury—it's an essential part of being a good mom,” Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow said in a 2017 article on the importance of mothers taking care of themselves.
Vengrow explained that even with a loving husband and lovely children, or a supportive extended family, sometimes mothers become frustrated, and some may even feel resentful as the pressures of motherhood get to them.
Mothers, you need to recharge, or you may find yourselves frustrated, feeling stressed, and can't understand how you could feel this way with your bundles of joy.
Vengrow explained that while raising a child may be rewarding and joyful, it can also be all-consuming, and one of the first casualties is free time. Many parents believe they spend the right amount of time with their children, but still, they don't have enough time away from their kids to enjoy their hobbies or to spend time with friends.
Samantha Ettus, best-selling author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction and a mom of three, said while spending time with children is important, it does not equate to quality parenting.
“We're confusing the amount of time we spend with our kids with the quality of our parenting. The quality of your relationship with your child isn't directly correlated to the time you spend with them.” And once you accept that, she says, it's easier to figure out what you actually need to be the best parent you can be.
Vengrow also pointed out that old-fashioned mom-guilt also prevents many from taking advantage of solo time. After all, what kind of mom puts her own needs ahead of her kids'? However, experts note that practicing self-care actually helps make you a better parent.
“It's essential to our health and well-being. The more we fill ourselves up, the more we have to give. And as moms, we have to give a lot,” one expert said.
Vengrow (parents.com) suggests the following ways for self-care:
Do what you love
There's no one definition of what constitutes healthy self-care—it can be girls' brunch once a month, hitting the gym twice a week, or keeping up with your annual wellness exams. Experts suggest finding whatever mix of activities that leave you feeling balanced, happy, and fulfilled. And don't forget your social life—that counts as self-care, too. “I think every parent needs an adult night out each week, period,” Ettus says. “Go out with friends; make that part of your schedule.”
“Most of the things that are good for you are good for the kids,” she adds. “Having a happier, more patient mom is better for everyone.” Plus, you're showing your children that joy and fun are important parts of life.
Carve out time for yourself—and keep it
To turn a once-in-a-blue-moon activity into a full-fledged habit, you'll need to do it frequently and consistently. Some moms, like Kristy Tillman, have found success by scheduling an assortment of standing “dates” with other people. An avid runner, the mom of two, works out several times a week while her husband cares for their sons. (She reciprocates so he can exercise each week, too.) Before the family relocated to Europe, she had a regular weekend date with a friend and each month attended a book club meeting. Tillman and her husband also had a subscription to their city's symphony, which gave them regular built-in dates.
In fact, making plans with other people—whether friends, a personal trainer, your partner—can help ensure you keep them since you're less likely to back out if someone is depending on you. It also helps if you plan ahead and mark the time in your calendar, just as you would a doctor's appointment. “Determine what your quality alone time will be this week and then make a plan,” Kristy Rodriguez says. “Once you have a plan, figure out some motivation to keep that special time set. Create a no-cancellation policy with yourself.”
Take advantage of outside motivators to stay on track, too. Rodriguez, for example, enjoys yoga and barre class but has been known to let other demands take over. “However, if I schedule online with the studio, I'm more likely to go,” she says. “Why? Because if I don't, I'll have a pay a cancellation or no-show fee. That's my big motivation. Whatever it takes, right?”
Build a support network
To help ensure your self-care doesn't fall by the wayside, enlist your partner or a babysitter to take over when you're not there. And don't apologize for making yourself a priority, Ettus says. “Instead of saying to your children, ‘I'm so sorry I'm going out,' say, ‘Guess what Mom's doing tonight? I get to go out with friends, and it's going to be so fun!'”
By the same token, don't feel guilty about asking your partner to step in. “It's not called babysitting—it's called parenting,” she says. “The more opportunities you give your partner to be alone with the kids, the better relationship they'll have.”
Fact: Even the busiest moms can squeeze in some time for self-care. “Find five minutes. Start there. That's all you have to do,” Rodriguez says. “Sit and look out the window. Lay down on the floor and reach your arms out to the sides, letting your heart open and expand. Meditate. Take a few deep breaths. These are just a few ideas—there are thousands more. Just start with five minutes.”