Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Cards and flowers are always a nice treat, especially when those gifts are from your children. Or maybe it’s the one day when your child doesn’t yell, “You’re not my mother; you’re not the boss of me,” but instead says, “You’re the best mom in the whole world.” It doesn’t get much better than that.
But how are you? Are you at the end of your rope, exhausted, sucked dry, hopeless? Not only can you do something about that, but if you don’t, your children will suffer the negative effects as well as you.
A recent post on my Facebook page received the following comment from an obviously conscientious mother:
This further reinforces my dedication & efforts in parenting my very spirited boys with love, compassion & connection. I find that I put my ALL into parenting & end up neglecting my needs until I’m frazzled & totally burned out. I am a single parent so there’s just me “on” 24/7 with two intense but amazing boys. I’m trying to learn balance but it’s not easy or natural for me. I can’t think of a better or more deserving dedication of my time & energy, but I’ve unwittingly put my needs on the back burner & it comes out sideways at times, like my Inner child is screaming “What about me?” I try to be a machine, but it turns out I’m not. A lot of it too is struggling with what I learned in my own upbringing that I’m not worthy or capable so I’m fighting my inner critic, too, who tells me I should do more & better. It’s a process, but I’m trying to be kinder to myself, for my own sanity, but also because I want to model self-love & respect for my boys so they don’t continue my trend in their own lives. I want the voice in their head to say nice things to them.
This mother spoke for the gazillion mothers out there who want to do their best for their children yet lack the resources to help and often heal themselves. Putting your all into parenting includes making sure you are refueled. If your tank isn’t at least half full, you can’t be the best mom for your kids either.
It’s no joke that it’s hard to find the time, especially for single parents, for self-care. Here is a list of small ways you can fit self-care into your busy schedules.
1. Be aware of what you’re doing. Find little moments during the day to tune into yourself and what you’re actually doing. A mom’s job is hard, but your work is meaningful. Acknowledge what you’re doing:
I’m feeling really stressed right now with so much to do.
I am walking upstairs to get the baby from her nap.
Right now I feel like strangling my child.
I am washing the dishes one at a time.
I am folding laundry and now I’m folding Sam’s baseball t-shirt.
This mindfulness and honestly does make a difference. When you notice what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing, you bring your attention to the present moment and stop yourself from flying into past and future fears and expectations.
2. Go to the bathroom for a mini-break or an extended stay (as long as your kids are occupied and old enough). Sit for a few extra minutes and breathe deeply ten times (or as long as you can). Then wash your face.
3. Practice breathing deeply. In the moment of dealing with your kids when they are upset, focus on yourself and your breath instead of reacting ineffectively to your kids.
4. Never react in the moment. You will be a more effective teacher if you take a moment (even if you have to separate your kids when they are fighting) to breathe, wait for emotions to calm, and think about what you want to say or do.
5. Tell your kids you need a break. Sit and have a cup of coffee or tea so you will feel stronger inside and be a better mom. Ask your kids what makes them feel stronger and better inside.
6. Get together with other moms and their kids. Adult company is critical. Help each other, so you can help yourselves.
7. Spend one-on-one time with each child every day. You are always calmer when you’re with one child, which helps to calm your kids.
8. Take yourself on a date. If you have the resources, plan at least one class, movie, hike, or other activity each week just for you. Hire a babysitter or share babysitting with a friend.
If prioritizing yourself goes against all those voices in your head, tell yourself that self-care is for your kids. When you give all of yourself to your children, and there is nothing left for you, your children will feel the imbalance. They may even learn that women don’t require or deserve much. Modeling self-worth has far-reaching effects.
Being a self-sacrificing, supermom will come back to bite you. Stop trying to prove your worth to yourself and others. Trying to be perfect keeps you tense, reactive, and less able to go with the inevitable ebbs and flows of each day.
Another mother commented:
I’d rather have a happy mom giving me 80%, than a burnt out mom giving me 100%.
Teach your children the importance of taking time for yourself. Make your needs a priority without feeling guilty.