You know it’s important. You hear phrases like “you cannot pour from an empty cup” or “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others” and you nod in agreement. It’s true. Deep down you know it. But for some reason, you just aren’t doing it.
You set out each week with plans to take some time for yourself. You get lost in daydreams thinking about an afternoon pedicure with girlfriends or a day reading the latest novel by the pool and you get excited. You start thinking about how to make those things happen.
You’ll just ask your husband to cover the kids one of these Saturdays. You can trade him for the next weekend! Or you’ll finally hire that babysitting service you’ve been wanting to try out. You’ll call your girlfriend and magically find a weekend where no one has travel planned, or soccer practice, or a birthday party...oh and when everyone is healthy. Yes, you’ll do that!
But...you never do. Something always comes up. Finding childcare feels hard. Swapping with your husband isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s just easier to do what you’ve always done. To fill your free time with family, chores, and “vegging”.
But I’m guessing none of that makes you feel energized. That your life starts to feel like groundhog day after a while, and that you start feeling upset. You’re upset at yourself. For never doing anything for you.
What if you could figure out the root of the issue. The real reason you’re not making the time to take care of you. Because as cliche as the phrase “Self-care” has become, it’s still really, really important.
1. Not Enough Time
This is probably the #1 reason most moms don’t take time for themselves. They argue that every second of their day is already filled with commutes, drop-offs, pick-ups, work, cooking, bath time, playing, laundry, and chores and they’re lucky at the end of the day to have a few spare minutes to catch a tv show or scroll facebook. With everything we have to do, how can we possibly find time for something fun or something focused on us?
What if you changed your vision of what self-care could look like? Have you tried any self-care activities and set a timer to really know how long it takes? What if self-care looked like dancing to your favorite song, listening to a podcast on your drive to work, writing one page in a journal, or sitting down for a minute in the morning to drink your cup of coffee and stare out the window?
If it’s something that you enjoy, something that makes you feel good, or feel grateful to be alive, then that is self-care. Nothing more. The key is to just start and then to recognize that what you’re doing is taking care of you. It’s not lucky that you have these 5 minutes, it’s deliberate, and it’s necessary.
2. You Feel Guilty
When you’re a working mom and you have so many chores on top of the hours that you put in at your job, there is this common feeling that any time that you have to spare outside of what you “have” to do, should be spent with your little one. That because you’re not with them all day like you would be if you stayed at home, you need to make up for that by giving them every minute of your day otherwise. And besides that, you probably do just love being with them.
By taking some time for yourself, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t still want to spend time with your baby. But I believe that in order to truly enjoy that time, and truly be present in that time, you need to feel happy and cared for yourself. So if you decide that self-care for you right now is an entire afternoon away at the spa or on a shopping trip with your mom, that’s ok. You can miss your baby while you’re away during time that you would normally be spending with him. But you shouldn’t feel guilty. We all deserve and need, a little time for ourselves. And maybe you’ll decide that for now, self-care will be something that you do while your little one sleeps, either early in the morning, during afternoon naps on the weekends, or in the evening after he’s gone to bed. You can get the time that you need for you, while not missing the time that you so love at home. Either way, you will notice, if you haven’t already, that you appreciate the time with your family even more after you’ve been away or spent some time on you.
3. But I Watch TV Every Night...That's Just For Me
Catching up on your latest Netflix binge or competition show can be a good thing. Some nights you just need that time to put your feet up, check-out and let your mind focus on something other than daily life. And for a lot of moms, this is time that you connect with your partner too. Date nights may be few and far between for this stage of life, but at least you can share the experience of watching a show you both love at the end of a long day.
When I advocate for taking some time for yourself, I’m not asking you to give up your shows. But I may ask you to consider whether zoning out in front of the TV every single night is really leaving you feeling energized and empowered to do life again tomorrow. Compromise is definitely at play here. Could you experiment with giving up one evening of TV watching for something else that challenges you, that taps into an interest you’ve maybe forgotten, or allows you to fully relax in a way that an exciting show does not? Or could you use that time to work toward a goal you keep telling yourself is important to you, or perhaps do something fun with your partner that allows you to talk about something other than household logistics and kids? One night. And see how different that feels from your normal routine.
4. It's Too Hard to Find Childcare
This is a challenging one and unique to each household situation. True, if your self-care options only include activities that will take you away from home this will be a requirement. But you could approach a solution from two angles:
- Get creative with childcare. Find a mother’s helper that will allow you a little bit of peace and quiet within your own home while this sitter-in-training plays with your kids in another room. Swap time away with your spouse - maybe you each get one evening or one weekend morning a week to yourself and you trade. Or swap time with another mom! Especially when kids are out of the baby phase, it’s often not any harder to supervise a group of playing kids than it is to watch just your own. Challenge each other to take this time for yourselves and make it fun! And if all other options fail, build your babysitter directory. It’s so important to have sitters you like and trust. You just never know when you’ll need one.
- Rethink your self-care options. Opt for activities that are short, can be done at home, and can be squeezed into early mornings, naptimes, or evenings after the kids go to bed. Childcare issue solved because you won’t need childcare!
5. I Have Too Much To Do Around the House
True! We all have a million things that need to get done. There are regular chores that just keep our house running smoothly and then there are the projects that we create for ourselves to make life easier in the long run (as if we don’t have enough to do already). But let me ask you this. What if this never changes? Because it’s highly probable that you will be able to use this excuse for years to come. So are you really going to put off doing something fun, something relaxing, something just for you because you have stuff you should be doing around the house?
As with time, as with childcare, you will have to make compromises. What can you delay doing, what can you finish faster than you thought, or what can you complete that’s “good enough”, not perfect, that will allow you to move on to doing something for you? Doing chores, taking care of household projects will always be there unless you make drastic changes (like moving to a tiny house or getting rid of all your belongings), so you might as well start figuring out how to fit in some self-care or it will never happen.
6. I'm Too Exhausted
In those early years of parenthood especially, this is a common state of being. If you aren’t already in the habit and routine of taking care of yourself, it can be hard to get started when you’re tired, exhausted and run-down. So start small. Maybe taking care of yourself is having a smoothie for breakfast, trying a new supplement, or getting a physical. Maybe it’s a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at lunch, or a quick stretch in between meetings, something to get your body moving. Then maybe you move to a little break on the weekends where you spend a few minutes doing something fun, just for you. Or maybe you jump-start some self-care by scheduling a girls’ night out and diving in head-first for a much-needed change in routine and change in scenery.
It’s going to be hard to get started, I’m not going to lie. But having a plan, setting aside and scheduling the time, and then following through on that commitment to yourself could be just what you need to get out of this stage of exhaustion.
7. I Don't Know What 'Fills Me Up'
To this, I say, experiment! Pinterest is filled with lists of ideas of self-care activities, big and small. Print one of those and start crossing them off as you try them. Be sure to keep notes as to how you felt and whether it’s something you would do again.
Another good idea is to think back to the activities you did as a kid. Did you take lessons, play on a team, doodle or craft, spend time outdoors? Go back to some of those things that used to make you happy before you had adult responsibilities. And if you’re still stuck on what to do, send me an email! Let’s brainstorm together.
Which excuse have you been using? Are you ready to do one small thing to take care of yourself? If you need someone to help hold you accountable, reach out. That's what I'm here for. Until then, may we fill up our own cups and put on our own oxygen masks so that we can show up and be amazing mothers and kick-ass women!