Janice, a first time mom, is sitting with her adorable 4 month old on her lap. I am asking her how she is doing and she says to me, "I know that the way I recharge is by having alone time. I know that my husband understands this and will watch our son without hesitation. I know that if I had some time to myself to recharge I would feel better and be a better mom, but I feel so GUILTY about it. I don't ask for alone time because it makes me feel so bad". At this point, Janice's eyes are filled with the tears that she has been struggling to hold back and it is obvious that saying these words out loud is extremely difficult.
For moms, "self-care" can feel "selfish". There seems to be a deeply routed, biological, mental and emotional hurdle when it comes to putting our needs at the forefront. We have it in our head that to be a "good mom" means that we are constantly caring for our children, meeting all of their needs and never putting anything above that duty. We are so busy taking care of everyone else that our needs get thrown by the wayside. If we were to turn our attention away from the caring demands of our family and turn the focus toward ourselves, on a very real level we would feel the pang of selfishness. The problem is, if we chronically neglect our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual selves, we are not able to be as successful and effective at caring for our families. Moms need to re-frame this way of thinking to something that is more helpful! When you practice self care, you are working toward your goal of caring for your family. Tell yourself that you are worth care also! Find a balance by taking small steps. Choose one goal for yourself this week. Maybe it is going to a yoga class, going for a walk with a neighbor, getting a pedicure, taking a nap or just going to the store by yourself. Think about what would fill your proverbial gas tank and make a plan to do just one thing. When the thoughts of guilt begin to creep into your mind, because they will try, combat them with positive statements, like "I need this", "This will make me a better mom and partner", "It is healthy for my baby to spend time with his dad", etc.
I encourage Janice to talk to her husband about this need and her feelings of guilt. I encourage her to make one goal this week, one baby step toward caring for herself. We talk about the positive thoughts to to talk herself through the negative feelings. We talk about what might happen if she doesn't begin to take better care of herself.
Many moms are like Janice. With support and encouragement, moms can feel good AND take exceptional care of their families. Please think about how you can be happier and healthier and start taking baby steps. After all, your family needs you!