We have all been there before: “taking a break” away from the kids by folding and putting away laundry, taking a shower, and picking up groceries by ourselves. Unfortunately, as a society, we have been led to believe that these previously mentioned tasks can be categorized as forms of self-care. The reality is that these things and many others we often do are not ways to refresh ourselves. Instead, we do tasks to keep our lives and our family’s life in order. Stop looking at these things as luxuries; they are not self-care.
Taking a shower is not a luxury.
A basic need, keeping your body clean, has somehow turned into a luxury for mothers. We humans should do it daily, but when tiny humans are in your care, your needs often come last. Washing your hair once or twice a week is the norm for most. Dry shampoo is like a required badge of honor for tired moms pressed for time. Washing your body is the most basic human need, and it should not be something we only can do if time allows.
Eating an actual meal while sitting down shouldn’t be rare.
We have all had the days we have deemed “too busy” to sit while eating a meal. Even more, that said meal has been reduced to a handful of Cheez-It crackers when we felt we could not spare the time to prepare something. We have somehow been led to believe that getting all of the things done is more important than nourishing and fueling our bodies. Proper nourishment is essential, and it is not self-care.
Grocery shopping is not a vacation.
Heading to the grocery store to pick up items for your family for the week is not a break. Though it may feel like a welcomed break away from the kids, this is an essential task that helps your household have the items they need. Whether you are shopping in an actual store or opting for grocery pick-up, it is certainly not a vacation of any sort. You deserve a real vacation or break.
Getting exercise daily is not an indulgence.
Exercising is not self-care. Moving your body in some way each day should be considered a necessity. Whether that exercise involves an at-home workout, group class, or a run, it does not matter. Getting your sweat on helps keep your heart, lungs, and body in tip-top shape. This should not be viewed as a special occasion but as part of your daily schedule.
If you are not tired, you are not truly a mother.
In the newborn days, it is pretty normal to be sleep-deprived, have no time for rest, running on fumes and caffeine. Somehow being tired has become the standard for all stages of motherhood. All humans are tired at times due to different factors. But moms often put off sleep for other things. Naptime is a time to get chores done. The kids are in bed, so there is finally time to decompress, and inevitably you stay up too late. It becomes a vicious cycle. No one feels their best when they are tired. Try to take a nap during naptime. Let your partner get up with the kids some days, and you sleep in. This one is a no-brainer but try to go to sleep earlier. Although it is hard to get, a good night’s sleep will have you feeling your best and ready to conquer the day.
Putting your mental health as a priority is not selfish.
Somehow, we have come to believe as mothers that being on the verge of a constant emotional breakdown is normal. We’re told our feelings of anxiety or depression are a stage, it is normal, and it will pass. But it’s not. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Whether it is medication or seeing a therapist, getting mental health assistance should not be reserved for everyone but moms. Today we have telehealth and teletherapist visits available, making it easier than ever to take care of our mental health from the comfort of our homes. Moms need and deserve to put themselves back on their priority list.
Changing the narrative.
Self-care tied to the daily tasks of mothers has been ingrained in our modern society and certainly will not change overnight. Some ways to begin to change this narrative within our society include:
- Scheduling things in advance and sticking to them. If you need to make a daily schedule that includes when you will shower, eat a real meal, and exercise, then make it official by writing it all down on a calendar or putting it in your phone calendar as times you will be unavailable and busy. Whether that means it has to happen in the early morning, during naptime, or after kids are in bed, make sure you schedule it.
- Communicate openly with your partner. Unfortunately, they cannot read our minds, so keep the line of communication open with them. Let them know when you feel stressed, need help with tasks, or need a break to avoid burnout.
- Seek outside help. Whether that helps comes in a therapist, grocery delivery service, getting a weekly blowout, etc. Do not be afraid to outsource to ensure you care for yourself.
Mothers need real breaks and real self-care time. Don’t settle for basic hygiene tasks and family chores as your “you time.” You are worthy and deserve so much more.