Imperfect Mothers

Raising functional families, one mistake at a time

Self-Care for Moms, Part 2

How to find the time—and the mindset—to do your “thing”

I'm happy to see you back here for Part 2 of this Self-Care For Mom series. In last week’s post I encouraged you to choose an activity, your thing, to experiment with for this series and beyond. In this post, I offer some ideas about why self-care is hard for moms, along with antidotes to counteract these mindsets.

What exactly is self-care, first and foremost? I see it as a running to and not a running from. It’s a toxic mindset to come to a point where you say (or shout!), Can’t I get one moment of peace? Mom is on strike! Fend for yourselves! as you lock yourself in your bedroom or flee to the car. No good can come of this wit’s-end situation. You know what I mean; we’ve all been there.

I encourage you to think of self-care, not as running from your all-consuming career as a mom, but a running to, that is: running to yourself—returning to who you are at your core, remembering what gives you energy, preparing you to care for others.

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Why is self-care for moms so hard? Why don’t we do what we know is good for ourselves and that which has a positive domino effect on our family? Here are two reasons I’ve discovered along with suggestions for how to overcome them:

1. We choose the wrong self-care activity. 

There’s always something trending, along with the pressure for us to try it. The typical time-outs for mom seem to be journaling, meditation, yoga and the like. But forcing yourself to do these things when it’s really not you is counterproductive.

Antidote: Be true to yourself.

Find out what truly gives you energy and leaves you feeling centered and replenished. It very well may be mindfulness activities. It might physical like burpee workouts. Or communicating on the phone or through social media. It might take some experimenting, but do what is good for you, and not what you think you should do. Otherwise, self-care might turn into self-loathing. 

 2. We make it all or nothing.

It’s safe to say that getting some time for ourselves on a monthly schedule just doesn’t work. It’s flu season, parent-teacher conferences, or college application time, or it’s just Friday and everyone is just too tired. Plans get cancelled. We reschedule for next month. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Antidote: Keep it simple; do it purposely.

There’s certainly a place for monthly outings with other adults. But I encourage you to also choose things you can do on a daily basis, at anytime, even for a few moments— and that do not require lots of money, props, instructions for sitters, and chicken fricasse left in the fridge. The key is to do whatever you do on purpose.

Whenever you engage in self-care, put yourself in the frame of mind that this is your time. I often say to myself, Ok, self, I am doing this for me. I am purposely (watching 30 minutes of TV, scanning Facebook, organizing my closet, doing ten push-ups, meditating for 20 minutes, listening to music on the train to work, staring out the window, etc.) It’s great if you can do the same thing, at the same time every day, for a consistent length of time, but that's not always possible. The worst thing is to do it mindlessly, feeling that you are wasting time, and thinking about what else you should/could/have to do. 

So, choose wisely. Do your thing as if it’s your whole universe at the time, being present and not erasing the effects of the self-care activity. In this way, when you return to your world as a caregiver, you can do the same with your family.

Next up: How to keep on doing your thing by making it measurable and keeping yourself accountable.

Andrea Fox is a stay-at-home mother and widely published author of personal essays concerning the challenges and humor of parenting.

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