If you’re like most moms we spoke to, you’re so busy caring for everyone else that you simply don’t remember to take care of your own needs. It’s so easy to slip into the habit of ignoring your needs that a study in the UK found that the typical mom spends only 17 minutes a day by herself.
Yup, a measly quarter of an hour. It’s probably all spent locked in the bathroom while your kids bang on the door asking when you’ll be out.
In fact, it’s worse than that. 51% of mothers go for several weeks without a single minute spent relaxing on their own, and 75% complain that they felt like their lives revolved around other people.
Most moms report feeling guilty if they take time for themselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it’s a mistake nonetheless. Caring for yourself is actually one of the best things you can do for your children.
You read that right.
Think of yourself as the battery that every other member of the family plugs into to recharge. If you’re empty, there’ll be nothing for your children, your partner, or your parents to draw on when they need you. If you’re constantly one tiny step away from collapse, you’re not a safe person for anyone to rely on in an emergency, because you have no energy left to give.
Give Your Children The Gift Of Self-Care
Think about it: your children deserve a healthy momma who is able to care for them. You’re doing no one any favors when you skip health checkups, fail to exercise, deprive yourself of sleep, miss flu shots and dental exams, and/or eat a poor diet because you’re too busy running after your children.
Research has found that 78% of mothers put off their own health care because they’re too busy looking after their family. Would you believe, the same study discovered that women place not just their children’s health and their partners’ health, but also their pets’ health ahead of their own.
That’s just ridiculous. Surely we can agree that you matter more than the family dog?
With that kind of statistic, it’s not much of a surprise that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression.
Set Your Children The Right Example
You already know that your children are learning from every single thing you do, ever since your child first let out a swear word when they stubbed their toe. So before you decide that you don’t have time for self-care, stop and consider what kind of example you’re setting for your children.
You want your daughters (and your sons) to grow up valuing their own needs. You wouldn’t let someone guilt them into neglecting their physical and mental health, so you need to show by example that it’s valid to insist on caring for your own needs.
Make no mistake; when you tell them firmly that you won’t be putting them to bed tonight because you’re meeting a friend or going to an exercise class, they might cry and scream, but they are learning the valuable lesson that it’s ok to put their own needs first. Some day, this might be what saves them from getting trapped in an abusive relationship.
Start Out Small
We’re not suggesting that you rush out to book a 3-day getaway with your friends or take a spa day every week (although there is nothing wrong with doing either of those things!) What you need is to start small.
Look, when you’re beginning with an average of 17 minutes alone time a day, the only way is up, right?
So begin by stepping back from your kids a little more often. If you’re reading a book and your children complain that they are bored, resist the urge to entertain them. Honestly, nobody ever died of boredom.
Tell your partner that you’re going running with a friend twice a week and that he/she needs to be home, or that 8pm to 9pm is your “me” time every night, and stick to it.
Build It Into Your Agenda
Here’s the truth: no one is going to give you time for self-care on a silver platter. It’s up to you to take it for yourself. If you don’t place your own self-care at the top of your list of priorities, it’s never going to happen. You are guaranteed to find something urgent that needs doing, so you need to build your self-care into your day.
That means scheduling your exercise class, weekly girls’ night out, or monthly date night and treating it as though you’ll be fined if you miss it. Don’t allow anyone to convince you that it doesn’t really matter. It does matter, because you matter and your needs matter.
Learn To Listen To Yourself
If you’ve allowed yourself to get into the habit of ignoring your own needs for a long time, you might not even be sure what it is that you want. Don’t let that stop you from taking the “me” time you’re missing, though. It just means that your inner voice has gotten drowned out by all the much louder and more insistent voices that you live with.
Take some time to simply be. You may sit on your bed and empty your mind, or go for a long walk in a nearby park. Once you start spending time with yourself again, you’ll rediscover your inner essence and find out what you most crave in order to feel like the unique, valuable human being that you are.
Self-care Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving
So there’s the truth: caring for yourself isn’t really selfish or unfair, like your inner devil keeps telling you.
Turning yourself into a martyr mom isn’t helping anyone. If you want to care for your family properly and be the mom your children need, you need to prioritize your needs.