I want to follow-up on my previous post with a discussion of self-care. So often we are our own worst critics. Our minds call us things that we would never say to someone else, friend or foe. Self-care is based on the concept of self-compassion. Learning to show yourself the empathy and generosity that you so often provide to others is essential for your own health. How can we hope that others love us if we cannot love ourselves? How can we hope that others treat us well if we cannot treat ourselves well? My hope is that each of can learn to practice self-compassion via self care and teach our children how important it is to value themselves.
Regardless of whether you work inside and/or outside of the home, making time for yourself and for self-care is so, so important. I cannot stress it enough: You are the model for your family. If you are not well – mentally, physically and emotionally- then you cannot help your family to be that way either. Below are my top 5 tips for things that you can do to make sure that you practice regular self-care:
- Schedule Time for You. Whether you hire a sitter, leave your kids with your partner, or bring the kids to the local YMCA child watch, make sure that you get at least an hour or two of time to yourself each week. While an hour does not seem like a lot, it sometimes feels like you have to move mountains to get even a minute alone. Do not give up though! Having time to sleep, read, exercise, call a friend, meditate, go in the sauna, get a pedicure, shop, etc. is so essential to your feeling like a person, an individual meeting her own needs, rather than only a mother meeting other peoples’ needs.
- Ask for Help and Delegate. You cannot do it all. You do not want to do it all. Whether you ask your partner, neighbor or friend for help or whether you outsource tasks like cleaning, laundry, etc, get help! Delegate tasks and off-load items from your to-do list. For those moms that work inside the home, you need help too! Most adults work 9 am – 5 pm. If you work in the home, your day is more like 4 am – 10 pm. Those are long hours! Do not diminish how exhausting being a stay-at-home parent is and make sure to ask for help.
- Say No. You need to say no. You cannot and should not try to do it all. I would suggest starting by identifying what your values are and what endeavors you want to pursue. Try thinking of values for the categories: family, professional, spiritual, education, and leisure. The next step is identifying goals that pursue your values. Goals are things you can accomplish, whereas values are a direction you move in but never arrive at. In order to take these steps, you must say no to engagements, obligations and activities that are not in pursuit of your values. Saying no is not selfish or rude. Saying no helps you to become the best version of yourself.
- Prioritize and prepare. Start by making a list of what you want to accomplish in the short term, long term, at home and at work. Then, prioritize. You will be hard pressed to find an adult who does not have an ever-growing to-do list. Start by accepting that you can only do so much. Identify what is necessary, ideal and superfluous. Then, problem solve on how to move forward. We have all been told that preparation is the key to success. Prioritizing is part of preparation but so too is delegation and ensuring that you have all the necessary components of the project before you under take it.
- Avoid distractions and be present. Email pop-ups, text messages, Facebook alerts, Snap Chats, etc, are all distractions. Whether you are playing a game with your kids, making a power point presentation or emailing a friend, be present in each moment. Pay attention to what you are doing so that you can be fully engaged. Avoiding distractions and being present helps you to accomplish tasks effectively and efficiently as well as connect with those you are with. All of us could use some no-phone time daily; try scheduling this and making it a daily habit.
I used to think that being a mother is the hardest job that anyone can have. My views recently have shifted. I think that being a mother who understands the importance of self-care is harder. Knowing that you need to self-care in order to be a better mother means that you have to make time for your needs in the midst of a life filled with work for others. Self-care will make you a better parent, person and professional. Unfortunately, though, self-care is often at the bottom of a mother’s priority list, even though it should really be at the top.