So often, we’re told that the solution to our stress and busy lives is to practice self-care. Go take a bubble bath and all your troubles will leave you and empty down the drain. Bubble baths are great, but they don’t absolve me of my worries or stresses. They are still there waiting for me outside of the bathtub.
More often than not, self-care for parents is prescribed as a way to take a temporary respite from our lives, and while we all need a break from overwhelming moments, it doesn’t address the issues that we need a break from. We shouldn’t be focusing on the reactive moments when our lives have become overwhelming, but rather, we should be focusing on the root causes of our dissatisfaction. In other words, in what ways are our needs as mothers not being met?
So instead of thinking of self-care as a one-and-done activity that will offer a break from the overwhelm, I suggest that we shift our mindset to prioritize ourselves and our needs. As moms we often put other people’s needs and priorities above our own, but this has the tendency to deplete our energy when done consistently throughout the day, the week, the month, or the year. Instead, we should learn to prioritize our own needs more often, so that we can lead fulfilling and joyful lives that will by consequence spread love to others.
Self-care is about prioritizing what matters most
Modern day life is busy, and being a mom is even busier. We have endless things to do and often not enough time or energy to do them. When our to-do lists are overflowing, we can easily become overwhelmed, and all those well-intentioned self-care ideas we had planned for ourselves can fall to the wayside.
Our lives as moms can easily become unbalanced with errands, scheduled activities, or work, leaving no time for the things that matter the most to us. So instead of letting life take us in its rapid flow, leaving us feeling scattered or drained, we can become intentional in our lives instead. When we start to live intentionally, we can simplify our lives by prioritizing what matters the most to us. When we become clear on what we care about, we can work backwards to design a life which balances those values, allowing us to feel productive, present, and fulfilled. In this, self-care for parents is not just about bubble baths and massages, it’s also about discovering our core values and giving space to the things that we actually care about.
Moreover, when we start living by our values, we create more life satisfaction by focusing our energy on the things that light us up, and letting go of the unaligned things that deplete our energy. When we prioritize what matters the most to us, it is an act of self-care and self love, which leads to a more satisfying life.
Self-care looks different for everyone
Self-care will look different for each parent out there. We all have different wants and needs, and all have different limits. One important aspect of self-care is to create boundaries that honor our limits. While one person may have a strong capacity for loud noise, another may be less tolerant of it. When we honor our limits, needs, and wants without critical judgement, we can discover meaningful self-care.
For example, I am an introvert who likes peace and quiet, and my self-care looks like:
· Having alone time in my home without kids, dogs, or my husband
· Leaving work at the time when I’m no longer expected to be there
· Being honest with the people around me
· Leaving my phone behind when I feel it’s draining my energy
· Saying no
· Putting on “Paw Patrol” to read a few pages of a book
· Getting up early to meditate and journal in silence
Whatever your self-care looks like for you, make sure it is meaningful, fulfilling, and important.
Self-care for parents as a mindset
Motherhood is amazing, but it can be an exhausting journey. It is a journey where we can easily lose ourselves to the needs of others, and it can be one of overwhelm. However, when self-care is viewed as a loving way to think about yourself, to remind yourself that you matter too, we can hold self-care as a mindset that is not selfish, but sensible. By prioritizing our own wellbeing, by living through our values, and by practicing meaningful self-care, we can live a more balanced life that is fulfilling and joyful, for not only ourselves but our families.