A few weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my first child, an acquaintance told me “use Pinterest as much as you can now because you won’t be able to do it when you have kids.” I was intrigued by the notion that I would have to give up on my personal interest to be a mother. Needless to say, her statements motivated me to make self care a priority when I became a mother.
When flying and preparing for a flight, the flight attendant instructs us to put our mask on first before helping someone else. Why…because you will die in the process of saving someone else. Self care is the first thing to go when you become a mom and with each kid, it is easy to lose more of yourself. Women have a belief that it is their job to be the “martyr” in the home. Often not asking for help or not allowing help when help is available. Taking on the role of martyr will leave you exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed and resentful. When we are unable to manage all the moving pieces (work, family, social, me time) we become disappointed with ourselves. Handling things yourself is not the natural order of things. It does not make us better women to take the charge of doing everything without help from others.
Get rid of the idea that you can manage it all. In my counseling practice, I help moms who are depressed and anxious due to their perceived inability to manage multiple duties often while working full time. These women like many of us are taught to be selfless and doing anything other than being selfless makes us feel as if we are not doing something that women are capable of doing. If being able to do everything was possible, we would not be talking about identity and self care. What I try to offer moms is hope about being able to manage multiple duties while maintaining their self identify. I routinely recommend the following:
Help can be offered through family, friends or hired help. Setup a babysitting co-op with other couples so you can enjoy a night out with friends, alone or with your spouse. You may want to consider hiring a housekeeper or mommy’s helper, subscribe to a food service like Blue Apron or order your groceries online and pick them up via the drive thru lane. Be open to all options that could lighter your load.
We all have a particular way that we like things to be done, but sometimes letting go of our expectations will make way for others to help us. Support, don’t criticize, your spouse’s efforts to assist in the home. By criticizing you will minimize your spouse’s willingness to participate. Invite family members over to care for the children and don’t hover while they are providing care. Take this time to relax away from your children.
Make NO your favorite word. Turn down invites. Do not feel obligated to take your kid to every party they are invited to. Only do things that bring a smile to your face when you think about doing them. If you are lukewarm about engaging in an activity, just say no. Set perimeters around when you are available to talk to people. A perimeter might be not answering your phone on weekends, setting a Do Not Disturb on your phone after a certain time or not using your phone during dinner with family.
Our kids are our greatest teachers. They naturally think about themselves first. We have learned how to make ourselves less of a priority because of our beliefs around being mothers and women. We can maintain our identity by making a decision to put ourselves first again and not making excuses for not doing so. The mother that told me I would no longer have time for Pinterest was wrong, I still use Pinterest and maybe more often since I’m always looking for ideas on how to do things more efficiently. If you are overwhelmed, find a counselor, level headed friend or family member to help you process and to direct you toward making yourself a priority again.
Nedra Glover Tawwab, MSW, LCSW is the creator of Kaleidoscope Counseling