On the eve of my trip away alone, (Baby V will stay home with Dada and I’m heading to Byron Bay!), I am pondering the boundaries of self-care and selfish behaviors. I know many women – both mothers and free agents – constantly slack on self-care because the feel the need to put everyone else first. We do this because we are conditioned to think that being a good, kind person requires martyrdom – saving others at our own expense. Putting ourselves first is seen as selfish or superficial. Too many moms are run into the ground with the demands of their children, husband, careers and social life. We must realize that it is totally acceptable and necessary to put our needs before those of others. We must stop and ask ourselves a very simple question: how can you love everyone else if you don’t love yourself?
It’s the guilt! I am frequently made to feel guilty that I exercise, go out with friends, go surfing and otherwise exercise self-care by three guilty parties: myself, my partner, and by what I perceive my fellow mothers to think about me.
First, my self-imposed mom-guilt needs to go. You can’t do everything and if you’re trying then you’re seriously hurting yourself by not getting a little me-time. I often rush home from a dinner out with girlfriends or a solo surf, worrying about my partner’s survival with our daughter only to find they’re playing happily at the park. I will just ditch my watch and stop worrying.
Second, I will not let my partner irritate me when he says I “go surfing all the time.” Although, it’s not nearly as fun, he “gets” to go to work all the time where he can: take a shit without someone banging on the door yelling “poo poo;” walk out the door without anything but his keys, wallet and phone; not feel like a prisoner in his own home because the baby won’t get dressed again and have a conversation that is not punctuated with screams. He is not on call 24 hours a day for puke clean up, shoe retrieval or baba refills. But, he too deserves time for self-care as well. I think that’s why he goes to Bunnings (Aussie Home Depot) so much.
Third, I will not worry about what other moms’ think. I am not a bad parent because I have interests other than my baby. I am not a bad person because I need to exercise everyday. What if all moms exercised everyday? Would women still lament baby fat? I love Baby V dearly and I love being her mother but I am still have free will and interests. They do not have to die after child birth.
I will practice self-care and take time out for me because doing so will help me survive and flourish.
Here’s what I do in my ritual practice of self-care. Everyone is different, so think about what you need – emotionally and physically – and be kind to yo’self!
Exercise. One of the ways I care for myself is through exercise. Exercise clears my thoughts, releases stress and makes me in a much better mood. Be it surfing, yoga, bootcamp or hiking, I almost NEED exercise to start my day, everyday. It’s an instant mood lifter.
Cooking. Another way is cooking. I like to take the time and make meals for myself and my family. I enjoy the process and the rewards and it usually is a de-stresser (that is as long as I don’t have a 20 pound screaming monster pounding at the baby gate into the kitchen. I like to know what I am eating and make sure I am putting foods that make me feel good into my body.
Surfing/Ocean/Outdoors. I need to start each day outside. If I am not surfing or checking the first thing in the morning, I like to go on a walk and enjoy the fresh air.
Music. If I’m in a down mood, I will often put on some of my favorite music like Otis Redding, Hot Chip or a bunch of cheesy Outlaw Country on our stereo and turn it up. This is one that works just as well when the baby is around. She loves dancing and twirling to Garth Brooks as much as I do and if that doesn’t put a smile on my face, I don’t know what will.
So don’t be a martyr. Moms deserve to take care of themselves. They are the most important beings on earth – the givers of this life we so preciously devote to everyone but ourselves. Make a self-care ritual. So, go surfing in the middle of day, take a yoga class while dad makes dinner, paint your toe nails and tell yourself nice things because you deserve it.