This is the question I’ve been asking myself for the past thirty-twelve years. With all her other responsibilities, how can a mom take care of herself?
Here’s what I know to do to take care of myself:
- Eat nourishing food
- Drink water
- Take some time alone
- Go to the chiropractor and/or to get a deep muscle massage as needed
- Take time with the hubby
- Get enough sleep every night
But right now, I look at that great self-care list – and then I look at my five kids under seven, my high schooler and his needs and his friends, my two college kids and their needs and their friends, my adult kid and his girl that I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like, my husband who is busier than ever right now with huge work responsibilities – and I launch into that freakish laugh-cry thing moms do when the thing is not at all funny, so it kinda hits you funny, and then you cry because it’s not funny but there you are, still laughing. Bless.
I know what to do so that I can take good care of myself. Yet in reality, I find it very difficult to pull off right now. But awww, would you just look at all these beauties:
Silly but true: sometimes I’m jealous.
How silly that I would ever be jealous of anyone else, seeing as I love my life as mom! But if I’m not careful, I can see what other adults around me are doing – super extravagant things like going to the bathroom alone or reading books without pictures – and I start to feel a tad bit jealous. “Must be nice,” thinks me. After all, I have very few chances to head to the bathroom without toddlers following me to pull down toilet paper and squirt hand soap into their hair while I pee.
They look so innocent when they aren’t in the bathroom with me.
Fun fact: when my husband needs to go to the chiropractor, he simply calls and makes an appointment.
But I’m not jealous of this, of course, because I’m a super sweet wife who is always super sweet. I am truly very happy for him to go to the chiropractor when he needs to go. Because I am super sweet.
So you must be wondering…can I actually not go to the chiropractor? Can I not read a big girl book? Is everyone around me living their lives in total freedom while I, the mom, languish at home alone – though never, ever actually alone – need I remind you of all who accompany me to the bathroom?
The truth is that I can do any of the things I need to do to take care of myself. But I sometimes feel like I have to move a mountain or three to make them happen…
This seems like the right time to talk about the cookies.
Do you know why a usually reasonable and rational mom might sometimes grab cookies or chips instead of eating the salad she knows she should eat? I think the reasons are two-fold:
2) Because the days can feel long and hard and a mom may feel a little bit deprived. This may lead her to think that a cookie will help her to feel better. Maybe it will bring a little joy in the form of a chocolate chip, you know?
It’s a temporary fix, and as we all know, chocolate doesn’t actually bring true joy. “Only Jesus brings joy, amen,” says the healthy mom. But shucks if she doesn’t try again tomorrow to let the fulfillment come from a Dorito.
You thought I was kidding about the oatmeal…
…and the glitter.
I love my life!
There’s nothing I want to do on earth more than to be these kids’ mom, to be my husband’s wife, to be my friends’ friend, and to live this full, abundant life God gave me. So I’m not complaining – not even a little bit. I’m just sharing a little bit of my current motherhood reality. Basically, I need to make a chiropractor appointment, and I can’t figure out how. That is all. Thanks for listening.
So How Can a Mom Take Care of Herself?
Twenty-three plus years into this gig, I’ve learned that motherhood-self-care takes some doing. It doesn’t just happen. It really does seem easier to reach for a cookie than to get out the carrots and hummus. But this leads to a mama feeling sluggish and depleted, so don’t get sucked in to thinking that the chocolate chips will help. (Now, coffee on the other hand…)
Advocate for yo-self, sista
I’ve found that I have to recognize where I’m lacking. Where I’m feeling depleted. And I have to advocate for myself.
Why does a mom have to advocate for herself? Is it because no one respects her or cares about her needs? Nope. I think it’s the opposite! I think we are highly respected by all! And I think moms are really good at momming! In fact, we’re so good at it that it’s possible that our husbands or friends (or even our very own selves) don’t always realize that we might be one toddler-filled pee-break away from a freakish laugh-cry break-down.
On the outside, I can look like I’m doing great. The kids are clean(ish). The house is – well, it hasn’t quite fallen down around us. There’s food on (but also under) the table. I always smile hugely and beautifully when hubby comes home at the end of the day. (He thinks I’m just happy to see him. Well, sure I am. But the truth is that I AM SO HAPPY TO SEE HIM!!!!! Because he brought his arms home with him and now he can also hold one or two of the children.)
So moms? We have to advocate for ourselves. We have to recognize what we need and go ahead and move those mountains to make them happen.
Sometimes I don’t even know how to do this and therefore find it hard to reach out for help. This is not because I don’t like asking for help (being served by others is glorious!). But I’ve found that asking for help also takes effort. Effort that seems hard to come by when keeping everyone safe and happy until bedtime seems difficult enough each day.
But one or two texts sent out to friends? We can make that happen, right? We can say something like, “Hey, are you free to stay with the kids while I head to the chiro tomorrow morning?” See, that wasn’t so hard.
I think I may try this. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And how about you? Are you working to take care of yourself – even though it’s legitimately hard – though not impossible – to do?
When it comes to nourishment, you can do what I do and drink a salad every day. It goes down fast and easy and can be enjoyed even while children are hanging on your legs. They may even want to drink some too.
I don’t have much time to exercise right now (and winter doesn’t help) but I do run up and down the stairs carrying children or laundry baskets multiple times a day and I try to do some yoga-type stretches in the living room a few times each week. As soon as the weather is nice again, we’ll be doing what I call The-Best-Mom-Fitness-Program: loading kids up in strollers and bikes and taking long strolls which is super good for all the reasons – exercise, fresh air, sunshine, good conversation. But the best reason of all: IT WEARS THE KIDS OUT SO THEY TAKE BETTER AFTERNOON NAPS. This is for their own good. This is all I care about. The good of the kids. ;)
Let’s review and let’s do this!
- Moms, we need to take care of ourselves, on purpose, for a purpose, because we are fantastic and wonderful and so very loved by so very many.
- And speaking of love, I haven’t even mentioned God yet. Oh dear one, God loves us all so much. He wants so much good for us. He’s right there, daily providing for our every need, every minute.
- Ask for help. There is no “Way to go, you did it all alone!” trophy. Who would even want one of those? I’d rather have a daily “You made it through the day because of your awesome community!” sticker. Sign me up. I want this. I have this, praise God.
- Rest when you can. We really won’t be tired forever. I promise, because…
- This season will turn into a different season. I’ve done this before so I know that it’s true. Eventually, everyone will be able to wipe his or her own bottom – true story. Eventually, the kids can unload the dishwasher and do their own laundry and STAY HOME ALONE WHILE MOM GOES TO THE CHIROPRACTOR. I am so serious. This season is temporary and so very precious.
- See the good. I will never be that mom who says “enjoy them while they’re young because they grow up so fast yada yada blah blah” because I’ve been there and done that and I’m doing it again. WE MOMS ARE ENJOYING THEM WHILE THEY ARE YOUNG but we are also tired and covered in spit-up. Much of the day is hard, but much of the day is also oh-so-good. The sweet cheeks and squishy kisses, the way they say words wrong, the times they share with their sibling and giggle and have fun, the way they let us dress them in adorable outfits and don’t have opinions about their attire. I could go on and on. There is so much good in every day. God sees to that. Our job is to see what He sees to. <— Read that again. We can easily see all the good He provides when we are looking for it. It’s constant because He is God and He is good.
Motherhood-self-care looks different through the seasons. Eventually, it will actually be easier to do what we need to do for ourselves each day. But for today, let’s do what we can. Let’s drink the salad. Let’s make the stress-free simple meals. Let’s enjoy the fun books with pictures. Let’s take walks in the sunshine while pushing the stroller. Let’s have Jesus-discussions with our babes and be made aware all over again why Jesus called the children to him and told us to have hearts like them.
Let’s learn and grow from the place where we are. God provides. Always.
P.S. I finished writing this article (thanks to babysitters, woohoo!), moved a few mountains (texted friends and asked for help), and I’m happy to report that I will be going to the chiropractor on Tuesday at 11:45.
P.P.S. Turns out, it wasn’t so hard to move that mountain so I moved a couple more. I’ll be getting my hair trimmed next Thursday at 1:00. And tomorrow afternoon I’m going to go see my therapist for a much-needed session in hopes of turning my currently too-frequent freakish laugh-cries into my more typical I-love-my-kids-so-much-laugh-cries.
P.P.P.S. Decided to send hubs a heart emoji and some words of encouragement because he works so many long, hard hours every day and still comes home with a smile and arms so willing to help his weary wife with the littles (and the bigs).
P.P.P.P.S. Your turn. Go move a mountain. You are so loved. :)