By Julie Burton
There were many days when I woke up in a state of sheer panic and dread; petrified that I didn’t have the wherewithal to care for my four children: a toddler, a grade-schooler, a tween and a teen, and everything else on my plate. My husband traveled, I was exhausted and running out of steam. I was poring my heart and soul into being a “perfect” mother to my children, a supportive and loving wife to my husband, and trying to make something of my writing career. But I felt like I was treading water and slowly losing a battle with the constant undertow that grasped at my legs and threatened to pull me under water at any given moment.
I needed a Motherhood life raft … and I couldn’t figure out how to build one.
I started wondering if other Moms ever felt this way about Motherhood and all of its responsibilities. So I started asking them, surveying them through Mom websites, emailing every Mother I knew, cornering Moms at Starbucks. And hundreds of them told me that they struggled too.
They told me, “I will get my body back, my marriage recharged, my friendships rekindled, my hobbies rebooted, my happiness revived, my life revitalized — when …
– My kids are a little older
– I have more money
– More time
– More energy
Twenty-three years of marriage, almost 22 years of Motherhood, and doing a deep dive into the study of self-care for my book The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, which included surveying and interviewing nearly 400 Moms, the past five years has taught me these absolutes in my life as a Mother and a wife:
Someone will ALWAYS need me. No one is going to hand over the time and space.
I need to take care of myself. I need to be intentional about caring for myself or I am not able to take care of my family the way I want to.
And this was the case for nearly ever Mom I interviewed.
And yet, Moms wait for the “when.” I waited for the when. But the when never came. I had to let go of the when and claim the NOW.
I literally want to scream from the rooftops to every new Mom: “Hang on to your sense of self! Don’t forget what makes you laugh so hard that you pee in your pants! Hug and kiss your partner every day! Find things that make you happy and do them on a very regular basis! Even if it is just playing your favorite song on the radio while shlepping your kids around! Play it loud! Open the windows! Dance in the driver’s seat and sing your heart out!” (Your kids will be perfectly mortified.)
Self-care is a commitment.
It is a value.
It is a vow to treat yourself with honor and respect and to be intentional about meeting your physical, emotional, and relational needs on a regular basis. So that you can BE the kind of Mother, friend, partner that you want to be.
Just as Mothers commit to care for their children, feed them well, make sure they get enough sleep, schedule play dates for them, and make sure they are moving their bodies, laughing, learning, exploring, creating, and having fun, Mothers need to extend those efforts toward themselves—even when she is in the haze of the newborn stage, the roller coaster of the tween years, or the terror of Teenageland.
BUT HOW?? The To-Do List is already too long!
So you are a list maker, are you? And your needs just keep getting dropped to the bottom? Or they don’t even make it on the list?
Let’s take a look at that list.
Everything on it is about fulfilling a need or a want; taking care of a necessity, something that matters, that you care about; doing something that will add value or ease to someone’s life.
MOM must be on that list! At the top! In permanent marker! Your kids and your husband NEED to see you on that list. You NEED to see you on that list!
Even if it is a 10-minute walk on your lunch break from work, a Sunday morning coffee with a girlfriend when your partner is with the kids, walking up and down the stairs when your baby is napping (or better yet, SLEEP when your baby sleeps!), soaking in a bubble bath while sipping a glass of wine when the kids go to sleep, writing in a journal, reading, painting, drawing, dancing … put your self-care on the list!
At the core of Motherhood is giving to others. That’s what we do. But Moms are not superhuman and cannot continue to pour out of an empty cup. The “Giving Tree” will run out of apples, and leaves, and branches. And none of us wants to look or feel like a tree stump.
Take care of yourself every day because you are worth it! Because you are the only one who is going to do it. Because you need your physical and emotional strength to deal with all the twists and turns that Motherhood inevitably brings. Take care of yourself because it feels good! And in turn, you get to radiate that good feeling out to your family and to all those you love!
On this Mother’s Day, I would like to give you a gift. But this gift is not just for today. It is for every single day. I invite you to print out this excerpt from The Self-Care Solution and post it on your bathroom mirror. It is a reminder to put YOU on the list! And to trust putting yourself on the list is one of the most selfless things you can do:
The only way that a Mother can truly be present, engaged, connected, and nurturing with her child is if SHE is present, engaged, connected, and nurturing with herself. And the only way she can be connected with herself is if she does what she needs to do to care for herself in an honest and meaningful manner. This is the true essence of self-care for Mothers.
Lisa Barr, editor of GIRLilla Warfare: The Self-Care Solution is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Julie Burton is an experienced writer specializing in self-care, parenting, and relationships. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is the former editor of Momtalk magazine, and has written for numerous websites and publications. She blogs at juliebburton.com, is the co-founder of the Twin Cities Writing Studio, and teaches writing and wellness workshops. She lives in Minnetonka, MN, with her husband and four children. You can connect with Julie on her website, on Facebook /unscriptedmom or twitter @juliebburton.