By TMoM Team Member Anna Keller

When I think back on my life before kids, I’m always in awe of how much TIME I had.

  • Time to wash, blow dry, and style my hair DAILY. (WHAT???)
  • Time to make an involved recipe on a Tuesday evening.
  • Time to be with friends, often last minute and for extended periods of time.
  • Time to watch an entire movie at home in a single sitting. Maybe even TWO on a Saturday.

Oh, the luxury of it all!

Now, as the mom to a 6-year-old and 2-year-old, time feels a lot different. Instead of those long, extended periods of open space I often had before, time feels much more fragmented – both in actuality and in my mind.

And, of course, it isn’t a bad shift. It comes with so much purpose and joy and warmth. But it DOES mean I have to be far more intentional when it comes to self-care.

Speaking of self-care…let me define that term for us first. I think so often we hear “self-care” and our mind goes to face masks or pedicures or massages. You know, things busy moms often don’t have tons of time for.

But self-care is so much bigger than that – and it’s also essential to our health on lots of levels.

The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.”

So within a definition like that one, self-care includes everything from hygiene to nutrition to medical care to mental health care to stress management and lots more. It’s BROAD – and it’s waaaaay more than a manicure (although a mani would qualify!).

I like to think of self-care as anything we do for ourselves that feels nourishing. That description makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Here are some of the main things I’ve realized as it relates to self-care and motherhood:

  • It’s easy to use motherhood as an excuse not to prioritize self-care. Let’s start with some tough love here. This is so common. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too, haven’t you? Or maybe you’ve done it yourself. And yet, motherhood should not be synonymous with martyrdom. Our well-being as mothers absolutely needs to be prioritized ALONGSIDE the needs of our kids and partner. Everyone in the family is better for it when we make self-care a consistent part of our life.
  • It’s often up to you to ask for time for self-care. If you find yourself needing support in certain areas so you can be the best version of yourself, speak up! Remember: Self-care is just that – caring for yourself – and if you’re finding you’re regularly struggling to feel like yourself, it’s time for something to change. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
  • It’s important to model self-care for our children. I feel very strongly about this. There are so many aspects of parenting – including self-care – that I want to show my children in action so they grow up thinking it’s the default way to live. It’s easy for guilt to creep in when we think about self-care, which is why I am so passionate about modeling it for our kids so hopefully that guilt will not be present (or will at least be minimized) when they are parents.
  • Self-care is not selfish – it’s healthy. Taking good care of ourselves is not a selfish act. Repeat that as many times as you need to.
  • Self-care is sometimes about our mindset. Self-care is not always going to be a vacation or an evening out with friends. In fact, those will likely be more in the minority. Instead of waiting for those bigger events to feel like you’re caring for yourself, consider how you can acknowledge the moments of self-care that might already be happening during your day that you tend to just gloss over or rush through.
  • Self-care can fit into the small pockets of our day. At a stoplight, practice box breathing. Make sure to drink enough water through the day so you remain hydrated. Text a friend during your child’s nap to catch up and feel connected. Schedule a therapy session for a few weeks from now. Stand outside for a few minutes and soak up some vitamin D. These are all forms of self-care. And instead of thinking of them as things you SHOULD do, think of them as ways you can nourish yourself. They’re sacred – not “shoulds.”

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