As Mums we often think that we’re meant to be looking after our family all the time, every minute of every day. In fact, we’re so conditioned to feeling like this that we feel guilty or selfish when we take some time out for ourselves for self-care. Sometimes to the point where it spoils our enjoyment of whatever we’re doing and we might as well not have done it in the first place. But Mums shouldn’t feel selfish for looking after themselves.
We need to remember that although we think we’re invincible, we’re not. We’re only human and there’s only so much we can take before we burn out if we don’t put ourselves first every now and then.
If you need some reassurance or more convincing that self-care is important then check out this post on why Mums shouldn’t feel selfish for looking after themselves.
Do you look after yourself?
How many times in the past week, month or even year, have you taken time out to do something for yourself?
Do you feel guilty if you spend time or money on yourself when you could be spending it on your family? Do you stop yourself doing things or say no to opportunities just because you feel you should be taking care of your children instead of taking care of yourself?
I’m not necessarily talking about big things. I don’t mean taking yourself off on holiday without the kids for a week (tempting as it may be!), soaking up the sun by the pool, drinking cocktails and reading a book.
Instead I mean taking an exercise class once a week, going to the hairdresser every couple of months or so to get your hair done, popping out to the coffee shop for some quiet time alone with just you, a coffee, cake and a book. Or even just finishing that last chapter of the book you’ve had on the go since last year.
If you’ve said no and denied yourself something recently then perhaps it’s time to rethink things.
Does Mum-life mean we really have to put ourselves bottom of the pile?
When we become a Mum we generally accept that we’ll have to put our lives on hold for a while whilst we focus on the 24/7 needs of our little ones. Some Mums find that easier and are more able to adapt to this new way of life than others.
But, one way or another, we all find that our kids take over our lives in every possible way and we no longer have the freedom, time or opportunities to do things for, or by, ourselves.
Everything is for others.
We have to run the home, feed, clothe and keep our babies safe, educate them, taxi them to all their activities, many of us work at the same time and we generally have a lot on our plates.
We have no time, or energy, left for ourselves unless we make a conscious effort to create it.
However, in order to make this effort we have to overcome some of the hang-ups and misconceptions that we carry around with us and are usually the reasons why we say no to ourselves and yes to everyone else.
I’ve listed four of the main reasons here, together with the counter-argument that puts pay to those reasons, so we can start to re-train our mummy-brains to think differently!
Reasons why we say no and why they just don’t stack up!
1. My children need me
I bet you’re thinking that your children need you and you can’t possibly leave them or go off to do something else in case they need you right here, right now.
You might tell yourself that you’d be a really bad Mum if you went to do something just for fun and you weren’t around for them when they needed you to do something or get something for them. Of course, our children need us. They rely on us for everything until they’re grown up (and they will need us then too).
But that doesn’t mean that they need you every single moment of every single day! There will be times when they do, for example, if they’re poorly, or when they’re doing homework and get stuck.
But there will be times when they don’t need you. Maybe they’re at school or nursery, or asleep at night or having a nap, or when your partner’s home and can be in charge of baby-sitting or grandparents can step in.
You might have other people who can look after your children for a while so that you can take care of you. They won’t ever replace you and you might not feel they’ll do as good a job as you, but pick the right person and you can trust that they’ll do the best by your kids. Of course, it depends on what you choose to do instead but, for example, if you can’t get a baby-sitter, you can still achieve a lot whilst your baby is asleep for his or her afternoon nap.
You might just need to plan the time in advance, so you don’t waste your time wondering what to do when your baby falls asleep. Also, pick your time carefully. Perhaps don’t choose to head out when it’s bedtime routine or homework needs to be done if you’re the only one in the house that can do this.
Be sensible about when and how you choose to do things and remember that your children are more resilient than you give them credit for.
They don’t need just you all the time!
2. I’m being selfish if I spend time or money on myself
This is totally missing the point of what looking after yourself is all about.
If you fobbed your children off to total strangers all day, every day and spent your time getting your nails and hair done and hitting the shops, then yes, you probably are being a bit selfish. You brought your kids into the world and so now you have to look after them.
But, that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about how you feel when you go to have your hair done once every 2 or 3 months. Or you take an evening class once a week in a subject that you’ve been really wanting to learn about for ages or it’s further training to help your career. Or having 30 minutes to follow a yoga routine in the evening once the kids are in bed.
Ask yourself why you really feel this is selfish?
Do you not count anymore? Is looking after yourself a luxury that’s no longer relevant now you’re a Mum? Are you not important enough?
As a Mum it’s even more vital that you look after yourself (by doing whatever that means to you).
You’ve so many other people depending on you and demanding things of you and a lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. Your shoulders need to be strong and you need to be the toughest and most energised version of you to take the weight.
Look after yourself so that you can look after everyone else.
3. I’m a Mum so I should put my children first
Yes, your children come first. You would give them the clothes off your back, the shoes on your feet and the food on your plate to make sure they were happy, healthy and safe.
But, just because you’ve chosen to take a bit of time for yourself or do something for you, does it mean that you’ve also automatically abandoned all your other duties as a mum?
That it is either one thing or the other, mutually exclusive, and you can’t find a happy balance of both? That because you’re a Mum you also signed up to having no life of your own, you’ve put on hold any dreams or goals for yourself and instead must now invest ALL your time into your children and that you no longer count?
I don’t think so and I’m sure your family doesn’t either if you asked them.
4. I’m fine, I’ll just carry on as that’s what Mums do
Mums are tough and resilient. We deal with a lot, juggle loads of balls in the air at the same time, we can forward-plan, multi-task and trouble-shoot all kinds of problems.
We can also bury our head in the sand, stay ‘safe’ in our day-to-day activities that neither take us out of our comfort zone nor give us much opening for new opportunities.
And, we can ‘hide’ behind the millions of things on our To Do list so we’re always too busy or too tired to address the real questions we should be asking ourselves. We either put it off until tomorrow or pretend that we’re fine and just carry on as normal.
For sure we don’t feel like making big and important decisions when we’re tired and overwhelmed but that doesn’t stop us making small, baby-steps when it comes to self-care. Forget about planning a weekend away, what about just sitting down with a magazine and a cup of tea for 10 minutes whilst the kids are occupied playing?
As I mentioned before, looking after yourself doesn’t have to require grand planning, it can be something small and spontaneous and anything you want to do or enjoy doing.
Don’t fall foul to martyr syndrome, being crushed by the weight of motherhood but still saying you’re fine, when clearly you’re not.
Remember that taking control of your own life and motherhood isn’t selfish. It’s positive, empowering and admirable.
What happens when Mums don’t look after themselves?
As a Mum you are the glue that holds your family together. If you don’t function right, then chances are that your home and your family doesn’t function right either.
Have you noticed that the mood you’re in first thing in the morning sets the tone for your family for the rest of the day? If you’re grumpy, irritable and shouty at breakfast time, then this will affect how you and your family are for the day ahead.
Be happy, positive and upbeat and your family and you will have a much brighter day!
With so much responsibility on you and being on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there’s a lot at stake when you don’t look after yourself properly.
• We start to get RESENTFUL about the lack of time and space for us.
• We BURN OUT because we’ve got too much on our plate and don’t have the energy or motivation to deal with it, instead we let it consume and overtake us because we can’t see a way out.
• We get ANGRY that we’ve reached this point and that this wasn’t what being a Mum was meant to be about.
• We get OVERWHELMED by everything and can’t see a way out or focus on the things which are most important to us. We go round in circles, chasing our tails, dealing with problems, at everyone else’s beck and call and we can’t catch a breath.
• We get BURIED under the weight of responsibility.
Instead of feeling that you’re being selfish for looking after yourself, re-condition yourself to believe that self-care is absolutely VITAL for not only your well-being but that of your family. You want you and your family to flourish, grow and savour life.
You are the backbone of your family and without a backbone, it won’t do very well at all.
Other posts you might be interested in
- 4 reasons why Mums should feel great about themselves
- Declutter your wardrobe and love your clothes
- 15 easy ways to make yourself feel better