I often prescribe self-care to Mom’s. I post Facebook statuses ad nauseam instructing women to nurture and love themselves. I have even jokingly gone so far as to make someone confirm that they would with a yes ma’am. Yet, I still get the glazed over, yeah sure okay response from most women. Then recently, my husband was looking at my Valentine’s Day posts urging women to remember to love themselves for the holiday. He said to me so simply and brilliantly “explain why”. Hand to forehead moment, of course.
So, I get it. I’m a mom and in the course of the day you have to meet a lot of people’s needs; children, spouse, boss, co-workers, teachers, and on and on. You are like a well-oiled machine; you have to be to get everything done and to fit it all in 24 hours. Not to mention, the world around you tends to be a little more expecting of moms to get it all done for their family and a little less forgiving if they miss a beat. Usually, there is very little time left over to indulge in luxuries for yourself, and if there is, you are so high-wired the best you can do is a glass of wine at the end of the day. Does this sound at all familiar?
I’m going to explain to you why it is not only essential for you to put yourself at the top of your priority list, but why it selfish not to.
1. You teach the world how to treat you
Translation, if you are constantly putting yourself last, what are you teaching those around you? If you get frustrated that your family isn’t treating you as you’d expect them to, it could be what you taught them. Part of our job as parents is teaching our children how to get along in this world. We should be teaching them to honor their mothers, as is done in many other cultures, not expecting them to appreciate martyrdom. No one does. By teaching our daughters to honor their mothers, we teach them to love and respect themselves as well, and we teach our sons to take care of themselves and one day love and respect their future partners. Children model our behavior, showing them to nurture themselves sets them up for a lifetime of good mental and physical health. It’s actually selfish not to give your children this gift.
2. A good habit does not just happen after 20 years of pushing it aside
I’ll take care of myself when the kids get older, or when the kids move out, or when the kids have kids. The start date continues to get pushed back until it’s just you. The kids have their own families taking up their time now. What now? Why do you think empty nest syndrome hits so hard? Everyone thinks it’s easy to just start taking care of themselves when they need to, that it will naturally kick in. When you have told your mind and body for 20 or more years to ignore doing something, it doesn’t just start doing it with the flip of a switch.
This is actually a scenario that has become really personal. A family member unexpectedly lost her husband a few years ago. All of her children were long gone with families of their own. They all wanted to support her in any way they could. She resisted all of their efforts not wanting to be a burden. At the time, this woman was beautiful, healthy, and vibrant. She did yoga and ate well. However, not being prepared for the scenario of suddenly being alone, and not knowing what to do, she chose to give up. This same woman, just three short years later, lays bed-ridden barely speaking, with a tube in her nose to provide sustenance despite no medical problems. I can’t even think about this without tearing up. Many will dismiss this as an extreme case that can’t happen to them, but the truth is she was no different than most of us and you have no idea how you will respond until you are in the situation. We have no guarantees in life, but by practicing to take care of ourselves even just a little each day, we prepare ourselves to take care of ourselves when we really need to. Imagine how difficult it would be for your family to see you deteriorate when it’s totally preventable. Preventing this is an amazing gift to give your family.
3. You are freakin’ worth it
Sorry I didn’t mean to get vulgar there ;-), but think about you and your life, and the person you are, and the kindness and love that you give. Don’t you deserve to feel as amazing as you make everyone else feel? Besides that, how can you keep giving love if you aren’t replenishing it from within? Depending on others to provide you with the love and nurturing you need can be a dangerous game, and lead you to co-dependent, unhealthy relationships. Start showing yourself the kindness and love you deserve.
Great I’m convinced, how do I do it? For everyone it will be a little different. If you are still working on feeling worthy, I want you to spend a couple of minutes every day in the mirror making eye contact with yourself. Tell yourself out loud: I love you, you are amazing, you deserve everything you desire from this life, or whatever else comes to mind, but you get the idea. It may feel awkward at first. Have you ever heard the saying “fake it ‘til you make it”? That’s what you are going to do here. Just do it until it feels authentic, and you can really look yourself in the eyes, say these beautiful things and mean it.
Also find moments in your every day, to capture for yourself. Sit and relax with a cup of tea, stop at a favorite store, read a chapter or article, get a massage, whatever gives you enjoyment. Even if it’s only a few minutes each day, eventually you will get so good at this that you will start pursuing hobbies and activities that fulfill you without feeling the least bit guilty about it. As we have already covered, you should not feel guilty, you should feel proud of the lesson you are teaching.
If you have trouble with this, don’t feel bad, its hard work to break a bad habit, and its hard work to start a good habit. Get an accountability partner, someone who will check in on your progress without judgment, or work with a holistic wellness coach (make sure they use a holistic approach). A well trained wellness coach or adviser is trained to support you without judgment, give you individualized progressive goals, and give you the tough love you need to hold you accountable so you are successful. No more excuses, no more saying I don’t have enough time. There is always enough time for what’s important. Make this important. Let me get a “yes ma’am”!
Gotta go, if you need me I’ll be in the mirror.