The Mother’s Guide to Self-Care (Because Moms are People, Too)
I find it odd that oftentimes mothers aren’t really considered people- at least not full individuals. From the moment we have our babies, the attention automatically goes to the child we created, as if we’re just the accessory. People often greet the baby first, a fact that most of us have observed and even laughed off.
But maybe it’s not as funny as we think. Society seems to expect us to give up so much just because we chose to have children. The expectation seems to be that we sacrifice our individuality, our interests, our careers or ambition, and even ourselves on the altar of parenthood.
Men don’t have this expectation. No one asks men if they will stop working because they’re starting a family. No one expects them to give all of themselves to their family without having anything left over. It’s also atypical to expect men to make personal sacrifices simply because they have kids. I’m not saying that men don’t have their own crosses to bear when it comes to misogyny and gender expectations; they certainly do. But mothers are asked to give up everything because no one really thinks we can have it all.
It comes as no surprise that many women are inept at self-care, assuming they make time for it at all. Most of us stay so busy working, taking care of kids, grocery shopping, cooking, and doing it all over again that there’s not always a lot of time to remember that we are people, too, and deserve to care for ourselves. We have so many lists, and our own self-care doesn’t always make it on them.
But self-care, far from being selfish, is essential. It allows us to be calmer, kinder, and to be able to model health and happiness as a lifestyle for our children. On the other hand, when we neglect it, we often raise entitled kids who think that they are the center of the Universe. They have an expectation that we should sacrifice more of ourselves so that they can have even more than they do. They prioritize their own needs without considering others. They even often make unrealistic demands because we haven’t taught them to care about our well-being.
Unfortunately, this can have the impact that they grow up not understanding how to value and care for themselves. Or, conversely, grow up without empathy for others, putting their own interests above anyone else. Either way, it is far healthier for ourselves and our children that we teach them about self-care and how every member of the family deserves time, space, and special care to nurture themselves.
In single parent families, single mothers in particular struggle to have the time, energy, or opportunity for self-care, but it’s as equally important for the single mom as any other to make that time. Single parents don’t have partners picking up some of the slack, and they are often far more stressed, exhausted, and stretched thin than those who have a little more support. They may require more self-care simply because they have more on their plate.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a competition. I’m not saying that more exhausted mothers are somehow better. That is exactly the kind of attitude that has had women sacrificing themselves for years. We shouldn’t make exhaustion the gold standard, judging moms who seem more relaxed and balanced. Unfortunately, we sometimes wear our sacrifice as a badge of honor, an unhealthy societal tendency that only keeps us from leading healthier, more enriched lives.
For those moms just remembering that they are people, too, I’ve complied the following list of self-care activities. We should make sure that self-care is a daily activity, not a weekly or monthly task that we sometimes skip because we’re so busy. We should never be too busy to make time for ourselves.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Get a facial.
- Get a massage.
- Get a manicure and/or pedicure.
- Go for a walk outside.
- Lie on a blanket and look at stars.
- Go for a swim.
- Go for a run (or other exercise).
- Eat something healthy.
- Drink more water.
- Take a nap.
- Indulge in a special snack.
- Buy yourself a subscription box membership.
- Read a book.
- Listen to a favorite album.
- Write in a journal.
- Go hiking.
- Visit a garden.
- Start a vegetable, herb, or flower garden.
- Color in an adult coloring book.
- Paint or draw.
- Visit a museum.
- Listen to a podcast or TED Talk.
- Treat yourself to a movie.
- Take a social media break.
- Say no to an obligation that would take away from “me” time.
- Say yes to an invitation for a fun night out.
- Plan a solo retreat, even if it’s just overnight.
- Plan a solo day trip.
- Go on a drive or road trip.
- Put on an overnight face mask.
- Do a deep conditioning treatment.
- Practice yoga.
- Light a candle and enjoy the ambiance.
- Make a cup of tea.
- Read a magazine.
- Enjoy a cup of coffee without multitasking.
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Take yourself out to dinner.
- On a busy day, opt for a pizza or take-out night rather than cooking.
- Lie on a blanket and look at cloud shapes.
- Take time just to daydream.
Self-care can be whatever it is that makes us feel rested and nurtured. It doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. It just has to help us feel better. Mothers are people, too, even if we sometimes forget that we are in the rush to take care of everyone and everything else. It’s important that we don’t forget to take care of ourselves, too.