Being a mommy can feel like it’s the only thing in your life. Even if you work outside the home you’re the person primarily responsible for the care of your children. Fathers often say things like, “I’ll babysit” as if the kids aren’t his and he’s just helping you out. After a while moms can suffer total burnout. But taking care of yourself when you have kids to take care of is important! Without you the household would pretty much fall apart.
My sons were born 18 months apart. In many ways it was wonderful having the boys so close. They were ready made playmates for each other and, for me, things like diaper changes ended very close together. But taking care of two babies at the same time was exhausting. Add in my older son’s kidney problems and I felt as if I never had a second for myself. I had to learn to take care of myself so I could be better at taking care of the kids.
Here are some tips for taking care of yourself:
- First remember you’re important too. Being Supermom isn’t as important as being a relaxed, happy mom. If you’re not in good physical and mental health you’re not the best mom for your kids. Taking time for yourself is just as important as taking time for the kids.
- Take little chunks of time in the day to take care of yourself. Put off a chore that can wait to read a magazine, listen to music (not Teddy Bear Picnic) or just close your eyes and take some deep breaths. It can be as little as 10 – 15 minutes while the baby is napping but use it for yourself and not housework.
- Have people who will listen to you complain. Everyone needs to vent from time to time and having at least a few people who will listen to you and not assume it means you don’t love your kids is crucial. These people don’t need to try to fix things. They’re just there to listen. This is especially important if you have a child with special needs or a chronic illness.
- Don’t demand perfection of yourself. Things will go wrong and that’s okay. I remember seeing an episode of “Roseanne” back in the ‘80’s. She told her son to drink his milk and he complained it had lumps. She responded, “Then chew it!” Okay, you’re not going to make your kids eat the expired milk but you get the idea. Roll with the punches. No one is perfect!
- Don’t refuse help because the helper is imperfect too. Sometimes moms pretend they don’t need help because the person offering lets the kids eat some junk food or stay up past bedtime. You wouldn’t want this to happen all the time but once in a while, in order to give yourself a break, let someone, no matter how imperfect help you.
- Don’t multi-task! You may try helping with homework while cooking dinner and soothing a crying baby but you won’t do any of these well. Prioritize and focus. You shouldn’t expect flawless days where everything gets done and everyone is happy every moment. Do the things that absolutely must be done and let other things slide. Making lists can be very helpful. Plan the next day and write down the things you want to do in order of importance. Have things that can be put off for a day or two just in case.
- Learn to say no. Women are conditioned to accepting every request. You may not have time to bake 30 cupcakes for your child’s class party. You may not even want to play the 10th game of Chutes and Ladders® with your child. You can refuse requests and be kind at the same time. Practice saying no and it will get easier
- Learn to say yes. Time out with your husband or friends is important to your well-being. It’s important to connect with people other than the kids. Giving someone a ride to an important appointment or making a meal for a family in need can provide a rewarding distraction.
- Make taking care of yourself part of the routine. Just as you have a routine for mornings and for bedtimes, make your self-care time part of the daily routine. Your kids will adapt more quickly than you think. Remember, kids thrive on routines.
- Ignore those who criticize you for taking time for yourself. There are always people who want to throw a monkey wrench into the lives of others. Don’t pay attention to them. They’re really more uncomfortable with themselves than with what you’re doing. And any outsider’s disapproval is unimportant when it comes to doing what’s right for you and your family!