Being a mom is so exhausting. How do you keep your energy up and emotions in check when you are dead tired and stressed out about tons of chores while dealing with a toddler throwing epic tantrums?!?!
Motherhood is probably the most difficult job you will ever have, and also one of the most important! Being a mom of young children presents lots of challenges on how to manage your schedule (especially if you have multiple kids of various ages), are a single mom, or are managing a career. In my book, Trials of the Working Parent, I go into great detail on tips of how to manage home-life, quality time with your kids, and self-care for you! Although I can’t delve into all of these aspects here, I’ll share with you the most important (in my opinion) to get you started.... And that’s Self-Care.
Self-Care is arguably one of the most important things you need to work on as a mom. It is the cornerstone to a healthy body, positive mental health, and an overall happy life. One of the points I bring up in my book is that we, as moms, have a long list of people we take care of. From our children and spouses/partners to our own parents or in-laws, to friends or extended family members. And if you are an active member of an organization (such as a church), or if you have a job, you might also be responsible for folks who are working under your supervision. If you work in a social service position, then you can add the people you serve too! So where are we located on this “Care List?” The honest truth, usually last! (Or, if you are like some moms I work with, you’re not even on the Care List!) The result is a Mommy who feels worn-out, tired, emotionally drained, sick (physically or mentally), and overall dissatisfied with life. A tired Mommy is an Angry Mommy. Needless to say, this is an issue.
Self-Care has many aspects to it, but there are some basics that you probably already know about, like sleep. Then, there are some other pieces that may not seem as obvious, but play a role in making you feel good. I’m going to briefly touch on the obvious ones, because you may not realize just how important these aspects are, and then I’ll go into some other ideas to help with Self-Care.
When I had my first baby, she didn’t sleep… ever! I was working about 30 hours a week, was going to graduate school to get my Master’s in Marital & Family Therapy, and now had a newborn baby that refused to close her eyes to sleep. She rarely napped and cried ALL DAY LONG. She cried all night too! I quickly became sleep deprived, began experiencing some postpartum depression symptoms, was sick constantly with the flu/cold/you-name-it, and I found myself becoming an Angry Mommy. I felt cheated by motherhood… and I felt so alone and hopeless.
Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest reasons moms (and dads!) are at risk for Perinatal Mood Disorders, such as Postpartum Depression. Sleep deprivation causes your physical body and your mental state to slowly break down over time. Folks who are severely sleep deprived often times will experience auditory and visual hallucinations too! Can you imagine trying to take care of your kids while hearing voices or seeing shadows constantly?
I think it’s safe to say that sleep is pivotal in helping you manage your emotions. If you’re not getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night (some people need more), it’s time to make this a priority. How you do this will depend on your schedule, family dynamics, whether you work or stay home, etc., but you need to make sure you’re getting some Zzz’s. If you want ideas on how to get more sleep into your schedule, feel free to check out my book, Trials of the Working Parent, for more specifics on how to manage this.
We are what we eat! Sugar, caffeine, and fast food are quick sources of energy but have very little nutritional value. The result is a tired and cranky Mommy. If you haven’t seen the documentary, Super Size Me, I recommend you do. It shows how a poor diet can affect your mood, lead to a poor immune system, and so much more. You should be aiming to eat nutritious foods as much as possible. And if you’re breastfeeding or expressing breast milk, this is even more imperative since your diet is what you are feeding your baby through the breast milk.
Now, I’m not saying you have to eat all organic, home-cooked meals. Although this diet has many benefits, it can be really hard (or impossible) for a busy mom on a budget to achieve. Let’s face it, motherhood is a never-ending list of chores and responsibilities! So, when I say you need a nutritious diet, I mean that you should try to eat your fruits, vegetables, and proteins every day, as best as possible. Try not to skip meals since this messes with your blood sugar and can cause mood swings, and stay away from fad-diets! If you don’t have time to eat in the morning, drink a protein shake that you can drink on your way to work, or grab a hard-boiled egg that you can eat pretty quickly in a hurry. You may also want to talk to your doctor about adding vitamins to your diet or getting a referral to a nutritionist.
Please take your showers! There is nothing so basic as getting a bath into your schedule. Every woman wants to feel clean! But how many of us go several days without showering and then rely on deodorant, body spray, and a messy bun to get us by another day? I’m guilty! Trust me, sacrifice the 5 minutes of extra sleep to squeeze in a shower so that you can still feel like a woman when you’re wiping up another poopy butt!
Getting exercise doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym. It can be doing some aerobics in your family room with your toddlers romping around with you. One mom I worked with would play Simon Says with her kids, where she was Simon and had everyone do jumping jacks, crunches, etc. Her kids thought Mommy was playing with them, but she was secretly getting in a quick bit of exercise! Exercise doesn’t have to be daily either. Shoot for incorporating it into your routine a couple of times a week for a few minutes. The great thing about exercise is it helps induce what we call a “Runner’s High.” Exercise releases tons of endorphins into your brain, which helps you feel good and happy! When I work with depressed clients, I always add exercise to our treatment plan.
Find a Place to Let Off Some Steam
It’s important for adults to have adult conversations, and part of this is getting some time to vent and let off steam. Most folks will lean on their spouse or partner, but sometimes that person is not emotionally available. This is when you need to reach out to a Mom’s Group, Postpartum Group, other family members and friends, or a therapist. Therapists are not only for individuals who have a mental health condition like depression. Many women find a therapist just because they want to know that every week, there is an hour dedicated just to them and their own needs! Taking care of your Emotional-Self allows for you to have more patience and empathy when your child is testing your limits. This is a super important part of great Self-Care. I think you will find this helps you to feel much better, even if you are still sleep deprived and rocking the messy hair bun.
As you might guess, there are so many more ways to help yourself with your self-care, and ways to help you feel more in control of your own emotions. I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can start caring for yourself today. For more ideas on how to balance motherhood, feel free to check out my book, Trials of the Working Parent. You may also want to check out my other post Re-Envisioning Self-Care for the Tired Parent or me on Pinterest where I have a board dedicated 100% to self-care for parents. Don't forget to subscribe to my website for more parenting tips and posts about motherhood.