The buzzword surrounding modern motherhood seems to be “self-care” — who is lacking it, how to get more of it and positioning it as the ultimate pinnacle of marital currency and parental achievement. Moms everywhere exchange whispers of how much tougher it is to get away for a pedicure or massage since their first was born, and how they’re just so busy tending to the house, the finances, and the kids that they’ve somehow placed themselves as the lowest priority in the family unit.
“I’m so sorry for the mess” your friend apologizes as you step into her doorway. “Our kids were sick this week, and I just haven’t had a moment to myself.” Or, “I can’t wait to see you, but don’t judge me. I’m in leggings and a sweatshirt, and I haven’t showered in three days.” Moms everywhere partake in an unspoken culture of commiserating in the exhaustion — both mental and physical — that it takes to raise children in our modern day society. Unless you have a lot of paid or family help, and even sometimes when you do, the burn out is real.
Insert the self-care mantra that we have all come to know and love. Moms everywhere are talking about pedicures, naps, and trips to Target without someone hanging out of their cart — but what does self-care really look like? Is it all spa trips and “me time,” or is there more to it?
Let’s start with the true definition of self-care, which is literally to care for yourself. For starters, self-care means getting enough sleep. Moms everywhere are referring to themselves as “mombies” and joking about how different sleep has looked for them since entering parenthood. The foundation of self-care, though, is making sure that you are healthy. This means getting a viable amount of sleep, or as much as you possibly can, and prioritizing health and wellness over everything else. For me, this means multi-tasking during the day to finish laundry or dinner prep and involving the kids to pitch in. When night comes and the kids are asleep, I can then spend some time unwinding before heading to bed. Maybe it means forgoing the daytime tasks to nap when your child naps because you’ve been up multiple times the night before. Whatever sleep looks like for you, it is the foundation of self-care — squeeze it in when you can!
What else does self-care look like? It means fueling your body with foods that nourish you. Sometimes it means chocolate cake and wine — but often it means nutritious, whole foods that will help serve the purpose of achieving health. Sometimes you have to force yourself to choose health, though, because it’s so much easier to just reach for the chips, especially on those hard days where the baby won’t nap and the toddler thought her idea of fun would be to try on your new red lipstick. It’s ok to splurge sometimes, though — just remember your goals.
Speaking of fueling your body, true self-care is basic. It means making that much needed primary care appointment — for yourself, not just your kids! — or sucking it up and seeing your OB/GYN for the dreaded women’s health exam. It means that when your tooth hurts, you go to the dentist; when you’re feeling anxious, you find the right therapist and make your weekly appointments a priority. It means taking time to exercise, even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood with a fussy baby, feeling the warmth of the Texas sun on your face.
Self-care isn’t just exclusive to physical needs. It also means being honest with yourself about your budget and your financial goals. It means saying no to a girl’s night out sometimes because you have bigger plans to pay off debt. It means prioritizing retirement, investments, and college accounts — or even just paying down your pesky student loans. Self-care means recognizing your goals of financial freedom and taking closer steps towards achieving them.
Self-care also means surrounding yourself with people who fuel your soul. Sometimes it means stepping away or cutting out the people in your life who aren’t lifting you up — even if they’re family. It means vowing to prioritize your mental health and recognize who is a trigger in your life, and sometimes making the difficult decision to distance yourself from them. It means working on your marriage, even when you feel more like roommates than spouses.
Champagne, ice cream, and spa days are nice — but self-care is so much more. True self-care means taking the time to love and care for yourself because you’re truly worth it. It means recognizing that if mama’s oxygen mask isn’t on, she can’t put one on her babies. It means honoring and embracing that you are the backbone of your little family, and though that does come with quite the responsibility, it is also pretty amazing. This year, let’s make a pact to practice more self-awareness and subsequently, more self-care. Let’s embrace this fresh start of 2018 by honoring our bodies, minds, and souls — even when it’s with a side of chocolate cake.