I recently added toy surgeon to my motherhood resume. My three-year-old came to me one morning with his favorite stuffed animal in pieces. Apparently, he loved his “doggie” so much his arm popped off. In motherhood, there are so many “hero” moments and this was one of them. Of course, the emergency surgery happened in the middle of my fussy and teething almost one-year-old throwing his breakfast to the floor while our dog to scarfed it up.
On days like this, taking care of me seems least important. “I’ll take care of myself later,” is something I say often. It seems the longer I put off my needs, the more impatient and frazzled I become as a wife and mother. I have to remind myself that taking care of myself isn’t selfish, it’s essential.
As a military spouse, holding on to resentment is easy. Because we live far away without the support of family to babysit, luxuries like getting my nails done or taking a nap aren’t a reality. I also can’t rely on my husband to relieve me after long days with the kids. I quickly spiral into survival mode if I don’t carve out space in my day to recharge.
Here are a few things that help me decompress that don’t involve large chunks of time removed from my family:
- Workout for at least 20 to 40 minutes four times a week. I typically plan these workouts around my youngest napping and I can let my oldest watch a movie or show. There are great at-home resources available at free or discounted prices right now.
- Choose an activity that doesn’t require a screen to do before bed. Read, do a puzzle, paint nails, organize a space, knit, craft, paint or write.
- Take a walk and talk. I take my kids on a walk in the stroller around the neighborhood and talk to a friend or listen to a podcast/music.
- Dance party or story time yoga on YouTube. If my day is overwhelming, getting in a little yoga with the kids helps me de-stress. Blast some music or wind down energies with yoga.
- Establish independent playtime for your kids. Like many parents, this is a struggle for me as my oldest always wants me to play with him. However, as Kelsey Tarase, a play expert at the Children’s Museum of Cleveland, recently told me, it’s important for children to play alone but not unsupervised. “He [my son] is learning independence. Also building his self-confidence as he tests ideas himself. Children who play alone also have better emotional regulation, which is linked to better mental health and higher success in school.”
Moms, hear me, it’s not selfish to make time for you. Who you were before you became a mother is important too. So, think about the things you did back then and find a way to do them now. That means asking for help, creating a schedule or letting go of the guilt of letting your child watch back-to-back Disney movies.
I’m guilty of saying: “I don’t have the time…to lose the weight, start a side hustle, call a friend back, eat breakfast, or connect with my spouse.” Then a good friend told me, “If you can’t find an hour in your day for yourself, you don’t have a life.” That was hard to hear.
Making time for “you” is important because from a stronger sense of self, those around you experience a more content you. It’s not selfish to make time for yourself. It’s what connects you back to your passions, interests and confidence.
If you’re struggling with finding yourself in the midst of motherhood, first communicate with your partner. Tell him/her your needs and come up with a plan together to help make sure you get time in your day to recharge. Just start with 30 minutes a day for 30 days. I dare you.