This post is part of HealthyWomen's #RealWomenRealStories series.
by Jamie Ng Rose
"Taking care of you is not selfish, it's selfless. A better you is more capable to serve the needs of others." – Quote unknown
Motherhood is a dance of epic proportions. The pressures of preparing a 5-year old for his entry into kindergarten at a new school, and making sure my newly middle child feels so very important, while enjoying the fleeting moments of a newborn (who is now an 8-month old)—all while not forgetting my relationship and MYSELF. As women we often place ourselves last on the totem pole, and we shouldn't. Because a happy momma is a good momma.
As a mom to three, I've heard this countless times over the years from others near and dear to me, but it took our pediatrician saying recently to me, "What's good for mom is good for baby," for this notion to strike a chord.
A couple months ago, in anticipation of a flight to Florida in which I would be traveling alone with the kids, I knew I needed a quick (if not temporary) solution for claustrophobia, which I developed when I was pregnant with my first over five years ago. Lately, I feel like it's been escalating so my OB prescribed low-dose Xanax* in case I had a panic attack, along with a therapist referral. I checked with our pediatrician to make sure it's safe to take while breastfeeding and he gave me the all-clear. When I expressed hesitation at putting a drug in my body while nursing Atticus, he assured me that the baby would not be affected by this one-time dosage. He said that I needed to take care of myself, in order to take care of the kids.
And just like that, my friends, it all made sense to me how important regular self-love is for a mother's well-being.
In healthcare, self-care is deemed as any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Along with self-care goes self-love. In other words, you need to love yourself and value yourself first in order to initiate self-care. Once I began to recognize this, it made it easier for me to make the time for myself.
For nearly six years as I have thrown my entire self into being a mother, I put taking care of myself on the back burner. I was always focused on goals, deadlines, schedules and routines for the kids and for my clients. There was always a meal or naptime to plan for, a baby to be nursed, or a client to do work for why I couldn't find the time to launch my own website or go to a yoga class. And forget about when I used to be a full-time working mother! My high tolerance for discomfort meant I juggled all the balls I had in the air—but at the expense of being a well-rounded individual, because no one was paying me to take care of myself.
It's taken me three kids to learn this, but what a difference a little self-care has made! I needed a shift, and since the beginning of 2017, I have been working hard to implement tiny self-care habits every day. This is a work in progress.
My hope is to create lasting change in my life in all my roles as an individual—partner, mother, daughter, me. This has also been a bit of a lifestyle adjustment for the Husb, who now takes on a more active role with the kids on weekends and some weeknights because I have intentionally made myself more unavailable.
The self-care habits that have made the most impact for me are:
Writing in a 5-minute gratitude journal: I wouldn't mind having this beautiful journal, but honestly, mine is a quick jot-down in my daily planner or Notes app on my phone each morning.
Eating mindfully, incorporating a larger plant-based diet into our family's lifestyle. One of my favorite go-to recipes lately is this Avocado Toast with Goat Cheese and Mint.
Utilizing "stolen moments" for quick bursts of exercise. I try to do this when the kids are in the bathtub playing or are getting ready for bedtime with the Husb. Sometimes this equates to only 9 minutes here, 12 minutes there. The important thing is that I'm moving.
Dress like myself, not like a mother. It's incredible how you carry yourself on the outside affects how you feel on the inside. My appearance reflects how my brain feels today: scattered, uninspired, upbeat, tired, feminine, whatever it may be. So when I dedicate even five minutes to pulling together a look, this little amount of effort cascades into my life—I often feel centered and ready to take on the day, more creative, more intentional.
Regularly scheduled cocoa dates with girlfriends after bedtime. Or just any amount of time, sans kids—even going grocery shopping on a Friday night without them is considered self-care, in my book!
1-2 hours of weekend mornings all to myself—or with just 1 kid, the baby who is nursing on demand.
Which one will you try first? I'd also love to hear what works for you!
*Editor's Note: Regular use of Xanax is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers. Talk to your health care provider if you are considering taking it.
This post originally appeared on Not a Rose Girl.