Good people think of others first, right? And generous people live for others as well, right? This is what we’ve come to culturally believe at least. Especially you mothers out there who wake up every day to tend to the needs of your little army, getting no meaningful thanks for your sacrifices except some dried snot on your shoulder and a postpartum bladder bearing witness to the fact that you’ll never be a professional jump-roper. Yes, you give and you give and you give. And when the time comes to take care of yourself, you pause. And feel guilty.
Where does this guilt come from? Why is your relationship with yourself so wounded that you feel terrible for taking time out to restore your emotional and physical health? Well, those questions may be better explored in the context of therapy but in the meantime, there are a couple of hacks you can employ against your martyr mentality that should make you feel okay going for a 30 minute walk alone.
Two Self-Care Hacks for Mamas
1- Do it for them.
When you think of the phrase “self-care”, you might be imposing the thought of “selfishness” over it. The two are not related. Of course you have to make some difficult sacrifices for others and it would probably be negligent to hand your 2 week old over to a random daycare while you went to Bora Bora for a month. But you have a very real need to restore your sanity. The mental trick here if you unfortunately feel like this is somehow “selfish” or that you’re “not worth it,” is to remind yourself that you are doing this for your family. Burned-out mothers make a whole household unhappy. Well-rested mothers, and mothers who are given the chance to pursue their intellectual or emotional interests outside of domestic demands on occasion, are in fact giving a gift to their family. They say “Happy wife, happy life.” And I’d add to this “Happy mama, no drama.” Women who make self-care a priority are actually able to be more loving, more nurturing and more present to their spouses and children. If you can’t go get a massage for your own sake… get one one for theirs.
2-Treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend.
If your best friend is having an awful day and is exhausted and frustrated, you’d be happy to run out and buy her a latte and watch her kids for 20 minutes while she took a hot shower alone. And you wouldn’t think she was selfish for this, would you? You’d think “This poor woman needs a break.” And you’d give her one. But you apply a different standard to yourself. “I should be able to handle all this!” “I am a failure for feeling so overwhelmed!” “What is wrong with me?!” Again… battling this self-talk is a larger issue best done with thoughtful helpers, but in the meantime, treat yourself as your own best friend. Give her a break. Don’t make her feel guilty for wanting or needing one. Do it because you love her. Do it because she’s worth it.
Written by: Elizabeth Peck, a Clinical Mental Health Counseling Candidate at the University of the Cumberlands and a support assistant to Pax Family Counseling.