We decide to ignore our needs and put others first to the level of harming us. Where do we draw the line and say that we can't give more, there is nothing left in the tank and we claim back self-care?
If you ask any working mothers about self-care, most probably they will ask you back to remind them what you mean by that as they forgot that it existed at all. Self-care is the first to get rid of when you become a mother and it remains a low priority for most mums due to the tons of tasks which somehow seem to be more urgent or important. But why is that? Let's explore what are the negative consequences and how can we keep self-care in our lives, even as mothers with professional careers.
To start with, let’s clarify that self-care is not a synonym for being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, and balanced, you can do your job, you can take care of your kids and be there for your husband and friends, and you can fulfil your responsibilities throughout the day, without scarifying yourself.
And that is the hard part because we, mothers put our family and often, our working environment first. We want to be helpful, responsive, and available at work when there is a request from co-workers or our manager, even if the price is taking away time from our lunchtime or family time in the afternoon. For our kids, we give up peeing alone and sleeping, and we keep prioritising them over our own needs as they grow – which is absolutely normal until a certain level as our children highly depend on us, but where do we draw the line and say that we can't give more, there is nothing left in the tank and we claim back self-care and the time that we need to dedicate to our well-being? Do we wait until they grow up?
80 % of working mothers deal with at least one stress-related health issue, and self-care has an extremely important role in conserving physical and emotional health, self-care is the number one tool to cope better with daily stressors. But even though we know it very well, for some reason, we decide to ignore our needs and put others first to the level of harming us. It is very complex to see what are the main reasons, very often this is related to a lack of self-worth, where we only feel valuable and lovable if we are 'useful' to others, regardless of our capacity level. Often it is based on habits, socialisation or very simply, not having the tools and strategies to change the behaviour.
Work on it
Most of the time my clients come to me when they are already struggling very hard to keep it together and that is when they finally decide to work on their self-care. My first suggestion is not to wait until you have no other choice, when you already have anxiety or you are close to a nervous breakdown, when your marriage is in trouble and you lost all your motivation at work. If you don't build enough self-care into your life, it will have a toll on your physical and emotional health, your relationships and your career. So check out my other videos or my coaching program or find another professional help, but work on it and don't wait until things get really bad.
How can you say what is enough amount of self-care?
I know that it is hard to be a working mum, but don't assume that it is normal and 'part of the job' to feel overwhelmed all the time. You do have the right as well to recharge your batteries, and yes, most probably you would need way more time for yourself than you have, but you can find the fine balance when you can breathe and have the space to take care of yourself and still, you cover the essentials without sacrificing yourself. So to answer the question: enough is when you feel that you can be in balance most of the time.
What about the guilt?
One common theme is the mummy guilt, because if you decide to go away to a retreat or to spend a girls' weekend with your friends, there is usually guilt knocking on the door, saying that you should be with your kids, what will they do without you, or you should spend that money on them. Guilt can come up even for a half-day program or for a yoga class that you want to sign up for. Again, spending time to be well is not selfish, it is a necessity.
The challenge is that it takes a village to raise those kids, but these days our lifestyle is different, we don't have the whole village helping us. But we do have fathers, grandparents or friends. Every family is different, and every mum has different options to explore, but the bottom line is that it is not selfish to spend time without your kids and recharge your batteries and we need to normalise that.
To build self-care into your life, you, first of all, need to plan it, and my recommendation is to start with at least 3 self-care activities a day. It can be a 10-minute long yoga, a short meditation and going to bed early, a date night, reading before sleeping or a long walk at lunchtime. There are endless possibilities to do something for yourself daily, and I am sure that there are some options that would work for you. Check out my video about time management tips, which can also give you some ideas.
Once you have a plan, you can create a routine that contains regular self-care activities and soon that will become a habit. The more time passes, it will be easier as it will be an essential part of your life that everyone respects in your environment. Everything is easier with the power of community support, so join our Facebook group where we have totally free self-care movements from time to time. We will start one very soon in May, come and sign up for that here.