There's a notion about parenthood that the only way you can be a great mother is to give it your all — that means every ounce of time and energy you have. Today, the notion continues with society expecting nothing less from you. When you skip out on some parental duties, you're made to feel like a failure. But when dad decides to "help out" and brings your child to the park just one out of 365 days, it's "being a good dad," and deserves special mention.
This belief has caused many moms to feel tired beyond relief, working themselves to the point of exhaustion. The amount of work out there just does not correspond to what our bodies are capable of accomplishing. In the end, it drives us to anxiety or depression, which could be challenging to recover from.
Genevieve Shaw Brown, the author of the new book The Happiest Mommy You Know: Why Putting Your Kids First Is the Last Thing You Should Do puts it into words really well:
“You can’t just think, ‘Someday soon I’m going to take a day for myself.’ We have to prioritize the same as we would prioritize things for our kids. We’d never miss an appointment for our kids because they are important. Equally important is prioritizing yourself and your own needs,” the mom of three writes.
A joint survey by Working Mother and HealthyWomen shows that 78% of moms put off caring for their own health because they place their loved ones' health needs first, and in this order: the kids, then pets, older relatives, their spouses, and then finally their own. Yes, the moms in the survey placed pets' health second and their wellness fifth on the list.
We forget, though, that we cannot pour from an empty cup. To be an energetic, optimistic, and functional mom, you need to be an active, optimistic, and practical person first.
"Self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence," says Emma Bennett, a licensed therapist who is behind the website Therapy for New Moms.
"We need to nurture ourselves just like we nurture our children. If we don't take care of ourselves, feelings of depletion, resentment, and isolation could potentially arise. I feel more centered and present after taking time to engage in self-care, and strongly believe in building it into my daily agenda." Aside from being an active member of the organization Postpartum Support International, Emma has also received maternal mental health training.
Often, it is mom guilt that consumes women, making them change their mind about taking a day for themselves. But, get this: A survey conducted among 2,000 moms and dads reveals that in a 24-hour period, an average parent only has 32 minutes a day for herself/himself. Now THAT puts things in perspective, and 30 minutes a day isn't exactly a holiday.
Motherhood is a joy, but it's also a point of no return. You're in here for the long haul, mom, which makes caring for yourself a necessary exercise, not optional. As this mom has discovered, all of the things she feared about the idea of taking a vacation by herself were totally unfounded. A few days of solitary introspection was what she needed, and in the end, she and her husband and kids were all the better for it.