Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mothers: Take Care of Yourself

(from the 5/30/11 edition of the Reveiw Atlas)

image from

You know, many mornings my day begins before I am even conscious. Often my eyes are still closed when I feel a sticky, little finger poking me, "Mom! Mom! Mom? You up? I’m hungry!"

I, like every other mother of young children, hit the ground running every day. The endless errands and demands on my time make it nearly impossible to get a quiet moment to myself. At least when I go to work I am legally bound to take a coffee break. But when it comes to home life and childcare, there are no such thing as breaks! I’m not even left alone in the bathroom most of the time!

This is an unfortunate and common hazard to the job. Parents, particularly mothers, work 24/7 to take care of others and often neglect themselves despite all the research that indicates those who take respite time are better caregivers. However, when is the last time you, or a mother you know, carved time out of her schedule to make herself a priority?

Isn’t it every mother’s dream to attend to their personal needs? Can’t you envision throngs of women everywhere, whether they are working 9 to 5 or at home up to their knees in laundry, abandoning all the chaos for a well-deserved break? We are immersed in errands and to-do lists. Our toddlers clamp themselves to our legs like a tick in the summer heat. We wash them, feed them and wrestle their wiggling bodies into diapers and outfits day and night. Our children outrun us, mock us and embattle us in power struggles. We will sit with them for an hour in the bathroom because it’s "time to go potty" only to end the toileting marathon with an accident on the floor. They don’t want to go to bed and they don’t want to wake up in the morning. We as parents run and run and run until there’s nothing left to run on ... except fumes.

Am I exaggerating?
Not one bit!
Do I really need a vacation?
You bet!
Is that unrealistic?

Don’t believe for one second however that my husband would let me escape it all without him. Secondly, the work involved in planning my getaway would be utterly extensive and exhausting. And thirdly, even if I could arrange for the house, children and dog to be cared for there’s a financial burden to jetting off to an exotic spa in Cancun. It would be easier and less expensive to simply stay put!
Except I still need to take care of myself. So how?

Medical experts remind us that it is imperative to our sanity and our overall well being to make time for ourselves. We have to replenish our fuel supply. It is not an option.

 Imagine parenting as a pitcher of water and your job, children, volunteer work, family or other responsibilities as the drinking glasses. We pour ourselves out constantly into all the things we do. We pour until we can’t give any more. Then what are we to do since the demands on our time still remain? Well, most of us get crabby, short tempered and impatient with ourselves, our coworkers and unfortunately with those we love the most; our spouse and children.

Instead let us recognize the onset of that draining feeling and be proactive.
Get out of the house! Window shop. Visit your local library (what a joy to not spend the entire time in the children’s section!). Get a cup of coffee and sit with your journal on a park bench. Have lunch with a friend. Visit a neighbor. Go for a run, workout or walk and enjoy the fresh air and clear your head. How about starting a Saturday swap? Take your girlfriend’s kids this weekend and she returns the favor the next. Join a parenting class or start a book club. Grocery shop by yourself. Get your nails done or plan a night out.

The point is you don’t have to go far for a little self care (but if you can, by all means go for it!). As parents we often underperform in our responsibilities because we are so low on energy. This results in high anxiety levels and a guilty conscience. Let us not live this way! A little extra time for yourself, whether it’s daily, weekly or even monthly can refill that pitcher that so often runs dry.
Communicate to your support system, "Hey! I need a little time here!" and then take it! You will feel better (something your family will learn to appreciate) because as the old saying goes, "If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!". Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

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