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ParenTalk- A Mom's Need for Me-Time and Self-Care

ParenTalk- A Mom's Need for Me-Time and Self-Care

Traditional anecdotes, folklore, parenting advice, motivational stories have all convinced us that a true mom is the one struggling through her days. The definition of an ideal mom has boiled down to sacrifice and unappreciated labor. 

How to make cold coffee? Be a mom, heat a cup of coffee. By the time you get to the coffee, it’d be cold.

Even jokes glorify overworked moms. Sounds relatable?

When I was a first-time mom, I committed the grave mistake of cribbing to my girl tribe about how I always felt that my calendar was full and couldn’t see any productivity. They laughed and said, “you need to stop dreaming of productivity and be satisfied that you have a child. That is how moms are, that makes them special”. That was the last time I cribbed to them.

Later, when I joined Deutsch lessons, people were in awe of my husband, who dedicated 3 hours in the morning to be with the kid. For them, he was making a sacrifice by spending his free time supporting me. They regarded my choice of upskilling myself as selfish. 

Those were tough times because I expected a lot more from myself. I wished to be a supermom who could accomplish it all without feeling burnt out. Freelancing, learning a new language, and being a full-time parent meant nothing to me because I had a housekeeper and a cook and I wasn’t sacrificing much in my eyes. It is then that my husband pointed out that I deserved those 3 hours in the morning and that stepping out with a friend for a couple of beers wasn’t selfish.

 

After I joined amazing mom communities on Facebook, I came to know that I wasn’t alone. Moms around the world are being guilt-tripped for prioritizing themselves. A lot of us do not know that using the phone in the loo is not a luxury, it is some downtime for our overworked brain. Moms everywhere need to know that being kind to themselves is quintessential to being a good mom.

 

Inspect your schedule to know if you have time: Even if you have all the support in the world and you still feel overwhelmed and frustrated, you are not to blame. Physical and mental fatigue are different things and you getting a break from washing vessels or mopping the floors doesn’t equate to mental peace. All of us need to take a close look at our schedules to assess if we have time to do things we love. You may love to spend time with the kids, but remember, you had a life before they were born. Remember that you once painted or read books or just sat by the window with a mug of hot coffee. What is stopping you from grabbing that paintbrush or coffee mug today? Why are you denying yourself the opportunity to recharge?

 

Here is how you can embrace self-care and me-time and be a better parent:

Do what makes you happy: My husband once gifted me spa vouchers for mother’s day because he thought that would be relaxing. For me, massages and spas are incredibly boring and I think it is a waste of money to pay for getting bored. It stressed me all the more to express this to him because he meant well and I didn’t want to hurt him. I thus suggested I take a vacation with another mom friend who just wished to lie in bed and read a book. The meaning of self-care differs for everyone and there is no one size fits all approach. Think about what it means to you and do just that rather than trying to recreate those pictures of perfectly pedicured feet you see on Instagram. Come up with a list of activities that you’d like. It could be a long bath or a junk food hour; as long as it makes you feel happy and fulfilled, it deserves to be on your schedule.

Make compromises, make time: Magazines are not going to visit you every day to take pictures of your perfect space. It is ok if the house is a mess for a day because you need some time to yourself. Compromising your definition of ideal is a great way to practice self-care. Your children will not fall sick if you freeze meals to reheat them or order food a few times a month. However, you may feel a lot more equipped to address their needs after a kitchen break.

Divide chores: Moms do not have superpowers. Period. Let your spouse and other family members contribute to the chores even if you are a stay-at-home parent. Your professional status doesn’t make you liable to do everything around the house. Hire help if no one else can contribute.

Ask for help: The household and childcare duties that you do are not yours alone. Most of us deprive ourselves of self-care because we are worried about the kids or household chores and we hesitate to ask for help. Come up with a support plan. Either ask for help from family or hire external help.  If you come home to a crying child, do not apologize but tell them how you had fun. Talk to them before you leave and express excitement about doing what you like. This way you are modeling to them that self-care is important and they must prioritize their happiness too. “Self-care not only helps us to be calmer, happier parents, it’s an absolute must for teaching our children how to conduct healthy, respectful relationships”, quotes parenting expert Janet Lansbury in her blog.

Start small: Do not feel that self-care is out of reach because you do not have 2 hours to paint or 3 hours for a movie night. Even 5 mins here and there can rejuvenate you. It could be meditation or just a phone call with an old friend, even the busiest of us can squeeze this much time if we wish to.

Be consistent: It may seem difficult with a jam-packed schedule but with some planning, you can make those rare downtimes a routine. If coffee with a friend feels like your idea of self-care, try doing it once every week. Step out alone if you do not have company so the people at home have a habit of coping without you. If you wish to follow a hobby, set aside time for it in your planner and do not trade it for anything. I lock the room from inside and paint every Saturday. There are times when I don’t wish to paint; I still lock the door, lie down on the bed, and stare at the ceiling. You could also make different plans each week, just promise yourself to stick to them.

Incorporate self-care into your routine:  Self-care is a lot more than a pedicure or a movie date with a friend. You need to incorporate it into your routine. It involves being aware of your own needs and boundaries as an individual. For instance, if you no longer enjoy breastfeeding, weaning is self-care. Finishing your phone call before helping your child to cut a crown for their pretend play is self-care too. You just need to think of yourself as worthy of attention as other family members. 

Parenting is very rewarding for many of us and not so much for many others. Remember that it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone and prioritizing yourself is not selfish. Mom-guilt can be debilitating, but self-care can be empowering. Keeping self-care guilt-free is undoubtedly the key to being a better parent. It may not be practical to prioritize everything you like, but you can come up with non-negotiables that top the list of self-care practices for you. 

You are you first, mom later. 

Stay happy, parent better!

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