Mom Needs to Take Care of Mom
You are at your best as a mother when you are living a healthy, balanced, and fulfilled life. I know, I know, easier said than done! But there are things we can do as mothers to take responsibility for our own wellbeing. The key is replacing guilt with compassion and realistic expectations.
Your children have a LOT of needs and you’re going to do the best you can to love them and be there for them. However, you have needs that are important too. There will be times where your children’s needs are a priority and times when your needs are a priority. Allowing space for the latter has two benefits.
When you take care of yourself, you have more energy, feel more relaxed, and have more patience. Obviously, these are qualities that help you parent more effectively.
Additionally, your behavior teaches your children how to be considerate of others’ needs. A child first learns how to interact in relationships by interacting with their parents. If you constantly sacrifice what you need to meet their every demand, you are teaching them that what they want in a relationship is always the priority. A better alternative is teaching children that sometimes in relationships, they have to set aside their own needs to care for others.
This concept can be practiced in daily routines. For example, your child wants a second serving of macaroni and cheese just as you are sitting down to have your first bite of dinner. If you jump up to get them their second serving, you have communicated to him/her their needs are the only ones that matter.
If you make them aware that you need time to eat first and then will be happy to get them a second serving (or if they are old enough they can help themselves to a second serving) you have taken time to teach your child that other people matter in a relationship, as well. Meanwhile, you are giving yourself permission to sit and relax for a minute while you enjoy your meal. It’s a win-win!
Another way this can be practiced is making time for leisurely activities during the week. It’s not uncommon for couples to come into my office and the wife is upset with the husband for being away from home engaged in his own hobbies. The wife feels this is unfair, but the husband is often encouraging the wife to take time to engage in her own hobbies, yet she won’t. The wife may have a variety of reasons for why she doesn’t take the time to herself, but a common theme is feeling guilty for leaving her children to go have fun. It is absolutely both parties’ responsibility in a relationship to communicate and coordinate together how to make time for individual breaks away from the children. But mothers have to be willing to take the time….and not feel guilty!
There are so many benefits of having time to yourself. You will come back from your leisure time feeling refreshed and ready to be present again with your children. You are teaching your children that self-care is important and when mommy leaves, she is coming back. You allow space for them to bond with other adults one-on-one, which helps them develop trust in themselves and others. And finally, you will feel less resentful when it is your partner’s turn to take his individual time.
Carving out leisure time as a couple without the children is also a great way to role-model healthy relationships for your children while nurturing the connection with your partner.
On a larger scale, sometimes life changes need to be considered for your wellbeing. Whether it’s a job, marriage, or living arrangement, if you are unhappy, you need to consider making necessary changes. If you think you are staying in your current situation for the kids, you are seriously mistaken. Children can pick up on our emotions way more than we give them credit for. If you are stressed or unhappy, they can absolutely sense it. Take what steps you need to alleviate the stress you are experiencing to be emotionally available for your children.
One last note about compassion. Life is hard sometimes. Maintaining a healthy, balanced, and fulfilling life will be an ongoing process with many bumps in the road. You don’t need to be a perfect mother. It’s healthy for your children to see you make mistakes and corrections, to feel down and cope in healthy ways, to be tired and need a break.
Sure, you’d love to be able to give your children 100% of your attention or maybe the fanciest Pinterest party on the block. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic in your world or in life in general. It’s crucial that we set realistic expectations for ourselves, as well as our children. It’s your job to teach them that the world does not revolve around them, but they are a part of this world. Your relationship is a safe place for your children to begin to understand that sense of belonging.
With that said, be sure to be kind and loving to your children’s mother. I’m sure she is working really hard to love your children with all she’s got!
Kristin Woodling, a licensed mental health counselor and certified marriage and family therapist, is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, LLC in Satellite Beach. She is devoted to providing a confidential and elite therapeutic experience to professional women seeking healing, clarity, and balanced lifestyle for optimal health. Woodling promotes strong mental health services in her community and teaches counseling at Webster University and Eastern Florida State College. She is a graduate of the 360 Ignite program offered through WeVenture at Florida Institute of Technology and enjoys volunteering as a mentor to help other professionals excel personally and professionally.
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