Wake up early in the morning and try to get a workout in. Get the kids ready for the day, head to the store, clean the house, check emails, and get to work. Pick up the kids, make dinner, get everyone to bed…and then get up and do it all over again.
Does this sound familiar? This crazy, busy schedule seems like the typical day of nearly every mom I know. Your day may even include a few more twists and turns, responsibilities and obligations… Whatever your day may look like, chances are it includes a lot of care-giving — for everyone except yourself.
Taking care of your own needs first
About a year ago, when I was completing my master’s level certification to become a PCI Certified Parent Coach®, I was introduced to an amazing book by Cheryl Richardson, Take Time for Your Life. Her words about self-care — taking care of your own needs first — really hit home with me. She wrote about women who have a hard time putting their own needs before others’, and then later, feel resentful when their needs go unmet. This really resonated with me. Like many women, I am a giver by nature. My career as a nurse has really solidified this trait.
Pressure to be the best
I think that as women, we are unintentionally taught to do things for others first. We feel pressure to be the best mom, the best wife, the best sister, the best friend, the best hostess…For our generation, this pressure is even greater. We often feel pressured to be the most hands-on mom — playing with our kids, helping with their homework, scheduling constant activities, creating the perfect birthdays and holidays, even making the best crafts! Add to this equation that many moms today also work a second full-time job outside of the home, and it is no wonder we are struggling.
With all these pressures, we often end up putting our needs last. Richardson explains that by taking time for yourself, you are actually fueling yourself to better fulfill your many roles. She says, “If you think selfish is a dirty word, you need to learn to practice extreme self-care. Put yourself at the top of the list and everyone else will benefit.”
At first, I thought I was practicing extreme self-care — however, as time went by and I looked closer, I realized I was really just dabbling in self-care. I realized that, because of changing circumstances in my life, I had let my own needs go neglected.
Stay fueled up
I had recently become a stay-at-home mom to my two young children. I also decided to switch careers. To do that, I was going back to school. And of course, I was still a wife, friend, sister and so on. And because of my career changes, our family’s financial situation was changing too. Suddenly, I was not contributing to the family budget. It was a new dynamic — and a recipe for disaster in terms of my self-care.
For me, self-care had long been working out with friends and training for triathlons and races. Their support and camaraderie fueled me almost as much as the exercise itself. However, when things got hectic in my life, I found myself allowing those scheduled workout dates to slip. I thought I could do it on my own, whenever I could find a few minutes to slip away. But by denying myself my training time with friends, I was denying myself my fuel.
Suddenly, my reserves ran out and, for the first time, I felt what it feels like to desperately need self-care in your life. I now understood the place it had in my life. Working out with my friends was not just about physical health for me, it was also a way to fuel my body with love and support and feed my emotional and mental needs. When I was training with my friends, I was very vulnerable. I was allowing myself to be me, share and accept love and not have to be that super woman. I was allowing myself to receive. I really missed my friendships — in fact, I craved them.
Finding your fuel
Without the fuel my self-care regimen had provided, I found that I no longer had the energy or the patience to meet my families’ needs. We were no longer eating healthy foods, maintaining our schedules, or enjoying the same type of quality time. I soon realized that my lack of fuel — provided to me in the past through my group training sessions — had caused this imbalance. I knew for my sake — and the sake of my family — I had to change my priorities and move myself to the top of the list. Selfish would no longer be a dirty word.
I am happy to share that I have recommitted to training and working out with my friends. I now realize that this is a necessary part of my life, and that to be effective for my family, I need to make it a priority. What in your life provides your fuel? What does self-care mean for you? It means so many different things for so many different people. It may mean getting up early and enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper before the rest of the house wakes up. It may be getting to snuggle on the couch and read a good book. The important thing is to find what it is that helps energize and fulfill you…and then do it! Fuel yourself — and make sure selfish is not a dirty word for you!