I recently talked to a great group of moms about the challenges and rewards of taking care of ourselves while caring for our children. Many of us are living the role of caretaker. We care for families, children, partners, elderly parents, patients, clients, pets, and more. We accept the role because we are needed and because we can help. We embrace the role because we want to care for those we love. We take on the role because it is our job, our career, or our calling. Some of us do so by choice, others by necessity. Sometimes taking care of others gets in the way of caring for ourselves.
There have been times when I have been so exhausted from juggling the responsibilities of motherhood and my professional life that finding the energy to take my vitamins out of the cupboard, let alone opening the bottles, feels like climbing a mountain. Eating breakfast in the morning becomes a contact sport, as I juggle dressing my children, packing lunches and negotiating getting out the door to school; sometimes I just give up the battle and leave the house as the only one in the family who hasn’t had breakfast. Exercise has to fit in between snow days, sick days, and everything else that needs to be done. Am I the only mom who feels some nights like brushing my teeth is a luxury I can’t afford?
I recently kept a haircut appointment that took weeks to squeeze in my schedule while my son was at home with a stomach virus; yes, I chose to make myself a priority, and the mother’s guilt nearly killed me!
The group of moms I spoke to recently shared with me that finding time for themselves was tough, but giving themselves permission to find that time was even tougher. Something that is already a challenge becomes an even greater challenge because we place judgment and criticism on top of it. “It’s not my time, right now, to take care of myself.” “My family needs me more.” “I will eventually have time for myself, maybe in eighteen years.”
But what if we turn the situation on its head? What if we understand that our children and families look to us as role models? What if we discover that in making ourselves a priority, our families learn from us? Imagine that by choosing to eat and prepare healthy, nourishing food, our children learn by example. We may not see it reflected immediately in our young children’s food choices, but I have been assured it eventually pays off!
What if we discover that living an active, athletic, and vital life in front of our children results in children that embrace that lifestyle? What if we learn that taking care of ourselves makes us better parents, makes us more patient, more loving, happier, and more fun to be around? Studies show kids learn from our behaviors and use us as examples. What great incentive to make ourselves a priority too!
And finally, what if we learn that by taking advantage of and grasping any opportunity to take care of ourselves, we grow and nurture our own sense of self-worth and self-esteem … that we catapult ourselves to greater heights of compassion, acceptance and love for ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Give yourself permission to be a vital, healthy example for those you take care of … and do it for yourself.