Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Motherhood: Taking care of Yourself

Before entering motherhood, I had no idea how hard it would be to take care of myself. As someone who has always taken good care of myself, motherhood shook this into a tailspin. A good mother takes care of her children first. A good mother is self-sacrificing. These are the mantras that societies and our families feed us to basically box us in to this one-dimensional role. There is an absolutism about motherhood.

This mindset needs to be changed, because one cannot take care of anybody else if they don't take care of themselves first. Just like on the airplane, how they tell you that you need to put on your oxygen ask first before putting one on a child. If you don't take care of yourself, you're of no use to anybody - not even yourself. Taking care of myself makes me a better mother and a happier person.

It takes a lot of energy to care for children full-time - they are high energy, they have questions, they need to be fed/clothed/bathed, you need to watch them closely....I don't think I have spent a good solid 5 minutes sitting down while my daughter's awake (much less going to the bathroom in privacy!)! It is so easy to burn out. It is so easy to slip into this role of supermom and run out of fuel. Especially if you're in a situation where you don't have much outside help or support. And then, on top of that, you feel guilty. You feel incapable, when it is so far from the truth!

Taking care of yourself is an essential part of motherhood. Some women figure this out early on, and others take decades.

Here are some of my tips:

Get a damn babysitter once in a while!
Newsflash: you can't do it all. Rather than constantly rely on a busy husband or elderly grandparents, find a babysitter that you can trust. Ask your mom friends if they have someone they can recommend. Babysitters and nannies get paid, so they are usually professional and on time. Often, you can count on them more than your own family! It took me about 2 years to find a babysitter because I was so freaked out to let someone watch my daughter who was not family. I wish I had found one earlier, because I found a really great one and it's nice to be able to count on her for added support. It is also good for your child to have exposure to a trusted person who's not you. DELEGATE!!!

Take yourself out on a date
Even more than my date nights with husband-ji, I love going on solo dates with myself to bookstores, Sephora, or art galleries. For a while, the only baby-free time I had was going on dates with my husband, which was nice...but I missed having time all by myself for my own private interests. I got this idea from "The Artist's Way" method of going out on "artist's dates" once a week. It doesn't happen once a week, but I do try to do it a few times a month. I leave husband-ji to do the childcare and I go explore something random for a few hours.

Work on a passion project
Motherhood is a huge life change and it really makes you put everything into perspective. You might feel differently about your job or your career goals - after having kids. For me, motherhood also got my creative juices flowing again. I started doing a lot of writing and painting after my daughter was born. When you are passionate about creating something, you make the time, here and there. It is also good for mothers to create an identity for themselves outside of being a mom or a wife. You never know, it could turn out to be a full-fledged career!

Take care of your appearance
I still struggle with this one because my makeup routine used to be so extreme pre-baby. Now, it is hard to want to do makeup or make time for it, especially when my daughter smudges it by constantly touching my face! However, I do put on makeup once in a while, especially if we are going out to dinner or if I'm working in our store. Instead of doing makeup every day, I like to take care of my appearance in other ways like: treating myself to a mani/pedi, getting my eyebrows threaded, getting a massage, doing my hair nicely, and having a good skin-care routine that involves high quality products. A big part of taking care of your appearance is also having good nutrition (eating wholesome foods) and getting enough sleep.

SLEEP (or nap)
Getting enough sleep is so important - if you don't, you can actually go insane. Sleeping and/or resting lets your body heal and recharge. The lack of sleep in parenthood is a big thing for a mother - it can be very physically and emotionally taxing. When your baby finally sleeps, you may want to get up and do things that you couldn't do when you are watching them - whether it be housework, creative work, reading a book, surfing the net. However, I think it is best to get as much sleep as possible, even if you have lots to do - you can't do anything running on empty. The saying "sleep when the baby sleeps" is annoying - but it is very true! If anything, try to go to bed early and wake up early to steal some time for yourself.

Getting regular exercise is a cure-all - it is a natural anti-depressant, it will give you more energy, it will make you feel strong, and it's great for your overall health. Most people get overwhelmed by the concept of exercising, but it really only takes 20-30 mins of it, several times a week, to make a difference. Exercising doesn't mean you have to go to the gym or run a marathon, it could be as simple as going for a walk, swimming, or going to yoga. For me exercise helps me feel less helpless - it makes me feel strong and confident in my body's abilities. A lot of gyms and community centers have affordable childcare options too, where you can leave your child in a supervised play area while you go work out.

Do less housework
I really enjoy motherhood a lot more when I am not constantly bogged down by the following mundane tasks: cooking, washing dishes, laundry, housework. Here's a thought - just make your husband do it!!! Plus, guys doing housework is a huge turn-on (this is proven!)

Spend time with friends
Motherhood is paradoxical wherein you are never alone, but you can feel very isolated. One thing I really missed is having conversation with grown-ups. Making time with friends will help you connect with others and beat isolation. Spend time with your pre-baby friends, and make new mom friends. If you're getting together for a play date, STOP hovering over your children and let them play independently so you can have some adult conversation.

Don't forget about your marriage
Marriage is the easiest thing to forget about once you have kids. Isn't that ironic? Without your spouse, there would be no children, yet many spouses feel less important or outrightly ignored after children come along. And that's how people grow apart. It may seem like a lot of effort, but you do have to consistently ask yourself how you're making your marriage better. It really is all about making the time - stealing moments together here and there. Be selfish about protecting your relationship. Plus, making time for your relationship will nurture it and make it stronger, and then it will really feel like a solid partnership that can weather any storm.

Find moments of calm and quiet
There is no quietness in motherhood, except when the children are asleep! I find that even finding 5 minutes of quiet time in the middle of the day can center me and make me feel so zen. Taking a quick breather can help you feel less overwhelmed. Even if that involves shutting yourself in the closet!

Give yourself a break
Stop being so hard on yourself. Why? Because it's an utter waste of time. Lower your expectations. Don't worry so much. If you've managed to feed/bathe/clothe & read like 1 book to your child, then you're doing a great job. Kiss perfectionism goodbye because it'll make you happier. Personally, I have wasted thousands of hours feeling bad about myself, thinking I could have done more, and what did that do? Nothing. It was an absolute waste of energy. Once and a while, say to yourself that you're doing a great job.

Plan your life out as much as you plan your kids' activities
You've got your schedule and routine all set for the week - swimming class, play date with __, going to the mall on Thursday to buy toddler leggings...where's the time for YOU? Take just as much care planning activities for yourself as you do for your children. For example, try out that yoga class, make time for a creative project, get together with a friend. Your entire life should not revolve around your children. For example, if I need to work on a painting, I will set up an art station for my daughter. Why not incorporate your child into your life, for a change?

For all the mothers out there, young and old, hats off to you. Please take care of yourself, please give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it!!!


Dear readers, what do you do to take care of yourself and nourish your soul?
What advice would you give to yourself looking back, regarding self-care?


1 comment

  1. The one thing that hit me like a punch in the face when I became a mom was the sleep thing. I don't think I fully wrapped my mind around the fact that sleep deprivation is a big deal. Sure the baby books all said "You will wake up in the middle of the night, sleep when the baby sleeps" But it's not until I was deep into it all that it hit me and how hard it was.

    Then there are all the people that say "Don't worry it'll get easier once she sleeps through the night" Well 6 years later, it's not, it's still draining, it's still hard work, I still start days way earlier than I ever started them before being a mom and being an office goer.

    Sleep when you can and don't feel ashamed of having to call it an early night and switching out the lights at 9.30pm once in a while. Motherhood is though!


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