Before having children I took pretty good care of my own needs. When I had free time, I more or less did what I wanted, when I wanted to.
When I had my first child, everything changed. Suddenly, his needs came first- which was a bit of a shock! And people stopped asking how I was doing...it became all about my baby.
I didn’t question it when I suddenly became less important and my new identity became “Max’s Mom”. It even felt honourable to sacrifice my needs and give all of myself to my new baby.
In my family there was an unwritten expectation to become a martyr on the altar of motherhood. And that’s part of our culture too. Moms who do lots of things for themselves are considered selfish. And no mother wants to be SELFISH.
So as a new mom, I found myself totally exhausted and burnt out from an almost complete lack of self-care and feeling guilty about asking for help (because I thought I needed to do it all by myself).
What I didn’t realize is how much sacrificing my own needs actually affected my parenting. I was frazzled and frustrated and couldn’t be truly present and enjoy being with my new babe.
The reality was that by bending over backwards to be the best mom I could be I was actually not giving my baby the best of myself.
And what children need most is YOU. At your best. They need your presence, your connection, your love. You will not be able to provide that if you’re completely depleted.
Now of course, there is a balance here. I’m not suggesting you neglect your children or even continue on with life as normal after you have a baby. Things will have to change. A lot.
What I’m suggesting is a daily, even moment to moment practice of deciding which of your children’s needs are pressing and learning to fit in your own needs. Of practicing boundaries. Counting yourself in instead of putting yourself last.
One boundary I practice with my two children on a regular basis is when I’m making dinner. I function best when I can calmly focus on making dinner without much distraction. I set a boundary that when I’m making dinner it’s time for them to play (by themselves or together) so I can focus. I don’t pick up my 18 month old. I don’t watch my 5 year old do acrobatics in the living room. I focus on cooking. When they push that boundary (which they often do!) I remind them of it. Having this boundary makes me a calmer, more relaxed mom. And a meal made with love and care (instead of frustration and overwhelm) gets put on the table that much sooner for them!
Then when we’re eating dinner I give them my full presence and attention. After dinner and during bedtime they have my full presence. And I’m calmer and more relaxed because I had some me-time while cooking (something I enjoy doing!)
And then once they’re asleep at night I enjoy time to myself and with my husband. It’s more time to take care of my needs and recharge so I can be present for them again in the morning (and often during the night too ;)
When my needs are met I’m a better ME and a better mother.
Mamas, taking care of yourself IS taking care of your children. ❤
If you're struggling to balance self-care with motherhood and finding yourself depleted and exhausted (and not being the mom you want to be for your children), check out Blossoming Mother Counselling's services here.
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Katherine Aucoin, Motherhood Counsellor
Hi Mamas! My name is Katherine and I'm a motherhood counsellor and a mom to two little boys. I'm here to offer tools, insights and support to help you be the best mom you can be for your children AND yourself.