In our culture, being a “selfless mom” is often synonymous with being a “good mom”. As women, we are taught to believe that we should be selfless in order to best care for and love our families.
If you look up the definition of “selfless”, you will see it defined as “having little or no concern for oneself”.
Who came up with this ridiculous idea that a mother should have little or no concern for herself in order to love her people best???
Nevertheless, this idea has been ingrained in our society. A “mother’s selfless love” is touted as the ideal, but why should one need to love selflessly in order to love well?
How can you best care for your people if you are not taking care of yourself first and foremost?
The truth is, you just can’t. You must prioritize your own self-care if you want to be healthy, present, and able to bring your best to the table when it comes to caring for your family.
What is self-care and why do you need it to be a good mom?
Self-care is often misinterpreted and leaves many women feeling as if having to incorporate it into their lives is just another task to add to their endless to-do list and this can make mothers feel even more overwhelmed.
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a board-certified psychiatrist and author specializing in women’s mental health, explains in this NY Times article:
“The problem with self-care as an antidote to the demands of parenthood is that in becoming part of the parenting to-do-list, it still requires an already empty adult to give more. This is particularly true for mothers who have internalized our cultural meme of mother as martyr and for whom the transition to motherhood can feel like an erasure of womanhood. Making yourself smaller and smaller in the service of your child may feel noble at first but ultimately can lead to resentment, bitterness and mental health issues of your own.”Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, The New York Times
However, self-care shouldn’t feel like another demand or task on your list. It’s actually really easy. Let’s break it down into 3 simple steps.
Recognize what it is you truly need
Self-care does not just mean spa days and bubble baths. That could be a way that you practice it, but what’s important is that you first listen to your intuition and decide what it is you really need.
Figure out what that is and then set your intentions to give yourself what’s lacking.
This has provided some “me time” first thing in the morning and I find it sets the tone for a more peaceful day.
Prioritize your joy
I recognize that I am not selfless, meaning I do have a self outside of being a mother and I need to spend some energy on caring for that self by bringing joy into my daily life.
If you don’t bring joy into your life, you become bitter and start resenting those around you who do.
Have you ever felt resentful towards your husband because he “gets” to have fun and go out and do things that he enjoys and you don’t? Is anyone really stopping you?
I’ve definitely felt this way before and it took a long time for me to realize that only I was creating roadblocks for myself, no one else was standing in my way.
Dr. Lakshmin so eloquently stated in this NY Times article, “I often tell my patients that the true work of “self-care” is recognizing you are the only one who can give yourself permission to take back your time.”
Basically, you can’t sit back and expect the world to prioritize your own self-care. You have to take the reigns because no one else is going to give you that permission or hand it to you on a silver platter . Only you have the ability to figure out what nourishes “your self”, what joy means for you, and to find ways to bring that into your everyday life.
Often self-care is thought of as a way to escape from your life, but if you can create a life that incorporates joy, you will create a life that you want to live every day, not one from which you feel the need to escape.
Don’t feel guilty about it
As I get older, I value my “me time” more than ever. There was a weekend not too long ago that my in-laws were visiting. They had some plans to go into the city and take the kids to the Intrepid museum. I had opted to stay home and delight in the rare joy of a quiet house and a few hours to myself.
It was the tailend of summer and I had been home with the kids all summer long. There had been A LOT of family togetherness and I simply needed a mental break.
Well, not surprisingly, my mother-in-law did not get this. Although I think having the grandkids to herself for the day without me tagging along made her secretly happy, she also thought that me taking time for myself and not accompanying them was simply not what a “good mom” does.
Now, my mother-in-law is totally old school. When you look up the word “martyr” in the dictionary, there is a picture of her, at least there should be. Furthermore, she is an immigrant in this country and has worked extremely hard to build a good life for her family. But sadly, she knows little of joy; only how to work hard and make money.
She is not a woman who has any capacity to understand the concept of self-care or “me time”.
To her, being a selfless mother is the only way to be a mother.
Anyhow, I took my “me time” because I knew I needed it for my mental well-being. I had a lovely day ALONE in my house and I did not let someone else’s perception make me feel guilty.
You should never feel guilty about valuing yourself and what you need.
Also, having this strong sense of self and modeling it for your children will teach them the importance of doing so for themselves.
So instead of striving to be a selfless mother and expending all of your energy on others, try prioritizing yourself so that you are able to show up as your best for your family.
That is being a good mom in my book. Do you agree?
Let me know how you like to practice self-care.
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Carly is a wife, mom, and former fashion industry executive turned blogger, who is on a journey to live life as the best version of herself. Through her website, littlevoicebigmatter.com, she shares practical advice and heartfelt insights to inspire and support women in motherhood, relationships, wellness, and life.