Life & Beauty Weekly: Happy You
Finding the “Me” in Motherhood
By Elizabeth Hurchalla for Life & Beauty Weekly
Whether you’re a mom or not, at some point you’ve likely put yourself on the back burner while turning your attention to the needs of those around you. But moms know this feeling better than anyone: With kids, life isn’t only about you anymore. That can be an amazing thing, but if you’re losing yourself in the process of raising a family, it’s time to refocus.
“When a woman has a baby she tends to focus all of her attention and energy on the baby — to the point where she is likely to neglect herself,” says Dr. Michal Regev, a registered psychologist and marriage and family therapist in Vancouver, B.C. “It is very hard for mothers to set aside time for themselves because of practical issues (like no help with child care), as well as society and self-expectations of mothers as caretakers rather than as humans who should practise self-care.”
Fortunately, you can take care of your family without losing sight of who you are, says Regev. Here’s how to find a balance:
1. Take a step back.
Look at your situation from the outside. Are you treating yourself with the same TLC that you devote to your family? If you feel resentful because of your never-ending to-do list, or if you’re always exhausted or can’t remember the last time you did something just for you, you might be spending too much energy on others and not enough on yourself.
“Unfortunately, lack of self-care may lead to burnout, irritability, lack of focus and even depression and anxiety,” says Regev. “Up to 20 percent of mothers experience depressive symptoms on some level. When mothers are either depressed or simply burnt out, the quality of the care they are able to provide to their children decreases significantly.”
2. Set limits.
To be a super mom, you don’t have to be Supermom. Regev says mothers who constantly put others before them and try to take on too many tasks often end up feeling depleted, empty and that they have nothing more to give. “That’s understandable, given that you can’t give when you are out of energy or feeling ‘empty,’” she says. “You wouldn’t expect your car to run on empty — but many women and often others, like partners, expect that a woman would still be able to give when she is feeling drained. This is unrealistic!”
3. Schedule time to do what you love.
Maintaining a sense of self requires at least a few hours each week of actually doing something just for you. “Many women say, ‘Even if someone took care of my baby for an hour, I wouldn’t know what to do with that time,’” says Regev. “I often suggest they try to remember what they used to like doing before they were mothers.” Plan your activities ahead of time and write it (in ink!) in your day planner so you’re more likely to stick to it.
4. Treasure the little things.
Doing something for yourself doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture: creating special moments for yourself each day works too. Try picking three things that feel restorative to you and do them daily. Maybe it’s drinking tea in your favourite mug, taking five minutes of quiet alone time each morning or listening to your favourite music in the car rather than Barney’s greatest hits. Even just a minute of “you time” is better than nothing.
5. Lose the guilt.
When you say no or do things for yourself, you’re not being selfish, says Regev. You’re actually being a better parent. “Mothers have to understand that practising self-care is not selfish but, rather, is the responsible thing to do. Taking time to do an activity that fills you with energy will help you feel recharged.”
You’ll also be setting a good example for your children and partner by letting them know you’re important too. And by taking time for yourself, you become a more engaged caregiver, which leads to a happy, well-adjusted family.