Glennon Doyle has said, “When we call martyrdom love we teach our children that when love begins, life ends. This is why Jung suggested: ‘There is no greater burden on a child than the unlived life of a parent.’”
Our babies are our everything, and because of this, too often mothers sacrifice their full identities. Motherhood is often placed on such high pedestal that mothers who also value other things feel guilty. If we just want some me-time or if we want to pursue our own careers/education/hobbies/goals, we are often met with pushback from the cultural expectations of what motherhood is. Isn’t motherhood enough for you? Why aren’t you fulfilled with solely being a mother?
Pursuing our own goals outside of motherhood is an important part of self care. It is not selfish. Arguably, it is essential to your and your child’s happiness to care for yourself. And by caring for yourself, I don’t just mean essential hygiene (which is truly a feat some days and should be applauded on others, but this should not be our end goal).
The dictionary defines self care as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” What is more stressful than being a mother?
I really like the term 'protecting' in that definition. There is so much that threatens our own well-being. As a mother there is so much that threatens just our being. I believe that making sure we don’t lose ourselves is the highest form of self-care there is. If I feel unfulfilled, empty, exhausted, lonely, misunderstood, or straight-up bored constantly, I am not practicing self-care.
Below are the seven things that I have consistently done to care for me so I don’t lose myself. They are the things that make me Abby--things beyond being a mother and a wife. Quick--jot down a list of what makes you you and add on to your list if any of these suggestions remind you of something else you relate to.
I am a hobby girl. I love hobbies. I am pretty sure I get this from my dad, who has always been a collector of hobbies. I love to learn new things and try new things. One that has always stuck with me is DIY, organizing, and decorating. I remember drawing home layouts with chalk on my sidewalk and when my mom said I could redo my room when I was ten I made detailed design after detailed design before we painted my room.
I still love to do this. I just got a miter saw from my dad for Christmas, and this girl could not be happier about her new power tool. I am currently putting up board and batten in my daughter’s room. Before that, I put up shiplap in my bathroom, made an electric fireplace, put up backsplash in my kitchen and bathroom, painted my whole house, did board and batten in my entry, and picture frame molding in my bedroom.
Thinking up these home project ideas and making them a reality lights me up. It energizes me like nothing else. I make sure to work with my husband so I can work on these hobbies and he can always take care of his beloved trees in our yard.
What is something that fills you with energy and excitement when you think about it? What will it take for you to turn it into a consistent hobby or even career? Take thirty seconds and jot down the first things that come to your mind.
This one is super high on my list. Yes, I was that little kid who would make up pretend homework to do because I thought learning was so fun. I remember once telling my mom I had to do a report on dolphins so we went to the library and checked out tons of books on dolphins. I wrote an essay and painted a picture. There was no real report that I had to do on dolphins.
Did I start my master’s degree in the middle of 2020 lockdown because I was “bored.” Totally. So, now that we’ve solidified that I’m a nerd, hear me out for a sec. Education comes in all sorts and sizes. Am I going to be the one to hype you up and tell you to finish your degree or start one or start a licensing certification? 100%. I’ll cheer you on all day long to do that. Please do it! What an example you would set for your kids! That isn’t super budget friendly though.
So how about finding a good podcast? Does all learning have to be about the hard sciences? No! I have learned and created the most substantive skincare routine from listening to The Blondefiles Podcast. Do I learn something new from the dumb, dumb entries on The Bad Broadcast? Of course I do (and if you don’t, you’re lying to yourself). What about podcasts on history, science, the arts, or news? Documentaries or docuseries? Hey, why don’t we actually read a few books now and then?! I think trying to learn something new every day adds to our quality of life. It fills us with curiosity, connects us with others, and fills my soul at the very least.
What is something that you are curious about? Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn or become an expert on?
A study done by the American Psychology Association found, after studying mothers for a decade, that mothers who worked at least part time were happier and more fulfilled than women who did not. I know this isn’t feasible for everyone with childcare when you break down the numbers, or maybe there are other barriers keeping this from being a reality for you, but for me, I need to work.
No, I don’t need to work because my husband doesn’t make enough money (like that’s the only reason women work), but because I LOVE being a teacher and I LOVE to write. I feel a deep calling to teach. I don’t know how to explain it other than I couldn’t sleep the night before I went back to work after Christmas break because I was so excited. Ah, I am so weird I know, but it’s what makes Abby Abby, and I embrace it. My husband and I figure out childcare. We prioritize our careers equally, and we both value the education and hard work we have put in to be both parents and in the professions that we’ve chosen.
If you feel the desire to have a job outside your home, it can be hard to find the confidence to so do, but believe me, it is possible!
If you currently work and feel that your career is not as prioritized, how could you voice your concerns? How can you and your partner work together to ensure that your education is just as valued? How could you make your job your dream job?
Put a hand up if, when you have the opportunity to speak with another adult after being home with toddlers all day, you can’t stop talking. I think many of us are addicted to social media because we are craving some sort of adult interaction.
I can honestly say that everyone I work with is super great to interact with. I have a lot of friends at work (except for my best work friend who moved to Texas two years ago and I’m still super mad at her. If you are reading this, please move back to Utah. I miss you terribly!). I am also very lucky to have a close-knit group of friends since elementary school. We are all doing different things now, live in different places, and are in different stages, but we stay connected. We text, call, go out to dinner/lunch, and sometimes even go on girls trips. Although I can truly call my husband my best friend, the connection I have with my girlfriends is a totally different thing.
This can be a hard one if you are a stay-at-home mom or if making friends is uncomfortable. Making friends as an adult can be an uncomfortable thing. Here is what I have found to be helpful when making friends (and if you feel like making friends doesn’t need to be on your, list just skip over this part):
- Make an effort (and don’t keep score of who reached out last or who texted back when)
- Find common ground (don’t gossip or talk negatively to find this common ground)
- Plan an outing with your kids to break the ice
- Plan an activity without kids where you might not have to talk a great deal (like going to a farmer’s market or the movie of a book you both read--sit down meals can be intimidating since they require lots of talking.)
- Be kind, listen, and take an actual interest in them (this is key!)
Read more tips on making friends as a mom here!
Exercise is Abby. I have to exercise. I grew up going to the gym daycare at Bally’s while my parents worked out. The nasty smell of the gym is in my blood. Do I have noteworthy abs? No. But that isn’t why I do it.
I love the feeling of moving my body. It almost has a direct impact on my mental health. If I am not active, I feel more anxious and flat-out down. When I work out, even a little, even in the thick of pregnancy, I feel more confident. I can clear my mind and be ALL BY MYSELF. It’s that instant feeling that I did something for myself that is directly taking care of my health.
You don’t need a gym pass, an app subscription, fancy outfits, or running shoes. Look up workouts on YouTube. Wear your old yucky t-shirt. And remember no one is paying attention that you’re only using 5 lbs weights. It has taken a bit, but my husband and I have a routine now of taking turns at the gym. We don’t take a long time so we don’t miss out on family time, but a consistent 30-40 minutes is better than nothing. This post has some tips on getting a workout in as a busy parent!
What sort of movement do you love or miss doing? What sort of exercise could you get into?
Having some sort of outlet to reflect on our days or lives is important. I just read over my elementary school diary and I about died. It consisted of my undying love for a boy that I had a crush on from Kindergarten to 9th grade (heartbreaking, I know!), a countdown to Christmas (I’m not kidding, an entry would be “Well, 340 more days! Love, Abby”), and how much I missed my cousins.
Writing in a traditional journal is hard for me. It feels a bit daunting for whatever reason. Now, I have a brain dump journal. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, goals, New Year's resolutions, worries or things to remember before I sleep so I can ease my mind, packing lists, wish lists, and anything else I want to remember or think is noteworthy. I date it like a normal journal, and they have been almost as fun to look through as my elementary school diaries.
It’s nice to have a place to reflect and collect my thoughts when I feel like my mind is all over the place, especially as a mom.
What is something that could help you to focus more or stay organized?
I used to use Sundays as my spa days (yes, I would call them my spa days because you’ve got to romanticize your life). I would do my nails, deep condition my hair, do a face mask, use a body scrub, and anything else that I wouldn’t normally do throughout the week.
I don’t have a single day that I consistently have, but I still like to prioritize literally caring for my body. A major one now is my skincare routine. I never had terrible acne until my freshmen year of college and it was bad, bad. I developed cystic papule acne, and even without popping them, I have terrible scarring.
Ever since then I have saved money to do different skincare treatments like face peels or lasers, and I make sure that I am using quality products that don’t irritate my skin. I use sunscreen every day and I also make sure I go to the dermatologist to check on my moles (because they all look like skin cancer apparently).
I also get my nails done when I can and like to take a bubble bath when my girls go to bed early.
What are some “spa day” essentials that you like to do? How can you budget and plan if you want to spoil yourself? How can you take care of your body every week?
Being a new mom can be scary and hard, but don’t lose yourself in the process. You are going to become stronger and better than you ever knew you could be, but that doesn’t mean that the old parts of you have to die. Don’t become a martyr. Be an example of self love and self care for your babies.