This is an updated post from 2010
Sunday we celebrate moms. You might get flowers, a gift certificate or even a home cooked meal. But the absolute best gift you’ll get this Mother’s Day is the one you give to yourself.
While being a mom is incredibly rewarding, it’s easy to lose some of yourself in the process. You know, the old you that put you first. If you could get some of you back, wrapped up in a gift you could access anytime, wouldn’t you want it?
So I talked with my friend and colleague Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, author of the soon-to-be released book No Sweat: How the Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, to figure out how moms can carve out a little time for themselves. She calls it “self care.” I call it smart.
What Gets in the Way?
Dr. Segar starts by discussing the barriers mothers face when it comes to making themselves a priority.
The first one is that moms have a lot on their plates. Even though most families (65%) have both parents working, moms still do a majority of the work around the house. According to the Second Shift study, husbands do about one-third the household chores and those tend to include home maintenance. Women tend to do the everyday chores like cooking, cleaning and keeping track of kids’ activities.
Another barrier, tied closely to the first, is that women don’t know how to ask for relief.
“Women haven’t been socialized to make taking care of themselves a priority,” says Segar. “We’re just not socialized to think that way.”
Segar explains that most women never learned to consider their well-being as something that is important enough to plan and stand up for. They may feel bad saying “no” or simply don’t know the most effective way to approach their spouse or partner. This might be why so many arguments happen as resentment grows and then “pop!” Segar challenges us to consider why our own daily well-being shouldn’t be one of the most important things in our lives?
And the third barrier for moms is their tendency to focus a lot of their self-care energy on losing weight.
“So many women put their energy into getting thinner, again, and again, without seeing lasting results when instead they could be engaging in self-care activities that are more likely to nurture and restore and truly feed the self,” she says. “At its core, self-care is about feeling good.”
Segar explains that taking care of yourself is like an essential vitamin you take every day. It empowers and restores instead of zapping you of energy. Because of that, it makes you a more effective mom, friend and coworker.
So with this in mind, here are three steps you can take start taking better care of you.
Segar suggests before taking any action you should you assess where you are first by asking yourself how you feel.
On scale of 1 to 5, 1 being terrible and 5 great, where do you stand? If it’s a 1 or 2 on a regular basis, then things aren’t going very well, but if you get a 4 or a 5, you’re probably getting your needs met.
If you’re not happy with the way things are you need to ask yourself if it’s time to change. Segar says that making the decision is the hardest part, but to remember that you DESERVE to feel good.
2. Decide what you want
Once you decide there’s room for improvement, you’ll want to consider what it is you want to do.
“Take a step back and think about what self-care means to you,” say Segar. “Self-care means different things to different women whether it be sleep, pampering or going for a walk.”
Segar says every women needs to check in with her own reality. For example, a women with 4 kids under 6 years old will be very strapped for time. Even though she can’t get everything she wants right now, she can try some key things that might improve her well-being in some way.
Segar advices moms to try taking action on a much smaller scale and see it makes them feel. Try something for 5 minutes if that is all the time you have. Did it make you feel better? She also says creating a “self-care mission” is important because it will help you make a plan. And let’s face it, without a plan things just don’t get done.
3. Negotiate with your partner
Once you know what you want, you’ll have to talk to your partner and negotiate (if you have one).
“Be frank and honest and ask for what you need,” says Segar “But then make sure to ask your partner what he or she needs too.”
Even though may feel your partner or spouse has it easier than you, they likely have unmet needs too. By addressing his or her desires, you make the discussion about both of you getting what you want. So instead of typical get-no-where fight, you have a collaboration. And hopefully you both will feel excited about your new plan.
Segar goes as far as recommending you have regular meetings with your partner to check in and see how things are going. You might need to revise the plan based on what is and isn’t working.
So this Mother’s Day, I say forget the candy, flowers and other fancy gifts and start asking for what you really want and need. I know I will.
How are you feeling about motherhood? Overwhelmed? Having trouble finding time for you? Any success stories out there?