Recently, I had the privilege of being invited to speak on the panel at a Mum Talks event.
It was an inspiring gathering of mothers, each with their unique stories and experiences of navigating the beautiful yet often challenging journey of motherhood. In this blog post, I want to share some key messages including highlighting the importance of self-care in motherhood and practical steps to make it a reality in our lives.
My Motherhood Story
I understand the beautiful but often challenging journey that comes with motherhood. My path to motherhood was a 5-year-long fertility journey, and when I finally held my beautiful daughter in my arms, I was overwhelmed with joy. However, I also experienced a sense of losing myself in the whirlwind of motherhood. This feeling is something I’ve heard from many of my clients, who often express that they struggle to prioritise their own well-being amidst the demands of motherhood. They wonder, ‘Where do I even begin?’
Mum Health and Coping Mechanisms
For some of us, certain aspects of our health remain consistent, like our eating habits and food choices. For others, these aspects may change and feel somewhat out of control, whether that’s overeating or forgetting to eat during the day.
In my case, sleep deprivation took a toll on my overall balance, and I found myself trying to cope in unhealthy ways through overeating, overdrinking alcohol, and overusing social media. While I wasn’t addicted to any of these behaviors, all of us can relate to that sense of having an unhealthy relationship with something without it necessarily escalating to the point of addiction. It could be food, social media, work, a hobby, exercise, as we often turn to these outlets to manage our emotions. I want to reassure you that this is a common experience.
The Need for Self-Care in Motherhood
Things are undoubtedly challenging for all mums to various degrees, no matter your circumstances. And especially if you’re a single mom, if you have a medical condition or disability, if you have a child with special needs, or are juggling multiple responsibilities like caring for an elderly parent, I want you to give yourself compassion and acknowledge that you are doing your best. Remember to direct love and compassion towards yourself.
Mothers often place immense pressure on themselves to be behave and feel a certain way, driven by various reasons. In my case, having gone through infertility treatments, I pressured myself to be constantly grateful and happy. However, when my daughter couldn’t sleep, I would shame myself for feeling frustrated. Especially when I had friends still struggling to get pregnant, how dare I feel anything other than grateful. It took time for me to realize that it’s okay to feel frustrated and grateful simultaneously. These emotions aren’t mutually exclusive, and so its ok for you to feel delighted to be a mum and also lonely or annoyed etc…
Many of my clients also feel guilty when taking time for themselves, even if it’s to go meet a friend for a chat and a coffee and leave their children with their dad. Mothers receive messages from everyone…society, social media, colleagues, family, friends, etc… about what a good mother is and how we should behave. These messages start when we are kids ourselves so we can internalize those messages and act on them even if we don’t fully believe them to be true for ourselves. It’s difficult to remove these long-term ingrained messages about motherhood but we can start to bring our awareness to these messages and get curious about them.
Steps to Prioritise Mum Well-Being:
I believe the first step is to take small amounts of time to look after your own needs. It’s small gestures where you allow yourself to be a priority too. It’s not that your child or children stop being a priority; it isn’t one or the other but can you be a priority too not only for yourself and your ability to give back to your family but as a role model for your kids, showing them that it’s ok to love and look after others whilst also directing that love and attention towards yourself. Kids learn more by what we do rather than what we say.
So if you see the value of prioritising yourself and your needs more within the context of your family let me suggest 3 simple practical steps rooted in neuroscience:
- Choose one specific area of your health that you’d like to improve, whether it’s managing stress, resting more, eating healthier, or being more active. Maybe you felt you were fantastic in these areas pre-baby; we are only going to look at where you are at right now, leave any high expectations of what you think you should be doing out the window.
- Break that chosen area down into one small habit that takes less than 10 minutes. This could be something you start today or tomorrow, like taking a short walk, practicing deep breathing, journaling, or preparing a healthy snack or lunch for the next day.
- Make this habit consistent by scheduling it into your day. Instead of saying, ‘I’ll do it at some point today,’ set a specific time, like right before bedtime, after putting the baby down for a nap, or after dropping the kids off at school. By doing this, you’re taking small, manageable steps to prioritise your well-being.
Remember that you are not alone in your journey as a mother, and it’s essential to prioritise your well-being. By taking small, manageable steps and being kind to yourself, you can not only improve your own health but also set a positive example for your children.