Nikki C is taking care of herself wearing 'Harem Pants.'
‘You cannot pour from an empty cup.’
Never in my life has this expression meant so much to me as it does now...now that I am a mother.
When depleted, I am simply not the best version of myself, let alone the best mother I can be...not by a long shot. I’m tired, grumpy, irritable, demotivated and just a big, ginormous fun sponge to be honest...just ask my husband (no, actually, please don't!).
Before children (BC!) if I was exhausted, burnt out, run down...however you want to label it...I could easily take some time out for myself to recharge and replenish. I’d get my nails done, go for a run, meet some friends for brunch, go shopping for a high dose of retail therapy...la dee la! But now it's not so easy to just get up and do these things willy nilly. As a mother, you’re on 24/7.
Once a mum, always a mum...EVERY. MINUTE. OF. EVERY. DAY.
Now, don't get me wrong, I know I am beyond lucky and I wouldn't change any of it for the world...but sheesh, I wish it were as easy as it used to be to get my 'stores' up.
I recently read that Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark...you know?) said, "being a mum is the most rewarding blessing in the world. A blessing that I wish I could take a quick 10 to 15 days off from...a month." She's joking of course...but I'm sure many of us can relate to this...just a little...right?
I know I am not alone, millions of mothers worldwide have trouble with ‘self-care,’ as it is so easy to constantly put your children before yourself. However, four and a bit years of being a mother has taught me that putting my children first all the time is, in fact, detrimental. To me, to my kids, my husband, my employers, my friends, my immediate family...everyone in my life. I now know that I have to take care of myself, so I can take care of everyone else. I need a good chunk of time out. I need to be completely alone for a few hours, and if I'm super lucky...away for a whole night with my girlfriends, at least once every few months.
So, with all these learnings, I decided to write a blog on self-care for mothers, and not the kind where you're gone for three days at a luxury spa...because that's just not feasible for many of us...but realistic self-care, things we can do every day to better ourselves. In order to really get to the heart of this though, of course I needed to speak to a professional.
This is where Clinical Psychologist, mother of identical twin girls and owner of ‘EmpowerMums’ Dr. Missy Wolfman comes in. She has some expert pointers we all need to take heed of in order to take better care of ourselves, and in turn allow us to keep 'kicking butt' in the mothering department.
Get your notepads out...here’s Dr. Missy’s sage, sage advice...
Self-care can feel like another thing on the never ending to do list, but mums who don't prioritise their wellbeing are at a very high risk of burnout.
Burnout is when you feel emotionally and physically exhausted, and this increases the chance of physical and mental health issues. Mum burnout is real! What other job requires you to be available 24/7/365, with no sick days, or holidays to be seen? What other job is as physically and emotionally demanding as being a mother?
Being a mum means that your happiness and 'peace' often relies on the whims of your children. As a mum of three once said, "my happiness is always based on my least happiest child," and unfortunately for all of us, there's always something going on with our kids...sickness, scrapes, squabbles with siblings or other kids...there's always something.
Self-care is so crucial for the wellbeing of yourself and your family. When you are emotionally and physically well you are more able to 'respond' rather than 'react.' You're more able to be patient, to be emotionally available and responsive to your children's needs. You're more able to be the best mum you can be, and therefore bring out the best in your kids.
Children need mothers, not martyrs. I've seen many mothers put themselves last, and because of this they're unfortunately more likely to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour with their kids, their partner or with themselves.
Here's something you probably haven't thought of before, but you need to role model self-care to your children. It's crucial to their development. Just like how our kids are more likely to eat vegetables if we eat vegetables ourselves, they're also more likely to take care of themselves and be emotionally resilient if we take care of ourselves as well. Lead by example. Do you need any more reasons to practice self-care? I should think not!
So what can we do to take care of ourselves properly, quickly and easily? Always start with the basics first.
1. Sleep. Sleep is so crucial, yet so elusive for new mothers especially. Try to nap as much as possible, especially when your night sleep is disrupted by your baby. The old adage, 'sleep when the baby sleeps,' can be so annoying to hear especially when you have a whole list of chores to do! Most babies sleep in 45 minute-1 hour cycles, so you can try fit a 20 minute nap in here or there. Sleep first, then chores. For a power nap, try listening to 'yoga nidra' which is a guided 15-20 minute meditation to help you relax and sleep. If you can't sleep, just resting your body, lying down and closing your eyes can be beneficial.
2. After sleep, focus on getting some sun, fresh air and some movement in your day. This will also help you sleep better at night.
Nikki C is getting some sun, air and moving in a breastfeeding friendly activewear top and the 'Classic Maternity Leggings - 3/4 Length'.
3. Then think about what you're eating, ensuring you're eating well and frequently throughout the day...especially if you're breastfeeding.
4. After the basics of sleep, sun, fresh air, movement and food, then focus on your relationships and connections with other adults. This is crucial for your mental health. As mums, we can often be surrounded by people but feel 'invisible.' It's important to interact with people that make you feel seen and heard. Being a mother can be incredibly rewarding but isolating at times, and we all need to feel connected to others, a sense of belonging. This can be done in so many ways, catching up with fellow mothers, seeing your friends, your parents etc. I remember a mum telling me that I need to go to these playgroups not for the sake of my babies, but for myself - that I need to be supported by, and feel connections with other adults. She was so right!
This 'mum gang' are all connecting whilst sporting different colours of the 'Breastfeeding Hoodie.'
5. Lastly, I always encourage mums to plan, schedule and do one activity they enjoy and that they can do by themselves. It's important to have some child free time to remember who you are beyond your identity and role as a mother. Eve Rodsky wrote in, 'Fair Play,' that as parents we all need to reclaim our 'unicorn space.' This is time to do an activity you are passionate about, and is just for YOU! It could be mushroom growing, photography, crocheting, pickle-balling (it's a real sport! I promise!), whatever it is that makes you feel alive! Reclaim your right to be interesting and interested in something. It doesn't have to be time-consuming and could be something you spend just 10-15 minutes on after the kids are in bed. Mothers often get into a trap of 'perfectionism' when it comes to self-care. They think if they're not doing yoga, or a 60 minute class of something, then it's not worthy. Not true. What's important to remember is that something is better than nothing, and five minutes of stretching in the kitchen while you're waiting for food to defrost in the microwave still counts! Think 'mini-habits' of self-care that you can do everyday to fill your cup. For example; one minute of yoga, or one minute of mindfulness/meditation or napping for five minutes. No matter how busy you are, you can still make time for yourself, and these 'mini-habits' can be sprinkled throughout your day so you're constantly replenishing yourself.
Wow, thanks Dr. Missy, how good was that advice? Bang on! Another thing I asked Dr. Missy was what partners can to do help mums take better care of themselves. Here's her take...
Nikki C is being lovingly supported by her husband, Adam while wearing the 'Aspire Top' in neo.
1. Partners are crucial in ensuring that mothers are taking good care of themselves. Remind her to focus on baby steps - 'progress not perfection,' and that something is better than nothing.
2. Help around the house with chores like washing, dishes, cooking and cleaning so she doesn't feel like she has to do everything around the house and drive herself into the ground while doing so.
3. Encourage her to go to that pilates class or whatever she wants to do without the kids! Even if it's only an hour once a week, it's going to help strengthen her mentally, physically and emotionally, so she can be her best...for herself, and for your family.
4. Make sure to plan a date night so you can connect as partners, not just parents. It's important to keep the relationship alive beyond the logistical challenges of modern parenthood so you can both feel you're being seen and loved by one another.
Mothers who prioritise self-care, foster connections and claim their 'unicorn space,' are happier, healthier and better able to be there in a larger capacity for their family. These mothers know the importance of self-care...they know it's the best way to ensure they can share their love and energy in abundance.
So...what are you waiting for? Go on mum, go get your 'goodies' and don’t feel guilty about it what-so-ever...your cup being filled to the brim is for the betterment of EVERYONE.
Go well mama and remember, you’ve totally got this!
Written by Ellen Chisholm, in conjunction with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Missy Wolfman of Empowermums.