If putting yourself first feels like an impossible endeavor, you are not alone! From the day we told people we had another human being growing in our womb, someone inevitably gave us this advice, “Make sure to take care of yourself first.” Before baby number one came, that seemed like an easy task to accomplish, but once you have that little bundle of joy, then two or more, you see why it is hard to do.
A mother has an innate nature of putting other people first. While that is necessary for the survival of that little human being, it can also be our downfall. So why can it feel so hard to do something for yourself or actually say, “no” to that favor someone is asking of you? Because it goes against our nature. It feels selfish and self-centered. Believe it or not, putting yourself first is essential, not just for you but your entire family. If you are not physically, emotionally or spiritually healthy, there is no way you can help your family be healthy in any of those areas either.
Where do you begin? Start with this list of four times you must absolutely put yourself first:
When you are feeling overwhelmed. When the to do list is a mile long, and you have two meetings you still need to get to, and soccer practice is in 15 minutes, and you still need to give the dog a bath - Take a break. Count to ten. Put the list in the drawer. It’s time to get that calendar out and make sure the first thing you put on the schedule is a date with yourself. You need time to relax and rejuvenate so you can actually accomplish the things that need to get done. And you might find you will enjoy getting some of those things done more when you have first taken time for yourself. What does a date with yourself look like?
An early morning walk or bike ride
A warm bath with candles and calming oils once the kids are in bed
A coffee shop with your favorite book or podcast
A Netflix binge night
When you are sick. I know we think we can, but we cannot ignore our way out of being sick. The body gets sick and fatigued in an effort to slow us down. So, let’s listen to what our body is telling us and let’s not always try to self-diagnose. Sometimes water does not cure everything! If you are afraid of what will happen to your family if you lay in bed for 12 hours to rest, just think what will happen to your family if you don’t take time to nip that little illness before it turns into something serious. You are too important to your family not to take your health seriously. If you don’t have anyone else in your home to help, call your girlfriend, close neighbor, or the babysitter down the street so you can take the time you need to look after yourself.
When you are feeling sad. Your feelings matter. You don’t always have to put on a brave face or smile through a difficult time. Feelings are real and they are healthy. The best thing for your kids to see is how you deal with your feelings, head on. So, if you are sad, just tell them, “Mommy feels sad right now.” Then do what you need to do to feel better:
Cry it out
Listen to music
Take a nap or a walk
Make sure you are not hiding your feelings but dealing with them and let your kids see that, be the example! If your feelings are too intense for you to deal with on your own, make sure to reach out and ask for help. There is no shame in having a professional help you with emotional distress.
When it’s your birthday. Let’s be honest and admit all the other holidays are way too hard to be me-centric. But when it’s your birthday, it’s definitely all about you! Let people say nice things about you and offer to do the dishes or get your favorite dinner. Better yet, make it known that you are taking the day off! Plan a girl’s night out, a date with your spouse or stay home and put nothing on the agenda. Oh, and don’t forget to eat the biggest piece of cake, bowl of ice-cream or whatever your favorite dessert is!
Everyone around you believes you deserve to be celebrated and to take time for yourself. Now it’s time you believe it too!