Why do moms struggle with self-care?
When I had our daughter, Effie, my mom would come over and offer to watch her while I got my nails done.
I wasn’t really ready to leave the house without her. I felt guilty and nervous and too sweaty and disheveled for public consumption.
But it was an incredibly generous offer, and it was not lost on me how special it was that I had family who was close and willing to help.
However, the reality of this little excursion outside the house was that Effie would usually make it about twenty minutes before she’d start screaming for me to come home and feed her.
I would have just situated my butt in the manicure chair only to be summoned back home with half-painted nails and no actual feeling of rest or relaxation.
This is really our modern-day stereotypical version of self-care: painted nails, a walk outside, showering, and drinking enough water so our eyes don’t click (out of pure dehydration) when we blink.
When moms are exhausted and struggling—and so many moms are struggling—we are offered these lists of self-care tips that usually result in a half-hearted smile or a head nod acknowledging, “yes, I probably need to do this stuff.”
But internally, we’re rolling our eyes because who has the time?!
Plus, it rarely feels like it’s actually moving the needle or offering a last feeling of relief.
Where self-care lists for moms are going wrong
There are three reasons why typical forms of self-care are missing the mark and what works better instead.
1. Lists of self-care tips just give moms more to do in the time we don’t have
The problem with these prescribed lists of self-care ideas is that we moms already have too much on our plates.
We have lists of things to do coming out of the wazoo, and now we’re supposed to add ourselves to the list?
Nah, that’s an easy item to cut.
The other problem is that when we don’t get to what’s on our list, we are left feeling guilty, or like we’re falling short.
We don’t need more reasons to feel like we aren’t cutting it, and this just perpetuates the experience of burnout and exhaustion in motherhood.
2. Lists don’t address the deeper issues
When a mom is presented with a list of various types of self-care ideas, there is a really important assumption being made: this mom has absolutely no guilt about asking for the time, space, and resources to take care of herself.
In my experience working with women, I’ve found that most women have feelings of guilt asking for this time, or they struggle to even identify what they need.
So when they actually get the precious time, they don’t know how to spend it or what will fill them up.
3. Self-care lists are almost always about grooming our physical bodies
Almost every suggestion when it comes to self-care has to do with our physical bodies.
Take a walk, drink water, take a shower, exercise, get a facial, eat healthy food, sleep when the baby sleeps—I could go on.
However, we are not just physical bodies, we are full humans with thoughts and emotions, and willpower.
We have other parts of ourselves that offer alternative areas where we can deeply care for ourselves.
When we focus on the grooming aspects of our physical selves, we neglect something that is really important: we need to listen to our bodies because they have meaningful messages to share.
As women, and moms specifically, we are notorious for ignoring our aches and pains and chalking them up to just normal mom stuff.
We don’t need to just get the latest and greatest skincare (unless you want to, then knock yourself out), we need to tune into our bodies and respond when they are speaking to us.
What self-care tips for moms work?
Moms don’t need more lists; moms need a plan that they can implement in the small moments of time they get throughout their day.
Moms are the master managers of all of the people and all of the things, but we don’t always turn that same skill set toward ourselves.
But we need to.
We teach our kids to honor and express their emotions, to see themselves in a positive light, to assert their needs, to prioritize in a way that feels good, and to care for and love their bodies.
We need to do the same for ourselves.
We need to learn to mother ourselves like we mother our kids.
I believe the antidote to those tired lists of self-care strategies is a targeted and efficient plan for moms to regularly check in with themselves and make small adjustments.
You don’t need to wait until you finally get that week-long vacation to feel better.
What you need to do is get in the practice of tuning into you and asking yourself what you need.
Little by little, you’ll start to make your way back to you.
If you’re ready for a sustainable plan to feel better in motherhood. One that you can implement right along side your kids and that doesn’t require you attend a week long retreat, make sure to check out Love Your Kids Without Losing Yourself: 5 Steps to Banish Guilt and Beat Burnout When You Already Have Too Much to Do. Available where ever books are sold.