Moms do it all. Supermoms. Take care of everyone and all their needs. There’s just one thing moms aren’t so great at it… it’s learning how to put yourself first when you’re a mom.
How often do you pine for some alone time, but then it never quite pans out how you hoped? You finally get a few minutes alone, but you can’t enjoy it. It’s one thing to say it and another to figure out how to put yourself first when you’re a mom.
Something is nagging at you. It’s the mom guilt. Are the kids ok? Will they be mad at me because I’m spending time away from them? Is that babysitter really responsible enough? Are they missing me?
Tons of thoughts can flash through your mind, and it’s enough to prevent us from even taking rare breaks from momming to care for ourselves.
We also desperately want to figure out how to make sure we do get some time for ourselves. So here are three ways you can get past the momguilt and learn how to put yourself first when you’re a mom.
1. Remind yourself WHY
Do I need to convince you that you need and deserve time for yourself? That you need to rest, restore, refuel, recharge?
Let’s go back to the oxygen mask theory so many discuss for a hot second.
When you are on an airplane, they instruct you that in case of emergency you should put on your own oxygen mask first before helping anyone else. The logic is simple. If you can’t breathe and end up passing out, you will not be able to help anyone. This is the same for moms.
Let me throw some stats at you now.
Moms on average get 17 minutes of alone time a day. That’s it.
While there may be some men out there that struggle with getting alone time, it is clear that as moms we are so far in the hole with not getting enough alone time. (If you want to save some time, check out my favorite time saving products for moms here.)
We all know we need to take care of ourselves, but we look at it like it’s a luxury. Like a new car or a bigger house. It would be nice, but it’s not a necessity.
I’m here to tell you, it is. Failing to take care of yourself will have negative consequences for you AND your family. If you do not prioritize self-care and continue to allow yourself to be worn down by always prioritizing the needs of others over you, you will:
Be in poorer health – We know this already, right? If you don’t take care of yourself you’re more likely to be out of shape, eat bad foods, not sleep well, and the list goes on. We want to spend as much time as possible with our kids now, but if we are not taking good care of ourselves then we may not be around when they are older. Don’t we want to be in good shape when our grandkids are here to spoil?
Be a worse mom – You know when you’re doing it. When your fuse is just so short that if your kid does one more thing you’re gonna flip? Then you inevitably end up yelling at them or your spouse? If you don’t take the time to get your mind right, you’re not good for anyone. Don’t you want to maximize the quality of the time you have with your kids? I’m sure they would prefer a well rested and happy mommy vs. a mombie, right? You know what a mombie is I’m sure, we’ve all experienced. If not, give it a google and peruse the multitude of memes.
Let’s be real too. We are modeling the behavior we want our children to adopt. Do we want to teach them that it is ok to put yourself last? To always be exhausted and never take the time to enjoy life? To always be holding on by a thread?
No, of course not. We want them to learn to live life to it’s fullest, and that means sometimes you need to make your plate a little less full.
Lose your sense of self – This is a tough one. You’ve seen all the memes about #momlife. How it’s messy hair, leggings, coffee, and Target? Well, it is totally true (at least for me). But it can cause some monotony in life. All of a sudden you look up and wonder, what happened to that spunky girl who kicked ass at pool and drank I.P.A.’s like they were water?
So perhaps it’s not pool and beer for you, but I’m sure many of your priorities and habits have changed since having kids. In many ways, that’s a great thing! As a mom, I shouldn’t be out playing pool and drinking beer every night.
However, I do once in a while want to reconnect with the person that I was then. Yes, I am different now. More grown-up. More responsible, and generally an all-around better person. But there is still a piece of me that is a carefree and wild girl. Maybe instead of going out all the time I need to just pick one night of the week where my husband puts the baby to bed and I pour myself a glass of wine and listen to some classic rock on our back porch.
For each of us, this is going to be different because we are all so unique. But what are a few things that you can do to reconnect with your pre-baby self? Choose them and prioritize them.
Here’s the truth. Don’t you want your kids to know the real you? I certainly do, and if I lose touch with her completely, they never will.
So figure out YOUR WHY. What is driving you to get your alone time and why it is so important to you. If you can remember the reasons you need to learn how to put yourself first, then you will start being able to do it with more ease.
2. Don’t Fight the Mom Guilt
Feeling your feelings is key to being an emotionally mature and healthy person.
I will tell you that this is not easy and I spent a lot of time in therapy learning how to do it, but it is so important.
How often do we push our feelings down because we don’t have the time or energy to deal with them?
Yes, self-care is partially about physically resting so we can tackle the job of mom, but the most important piece is really your emotional well being.
That means that in an attempt to get alone time and put yourself first, you can’t just stomp down any guilty feelings you have for finally taking a stand for your own well being.
It is totally normal and natural for you to feel some twinges of guilt or even shame when you change things up.
This Friday, my husband and I are planning a night away from the kids, and I already feel these little pangs of guilt for leaving them with their grandmother just for one single night.
Instead of ignoring it, or just distracting myself with other obsessive thoughts, I let myself consider those feelings of guilt. I let myself just feel how it feels to accept the idea that I am guilty of something… then I just kind of let it go and think about whether those feelings are valid or if they’re based on some irrational fears.
At this point, let me take a few moments to tell you that you don’t HAVE to make big plans to leave your kids overnight, or even for long stretches of time.
This isn’t about you following some prescribed notions of what it means to put yourself first. YOU get to determine that, like we said above, this is about YOUR WHY, and what is best for you.
So if your mama bear instincts are truly telling you that you shouldn’t leave your children for some reason, then feel into that and see if it’s true.
But if you ignore your feelings that will only lead to more and more guilt and shame.
3. People can only shame you if you let them
Truth time. Some people are going to give you a hard time because you choose to figure out how to put yourself first.
It’s hard, but you have to find a way to deal with it.
There’s this misconception that in order to be a good mom, your kids need to be your #1 priority every single second of your life, and if it’s not then you’re a terrible person.
The truth is that in order to be a good mom, you need to put yourself first. You need to do your best to rest up to be 100%.
The people who will judge you for taking care of yourself are people who just don’t understand that. So don’t let them get under your skin. Feel pity for them because in terms of parenting they either don’t have kids and don’t get it, or they just haven’t learned this fact yet and are miserable.
And here’s the thing… if you are sure of your own worth and value, then no one else’s opinion matters all that much. Perhaps your partners, a few close friends, and family members might be go-to people whose opinion you value, but for the most part, who the hell cares what Karen from the kids’ soccer team thinks about you?
You know what else? Although mom-shaming is totally a thing, many times we are preemptively shaming ourselves. Like we make up these stories in our heads about what other moms will say about us and then play that story on repeat until we metaphorically beat the fight out of ourselves.
So stop that.
It’s just like that Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Well, no one can shame you without your consent, even yourself.
Next time you catch yourself in one of those shame loops. Just stop. Once you start noticing it, you can pull yourself out pretty easily.
It isn’t our nature as moms to put yourself first, but it CAN be done. The most resistance will be from yourself and learning how to put yourself first might not come easily, but you can do it mama!
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