Self-care as a mom is almost a joke at this point. It seems like some luxury we will never be rich enough to afford either with enough money or time. We feel like we are always running on a deficit of either income or sleep.

But self-care isn’t about the mani/pedi’s and girls weekends we know we should do but can’t. It’s about the basics sometimes. It’s about finally taking ownership of our own well-being. Self-care as a mom is about learning to be your own mom. Self-care as a mom is about learning to mother yourself in the big and small ways.

“You’re going to need two root canals.” the dentist said.

My heart sank and my stomach tied itself in 5,000 knots.

I had never had any dental issues beyond an occasional cavity, and yet here I was at 31 needing not one, but two root canals! I knew it was coming. I had a sense something wasn’t right for a while, but it wasn’t until my daughter needed to go to the dentist that I relented and made an appointment for myself.

This was my first time at the dentist in 4 years.

Yes. Go ahead. Shake your finger at me and tell me how bad I am. I should be going twice a year. I know. If I would have been keeping up with going to the dentist, I never would have needed two root canals.

But in the throes of motherhood, this small thing just kept being pushed off and pushed off. My kids got to the appointments they needed, but me? My own health was always put on the back burner.

As I sit typing this, I am halfway through this dental work, having had one tooth done, and another one coming soon.

Beyond the obvious discomfort this caused, it’s also costing thousands of dollars that our insurance doesn’t cover, and it also made me realize something about my emotional state. To say this is an inconvenience is definitely an understatement.

A big part of the reason I didn’t go to the dentist sooner was because I just didn’t think I had enough pain. Sure there was the occasional discomfort, but I wasn’t in agony. I wasn’t in constant pain, and so I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. I minimized it. I compartmentalized it. The dentist was shocked I wasn’t in agony, but I believed it was just mind over matter. So I blocked the pain out. I didn’t believe my pain was valid or necessary, so I put it in the back of my mind and refused to feel it.

Do you do this? Whether it’s skipping dentist or doctor appointments, or maybe it’s making sure the kids are always on time for their myriad of after-school activities, but then when it comes to being on time for yourself and the things that light you up, it just doesn’t happen.

I have to admit that when it comes to doing anything for myself, I just… don’t.

And I’m not just talking about the fun stuff like mani’s and pedi’s. I’m talking about the necessary, like not waiting until the final day to make sure I have health insurance from the marketplace.

Perhaps it’s about nourishing my body with healthy food. Some days I look at the clock and realize it’s 3pm and all I’ve ingested so far is black coffee.

I have totally suck at adulting when it comes to caring for myself.

But there is one aspect of life where I totally rock as an adult, and that is in motherhood.

My kids are happy, cared for, nurtured, loved, and have all their needs met.

One day it clicked.

It wasn’t enough for me to just care for my kids. It wasn’t enough to just be there for them. I needed to be there for myself too.

I needed to be my own mom.

Yeah of course I have a mom, but I’m a little past the age of having her make my dental appointments for me, or ensuring that I’m fed.

I love going home to my mom’s for a weekend and just letting her feed me, but that is the exception, not the rule. Someone needs to take on this role of mother to me the other 99% of the time, and who else will if not me?

This created a whole new framework that I have used to build a way of caring for myself, and it meant that the term “self-care” took on a different meaning. It no longer had a feeling of superfluousness or luxury, but instead turned to mean survival (not to mention thriving).

Viewing the idea of self-care through this lens of learning to mother myself, and being my own mom made it more clear what I needed to focus on. Instead of making it all about these superfluous things that I didn’t view myself as needed, I got back to the basics. 

It wasn’t about long bubble baths anymore, it was about making sure my basic care was included in my plans. 

When I called to make those doctor’s appointments for the kids, I took the extra 5 minutes to make on for myself. Instead of letting the gas tank get to E, I stopped for a top up. Instead of wearing yoga pants with holes, I decided to spend the $20 on a new pair.

 Self-care as a mom is not so far out of reach if we start to change our mindset around it. If we begin to look at this way, we start to see it as an essential piece of our lives. The essential piece that it in fact is, even if we ignore many times.

Are there weeks where we come last? Sure. But that needs to be true of our kids too. There must be times where we come first because that whole cliche of pouring from an empty cup is true. We need to take the time to fill ourselves up, and be fierce about take the time to do that. 

We can’t just mama bear the kids. We need to mama bear ourselves and our own most basic care. 

So while I am not a proponent for letting my kids cry. Go ahead, put the baby in the pack and play, let her fuss and go have that nice 5-minute shower, brush your teeth, and throw on some new clothes. The world will not end, and if you looked at yourself as if you were your own mom, if you started approaching self-care as a mom in this way, things will start to change little by little.

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