Put moms together and within minutes someone will start talking about how they are sleep-deprived, crazy busy, stressed, or feel guilty they left the kids with a sitter so they could go get a simple manicure. You get the idea. You have been there, done that!
As moms, we sacrifice and sign our children up for tons of activities, spend money, and lose sleep in pursuit of doing “what is best for the kids.” But are we really? Could it be that what the kids really need is a less stressed and more present parent with whom they have a deeper connection?
As a working mom myself, I needed answers so I turned to best selling author, speaker and spiritual psychologist Suzi Lula.
I asked her, “Why don’t the majority of moms take time for themselves and why do we feel guilty if we do?”
Suzi responded by saying the issue starts as we are growing up, as most of us were trained to take care of others before ourselves. We often derive our value from that fact. We were not taught to put our needs into the equation, so years later when you add a child and their constant needs, it becomes virtually impossible for a mom to give herself permission to take care of herself. Also, moms tend to get acknowledgment for the struggles (“We are really going through it with these Terrible Twos or I got no sleep last night.”)
We can all fall into the trap of bonding over the martyrdom of motherhood.
Changing those habits begins in the mind, when we first ask, “Could the person really being hurt by the martyrdom be my child? Could it really be selfish to take care of myself? Could it actually be the best gift I could give my children?”
Suzi realized there was a problem when her son (now a teenager) was three years old, and said to her during a moment where she had ‘that’ tone in her voice and was acting in a harsh way, “Mommy, your face looks so funny when it’s all scrunched up like that!” At that point, she realized something needed to change. Self-care became non-negotiable. As she started to acknowledge that her needs counted, too, and became more compassionate with herself, the power struggles with her son started to lessen and their connection deepened.
“The tasks of motherhood will not change, but the me that I bring to those tasks changes significantly and dramatically depending on whether I am taking care of myself or not.”
So what exactly is self-care? According to Suzi, it is the practice of nourishing or nurturing ourselves on our emotional, spiritual and physical levels. It is the taking care of the self that awakens joy. Does that mean going to a yoga retreat or spending all day at a spa? Sure, it could be that, but most of us aren’t able to make that happen easily! The most important thing—whatever we decide to do—is to make sure that self-care doesn’t feel like just another item on our to-do list. Here are 3 ideas from Suzi that even the busiest, most-stressed out mom can incorporate into her life:
ASK THE QUESTION
Really get in the habit of asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” Most moms will say, “I have no idea,” and that is fine because we are not asking to get an actual answer. We ask because it is a dignifying question that says, “I matter.” When you start to ask the question and affirm that your needs matter, your inner wisdom (that famous mother’s intuition) wakes up. For many of us, that intuition has gone to sleep because we look outside ourselves for answers too often.
TAKE A RISK
Have the courage and take the risk to ask for assistance, as in “Could you watch my son while I run some errands?” Asking a partner or friend or family member for help is NOT an act of weakness. You are not expected to do it all! Plus, people love to help!
Take what Suzi calls “tiny baby breadcrumb steps” in the direction of self-care. Light a candle in the evening as you transition into the bedtime routine to help change the environment. If you can’t get to the gym, take a walk around the block. Bring in fresh flowers or even one little flower, and let it breathe some life into you. Place an affirmation on a sticky note and place it on your mirror.
When you take on learning to be kind to yourself, it will change your life. Suzi offers a 21-Day Kindness Challenge that you can check out, along with an online class called Learning The Language Of Self-Compassion. Sign up for her newsletter at Suzi Lula you’ll receive an audio download or pdf of Chapter One of her book, THE MOTHERHOOD EVOLUTION.
Lara Scott is a contributor to Be Kind And Co. She can be heard on the radio in Los Angeles every weekday on K-EARTH 101, and is also on the MOMtourage, West of Broadway, and Classic Movie Recall podcasts. When she is not working, she can be found chasing her two young children around at the beach or playground. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @radiolara!