Oprah said it best, "Motherhood is the toughest job in the world." It is also the most rewarding. Each day as I run through my Mommy To-Do list I am reminded of why taking time for myself is necessary. After drop off, a full day of work with deadlines that never end, pick up, dinner, baths, story times and more work to finish that I could not finish in my work day, I am too tired to do anything for me -- other than put on my pj's and go to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be the same as today.
I decided a few years back that taking care of myself was just as important as taking care of everyone else. In fact, I proactively searched for ways to blend self-care into my life. I decided that I did not want to work out at 9:30 p.m. because by then, I am too exhausted from my day. I also made the decision that I wanted to read stories to my children with out thinking about tomorrow's to-do list because I am still so wound-up from today's to-do list. I wanted to be present.
I'm not judging moms that can do it all with little-to-no downtime. They are my heroes! I'm just not built that way. I did not acquire the selfless motherhood gene. I think my mom got it but failed to pass it onto me. Instead, I informed my husband, children, friends and family (anyone that pretended to listen) that I was changing my life (and by default theirs). I didn't have it all figured out in the beginning. I didn't know what type of self-care I really needed. I had to learn what boundary-setting meant and all of the rules of engagement when applying boundaries to people who prefer things to be as they were. I had to discover my voice and learn to value hearing myself think.
In the beginning, my husband supported me with gifts to the day spa and weekly consistent "Me Time." The consistent time alone allowed me to plan opportunities to include my self-care in the family schedule. (Yes, my self-care was on the same schedule with soccer.) What I discovered was that I became consistent at honoring me, my interests, completing the books that I wanted to read, getting my exercise in and learning so much more about the "Me" in Mommy. My family was the direct benefactor of me taking time to reflex, refuel and renew consistently.
I know that some people who read this article might think -- this sounds selfish. What about your family, you might ask? What about their needs? What about quality time with them? Well, first I have to admit that I am selfish and I have accepted this choice because it has made me the type of mother that has taught my children that balance is defined as "a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc."
Before self-care I had zero balance and I was tired, overwhelmed and exhausted most days. My family now has an opportunity to interact with a mom that is more connected, engaging, fulfilled and who has healthy outlets for stress. A survey for Mother's Day 2011 from Clinton Cards supports my feelings. Of the top 10 most-requested gifts, six of the 10 items involved self-care. Mothers are requesting a good nap, someone else to make dinner and clean up afterward, quality time with the family or significant other, and simply hearing their children write them a thoughtful note and say, "Thanks, Mom!"
So I am not alone. What this shift in my life has taught me most is that not sharing all of who I truly am is the only selfish part. Modeling self-care allows us moms to create a family culture that supports rest and reflection during a time in history when we all move and do more faster than the speed of light. I remember a few years ago when I was honored to receive the Women Helping Women Award from Soropotimist International and the person introducing me asked my children to join the podium to share a few words (to their surprise). The first thing that each of my children mentioned was that they were glad that their mom takes care of herself and isn't stressed out. They said, "She always makes time for me and really listens to me. This is why we love our mom." Their words have always stayed with me and I know that my successful self-care routine is a big part of that.