If you think that mommy stress and burnout are the norms of motherhood, think again. Here’s how to start putting yourself first again.
BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC
As a mother, you need a form of self-care that goes beyond bubble baths and manicures.
The reality is that self-care, in its truest form, should be life-giving and help you live your best life, even in a season where you constantly give of yourself to raising little ones. Self-care isn’t supposed to be a temporary indulgence but a life-giving practice that helps you build a life you don’t have to regularly escape from.
It’s a much bigger picture than the watered-down versions we’re used to hearing about.
No matter what your journey has looked like through motherhood, mothers shared a lived experience of losing a sense of self and belonging. Our culture expects it, painting a picture of moms as the afterthought, the neglected person in the family, in society.
As a society, we have abandoned our mothers and contribute to the burn-out culture that so many women experience.
But what if we have it all backward? What if the reason motherhood feels like survival is because we are the ones who put ourselves last on the to-do lists?
When we become a mother, nobody tells us that it will become our jobs to also mother and parent ourselves because the focus has shifted to what we need to be doing for our family.
We are transformed as women the minute we are expected to set our own needs aside for the well-being of a child, and this can make us incredibly vulnerable as we grapple with the void of caring for our own needs.
That’s why we have to shift this mentality to reclaim our joy in motherhood in order to fully become the women and mothers we want to be.
As mothers who are often regularly experiencing transitions and life stressors, we need to prioritize self-care even more-so in order to be present for our loved ones and able to thrive rather than just trying to survive, one day to the next.
The reality is that mothers today are faced with multiple factors that create the perfect storm for burnout, exhaustion, and overwhelm. The struggle is real, and if you’re dealing with this, know that you’re not alone.
Research has found that parental burnout may potentially affect up to 14% of parents and can be characterized by three main factors, including:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Emotional distancing from one’s children
- A sense of incompetency in one’s parenting role.
In today’s society, it’s not uncommon for moms to be juggling multiple responsibilities in addition to being the primary caretaker of their children.
Moms are also faced with the information overload in our digital age and building their professional careers, along with an arbitrary standard of being the “perfect mom”. It’s no wonder moms today are feeling exhausted and burnt out.
These experiences often perpetuate feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hate, which can make it even more difficult to treat yourself kindly or respectfully. This starts with redefining what self-care means for you, and being able to intentionally prioritize regular routines that nurture you – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and in your relationships and community.
Here’s how you can start prioritizing self-care in a more meaningful way.
1. CHALLENGE THE MYTH OF THE ”PERFECT” MOTHER.
Guess what, mama – she doesn’t exist, and you don’t need to pressure yourself to become her. It’s absolutely okay to adjust your expectations and high standards for yourself and your kids.
Realize that by doing a good enough job in caring for your children, you are a good enough mother. Give yourself permission to let go of perfectionism, as this can be toxic to your mental health.
2. RELEASE YOURSELF FROM TOXIC PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS.
If others are taking advantage of you or draining your mental energy, you deserve to change this! This might mean letting go of unhealthy relationships, learning to set healthy boundaries for yourself or saying no to people or things that are draining and not life-giving
3. NORMALIZING AND VALIDATING THE MANY FACES OF MOTHERHOOD.
When you’re scrolling social media and see highlight reels of everyone’s life, remind yourself that motherhood encompasses a variety of experiences. You’re not failing if you’re not enjoying every aspect of motherhood – we’re not supposed to!
Give yourself a social media break and take an honest assessment of the accounts you follow. Unfollowing accounts that make you feel less about yourself and avoiding comparison traps can be excellent forms of self-care.
4. SPEAK WORDS OF KINDNESS TO YOURSELF.
If you were to live broadcast your inner monologue, how would that make you feel? Do you have an inner critic that barrages you throughout the day?
Learning to speak to yourself with kindness and respect (even when you don’t believe the words you’re saying) is a self-care idea that can elevate your mental health. What words or phrases could be life-giving to you; no need to beat yourself up in your head all day long with your inner monologue. Approach yourself from a place of self-compassion.
5. RELEASE FEELINGS OF GUILT AND SHAME.
As moms, it’s all too common to carry overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and this can wreak havoc on your mental health.
Many times, these feelings of guilt or shame stem from unreasonable expectations or experiences that make us feel unworthy or isolated. Remember that you are enough and worthy as you are.
6. GET PROFESSIONAL HELP WHEN NEEDED.
It’s absolutely okay to ask for help when we need it, especially to process and heal from the many transitions we go through as moms.
Spending some time with a maternal mental health professional or support group can be an incredible step of courage and self-care.
Most importantly, it’s important to start with the understanding that self-care is not selfish.
Rather, it is an essential part of your well-being. Being a mother involves constant caretaking and outpouring of love. Mothering requires you to nurture others with your body, mind, and energy, which is why you need time to replenish and nourish yourself.
Even with the obstacles we face as mothers, on a cultural, societal, and community level, you can still provide yourself the same quality of care and attention you choose to give everyone else. Treating ourselves from a place of empathy and self-compassion means that we can create space to do the same for our kids.
And in order to love our children well, we need to love ourselves well.
Adapted from the original post.
HEADER IMAGE: JACOB LUND
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, & mama of 5. With a virtual nutrition practice, Crystal helps overwhelmed mamas nurture a peaceful relationship with food & their bodies, end the battles at the dinner table and transform their kitchens to a place of peace & joy. Learn more at Crystal Karges Nutrition.