Mother, Nurture Thyself

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OH.MY.GOSH!  How many times can you say my name?!  NO, please don’t actually show me how many.

I bet this only happens in my house.

This past weekend I got a much needed break.  From breastfeeding Smunchie to being on Facebook, everything was starting to get on my nerves.  I startled Squiggle Bug by snapping at her when she asked me for an apple while I was going to the bathroom instead of simply asking her to wait until I was done.  I picked fights with The Piano Man and overreacted to Lolie’s frustration about finding shoes, bickered with Earth Baby and screamed into a pillow in my room after a particularly maddening exchange with The Storyteller.  I yelled at the computer.  I sneered at a commercial.  Everything I wrote was terrible, provided I could write anything at all and that just made me even more of a grouch.  When I start getting twitchy, edgy, impatient and in general all-around grumpy it is a tell-tale sign that I need a break.  But I hate to admit it.  I hate it because it sounds like I don’t like my kids or my work.

Those things couldn’t be further from the truth, I love my kids, I love my work yet sometimes I can’t stand them any more and, if I’m honest, I want to get away from them.  Mommy-guilt rears her ugly head then and whispers “what kind of mother wants to get away from her children?”

This kind, I guess.

It is true that upon entering into motherhood we know we will have to make sacrifices and for the most part they are ones we make gladly, our children clearly worth whatever we may have to give up.   If need be we would lay down our very lives for our children.  But there is really nothing else in life where we would expect anyone to work without breaks 24/7.  We recognize the importance of  down time, time to pursue creative outlets outside of the stress and demands of work, time away from the people we work with or for and time to rejuvenate ourselves for all recognized careers.  We even acknowledge the need for couples to have time apart, space from each other and for siblings to pursue their own interests apart from their brothers and sisters.  These needs don’t go away when we have children and become “mommy.”

Most mothers, those that work outside of the home or otherwise, would never neglect their children, not knowingly.  They work hard to ensure their children are safe and well cared for, that they have opportunity and beauty in their lives, that they get the rest they need, the chance for creativity, and a wide variety of stimulation.  These mothers work tirelessly to nourish the interests of their children, finding and creating healthy and tasty meals, safe and comfortable ways for their children to rest, and to nurture every aspect of the unique individuality of their offspring.  With research and careful consideration they reach the conclusions as to what is best for their family and their children taking into account individual as well as community needs in the family.  Often times everyone’s needs are weighed except one: mom.  She ensures all this for her children but often neglects it for herself.

Whatever style of parenting one practices whether it be attachment parenting or more mainstream styles of parenting, everyone needs breaks.  We’re wired that way, to need different stimulation for the health of our brain, to need different activities for our physical health, to need different interactions for our social health, to need rest for our all over health.  Yet somehow a mother neglecting these things for herself is completely normal and accepted.  Worse, often times it is expected.  The truth is though that this isn’t healthy.  Relationships, creativity, physical health and general happiness is greatly hampered if we don’t take care of ourselves.

I know some of you though, it’s not enough to hear that you need it, that you will be healthier if you do find time for yourself.  You need a bigger motivation to even really consider the idea.  So fine, let me explain it another way.

Our children need us to take care of ourselves.  In different amounts and levels, our children notice what we do and they copy us.  The Piano Man and I have discovered that to have polite children that say “please” and “thank you” without being prompted all we had to do was simply be polite with him.  We’ve also discovered that asking them to clear their plate from the table isn’t nearly as effective as us clearing our own plate, inspiring them to do the same.  Children copy their parents!  One of the most important parenting tools we have is modeling behavior and activities we want our children to emulate and none of us want children that grow into adults that have difficulty respecting their own needs for rest and boundaries.  None of us want our children to grow into adults that neglect themselves.  None of us want children that grow up to be adults that they are too burned out from giving to others that they have forgotten who they are.  For all the nurturing mothers expect of themselves to do for others, that others expect for mothers to freely bestow upon others, mothers tend to be terrible at nurturing themselves.  Taking time daily, weekly and monthly to nourish your own needs is important not only for our health but for our children’s as well.  When we take care of ourselves our children get to learn from our modeling and they get to have a mom that is refreshed and well cared for to care for them.

But there’s never time, right?  Or you can’t leave them?  Or they won’t let you leave?  And what about those babies that only take mommy’s milk and only straight from the tap?  I know, trust me, I’ve been there.  While I would never, ever breastfeed my baby in a public bathroom because I was banished there by someone uncomfortable with me feeding my baby in public, there have been plenty of times where I have done the one handed thing to go to the bathroom in my own home with a baby on the boob just so I could finally pee!  When I can’t even get to pee by myself how in the world am I going to find time to nurture myself?  Some days my big goal is to just pee by myself and my impossible dream would be to get a shower without someone wailing just after my naked self slipped behind the shower curtain and got my hair wet.  I really hate that “I-almost-showered-but-just-got-wet-so-now-I’m-even-more-itchy” feeling.

So I know it’s difficult, practically impossible sometimes.  But there are ways, little and big that moms can find to nurture themselves.  They need to too.  Carving out time and letting someone else help can be a vital piece of your family’s over-all health both long and short term.  You’d might be surprised how well your child does without you, something that may sting a little.  You may also be surprised how just a little time can go a really, really long way.  I’ll offer some ideas in another post soon but I’m sure you can take a step back and see where there already may be some room to build a little margin into your life and if there really isn’t then you may need to take a hard look at what needs to change and develop a strategy to do so.

This past weekend, over a span of 3 days, included time for me out of the house to write, The Piano Man staying home with the girls, a work/social gathering over wine and cheese with some friends, a quiet day at home working on a new project with The Piano Man (more on that soon!), 2 sitters for us to have a 5 hour date night out (see pic above, I snapped a shot in the ladies bathroom because I’m classy like that), sleeping in, dinner with some friends and I feel refreshed and energized.  Usually it doesn’t even need to be this much, this extreme.  I didn’t go out of town or anything like that but I did build some margin in my life and took care of me and my marriage.  From there we’re in a better place to take care of our children and you know what?  They can tell.  I am more patient and creative in relating with my girls, my irritability has melted away and I’m able to write again.  The Piano Man is looking mighty fine to me and I’ve lost the chip on my shoulder.  Fighting and whining have decreased amongst the girls, creativity has bloomed, conversations have flowed, helpfulness has grown, singing and dancing has increased and independent and community play has taken center stage.  Nurturing myself has done a lot for all of us.

It’s not easy and it is possible you may have to get very creative but speaking from someone that has been there, it is worth the effort to figure it out.  Neglect yourself and you end up neglecting your family.  I know for a fact that I am a better, more balanced and healthy person when I do.  Which means, I’m a more balanced and healthy mother when I do.  And that is definitely good for my kids.

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How do you find time to nurture yourself?  Whether it’s a 5 minute reprieve or a chunk of time away from the house, having time for ourself can make a huge difference.  What are your tips and ideas?  How do you enjoy those moments?

For more ideas on how you can find some ways to nurture yourself, see this post with 22 ideas to take care of you.

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Comments

  1. good peice, and i am glad you got a nice break. Alas it is not always possible to get a break or get any time off, some days the alone-shower sounds like a vaction on an island.

  2. I KNOW this sounds whiny, but I can’t help it. 🙁 I agree with everything you’ve said but I still can’t manage to get enough “me” time and alone time with DH is just LAUGHABLE. We had a “date night” last February when my mother came to babysit, which was a fiasco, and the time before that was long enough ago that I can’t even remember when it was.

    I’ve got four kids who are old enough to be without me for an evening without a problem, but I don’t have anybody to watch them!!! I have several friends who say they’d love to help me, but when I ask, they’re always busy.

    My mother’s more than happy to come, but she’s not very patient and doesn’t really remember the basics… f.e. she got angry that my kids were still awake and hyper when she “tried to put them to bed” in a room with the television *and* lights still on. Stuff like that. I could go on and on…

    My inlaws are always willing to watch *a* child, but I’ve got four, so that doesn’t do me much good. Not to mention that they live an hour away.

    I suppose that if I was brave and had money I could go to a babysitting service kind of place but I’m too broke and too wary of strangers to go that route.

    If I was desperate, I could call in favors, arrange a sleepover for #2, send #1 to the friend with four kids including 1 severely autistic teenager, then send the little ones to the inlaws or a perpetually busy friend, but it would be calling in a LOT of favors and had better be an emergency. KWIM?

    So our idea of a “date” these days is the quick run to the grocery store while the 12 year old watches the younger two for us. She’s old enough and responsible enough to care for them for an hour, but I wouldn’t count on them behaving well for much longer than that. Tell me it gets better, please? LOL

    • Bubamara says:

      While I agree completely with the article and sentiment. It’s just not reality for many of us.
      Sandra, you have my heart. I am like you. I have NEVER had any time away from the children. My husband works 12-18 hours a day EVERY DAY. Our families are far away (5 hours for mine and overseas for his). I am basically a single mother all day and night with 4, 2, and 1 year old boys.
      A friend recently complained that she’d had so few nights away from her child that she could count them on one hand. I have never had an evening much less a whole night.
      Another friend has a husband who bathes and puts the child to bed every night, and takes the child away completely for a FULL DAY every few weeks. She constantly complains about him!!! I told her she should be on her knees showing him in the most direct way how wonderful he is 😉
      No answers, but you certainly have my sympathy because I’m here with you. We do our best and know that there are women worse off than us too.

      • I am a single mom with three kids, ages 4, 3 and 10 months.

        My family all live states away.

        I have one (1) local friend that I trust to watch my kids – who is happy to help sometimes but often has her own stuff going on and I don’t feel like it’s right for me to impose my two on her.

        I appreciate what breaks I get but I am constantly wanting more than I can have in that respect.

      • Seriously? I should be getting on my knees if my man helps out with baths and take OUR kid out once every few weeks? Is that the mentality women still have these days?

        I agree with the premise of the article but I really feel that it’s pretty idealistic for either stay-at-home moms or working moms. Even if we had 36 hour days, it still wouldn’t be enough time to make time for ourselves because the kids and home life would still fill up that time somehow.

  3. Thank you so much for this. I need to print it out and read it often.
    Hope you are having a great day!

  4. THANK YOU for this post! It is so timely for me & a great reminder that I am not alone in my mommy-life. DH & I are trying to figure out how to make “me” time work (and date time too) with him working two jobs. I agree that there are days when my idea of heaven is a shower that lasts long enough for me to shave my legs. Even when I can get a shower in during the day my toddler ends up in there with me because she LOVES showers. I’m looking forward to your next installment with ideas for getting some much needed me-time.

  5. All of us mom’s need to nurture ourselves a little bit more! So true. I get away two times a week and go to ballet. It’s such a great feeling, and its all I think about while I am there. My worries, anxieties, stress are all replaced with dancing.

  6. A brilliant post and I read it feeling like I could have written that first bit. I am EXHAUSTED… I need some time but I can’t see it happening anytime soon. I’m the main earner in the house, and I feel like the responsibility for us all to keep going is on me. Thanks for the post, think I need to give it some thought else I’m going to go mad!

  7. What a brilliant post. I need to come back to this post every time I feel frustrated.

    Just today I snapped at my 5 month old baby jut because she has not been sleeping well and my husband and I have not been able to get enough sleep. She was also being so clingy and didn’t want to be alone the whole day. When I tweeted “the devil child has gone to bed” I got at least 5 friends telling me that I am such a harsh mom for calling her that. But I was angry and frustrated at the moment and needed to let it out.

    You are right that we mothers and fathers do need time out and nurture ourselves and get out once in a while. Thank you for making me not feel so bad for wanting to get away from my daughter once in awhile.

    I am hoping to do a post on this soon on my blog.

  8. What a great post, I couldn’t agree more and yet it is so difficult. Rationally I know that everything you say is true, yet somehow there is always something that needs to be done before I can stop and take time out and somehow that elusive me time disappears… To try and combat this, my mum and I are building a community project at http://www.Storyofmum.com to inspire us and other mums to take a few moments to explore our own creativity and identity through making time to do and share a different creative activity each month, alongside other stretched mums and grandmums around the world. It’s only a germ of an idea so far but it’s working for me moment by moment. So far, I’ve taken photos, added to a shared poem, told a story, even (the most terrifying so far) recorded the lullaby I sing to my toddler. Would that help anyone else out there? Thanks for this inspiring post and maybe see you at Storyofmum some time if you need a shared excuse to make that precious time for yourself.

  9. Janeen says:

    This sounds bad but I have told my husband more than once that I actually hate being a wife and a mother. NEVER in my life have I felt as much of a failure as I do now. And NEVER have I felt SO alone. If I had known how it was going to be, how I would basically have nearly all of my own needs neglected, how my husband would rag on me for even THINKING of going off for a few hours by myself (back when my older daughter was a baby, he would accuse me of ABANDONING them when I needed to go out for a few hours without her and I eventually ended up with severe post partum depression), I would never had had children. And even now I’m torn between the feelings of obligation to take care of my children (especially my youngest whom I’m still breastfeeding) to just running away and actually being able to live a life of my own with the ability to make my own decisions and do what I want (I’ll admit, doesn’t help that I live with a man who follows a very strict religion and gets worse about it whenever a child is born into our family). I know I am SO burned out and my needs are SO constantly neglected (forget lack of date nights, my husband and I don’t even sleep together in the same bed!). My house is trashed, almost nothing gets done around here because most of the time the only way to get a little 9 month old girl to sleep is by lying down with her and nursing her which usually causes me to fall asleep too. At times, I really can’t help but think I was not at all cut out for the parenting thing and I really wish I had known that BEFORE I had kids. I try, I really do try but find myself failing all too often. *sigh*

    • Janeen- You’re not alone. I don’t have a solution or words of wisdom for you, but recently I have found myself thinking that I’m tired of being a mom, and feeling trapped in that role-I have 4 kids and it’s like my whole identity sometimes. I don’t want to feel like I don’t want to be a mom anymore, but I too often do. I’m on anti-depressants, and am doing all I can to get through without screwing up my kids too much, and some days are good (now that my youngest is 4, it’s gotten easier.) But I just wanted to tell you that you aren’t the only one who feels like that. If you’re not being treated for depression I strongly encourage you to seek a psychiatrist who can prescribe some meds to help. It doesn’t make it all better, but it helps. I send a prayer your way, and hope that knowing you’re not alone helps, at least a little.

      • Janeen says:

        I have actually been on a number of antidepressants (and have been hospitalized four times between the ages of 15 and 24) and have had no luck. Some have made me feel worse (two of my hospitalizations were while I was on Zoloft so NEVER again). Some have caused issues with my daughter while I was on them (Paxil caused my oldest to start spitting up and Effexor caused her to start screaming out of the blue for no reason in the evening around 2 years of age). I gave up on them years ago because I’ve had so many problems. If I honestly thought they would work and didn’t cause issues for me or a nursing child while I was on them, I’d go in and get them in a heartbeat. But I struggle along simply because they have caused more problems than not (more than likely because I was put on them at an early age).

        I think the hardest thing right now is that this year has been a year of losses for me. I’ve only been back from South Korea a year now but in that time, I lost a friend who decided to not have much to do with me when her relationship with my nephew ended, my older sister moved to another state, a very dear family friend of ours passed away and he was basically the ONE “grandparent” my girls even knew (not to mention, I’m still struggling with the fact that I can’t call him up and talk to him anymore like I used to), and another friend is moving away and this was the one friend I actually did spend time with. So it hasn’t been easy and with no where to go and no one to talk to really when I’m feeling burned out (which lately has been all the time), it’s been a struggle. And my husband changed his hours at work making it even more difficult for me to get out and do things on my own.

  10. Kimberlee says:

    Sandra and I seem to live the same life! I too have 4 kids, ages 21 months to 13 years. Time alone is a dream, and IF the pieces fall together (which is a rarity) and DH and I have ‘us’ time, it’s a Godsend. I was going on 5 years of 24/7/365 with no sitter, day in/day out and I had crossed the line of insanity. DH won the title of Richmond’s Master Chef after a day-long cooking competition. His win over 300 other contestants sent us to Denver for 5 days, all expense paid this past December. After 5 years of constant ‘mommy mommy mommy’ and ‘don’t do this/that’ it was the ultimate break both my body and mind desperately needed. Had he not entered that competition and showed off his amazing chef skills, I would still be going crazy to this very day. It’s not easy being a SAHM and as you pointed out, we often need a reminder to take care of ourselves. Although this coveted ‘me’ time is few and far between, when it does happen it’s amazing! I only pray it’s not another 5 years before my next ‘me’ time comes.

    • Kimberlee, I know how hard it is. My 5 girls are between 16 months and 12 years and it can be really hard to find time for me. However, I find it crucial that I do so every week. Please don’t wait for the stars to aline for you to have that time, it takes intentional effort and involving others. If you don’t make it a priority, they won’t either. Ask for help and model healthy balance for your children, you will be so glad you did and they will be so glad you did.

      My mom was never good about this and it was unhealthy for her, for her children, for her marriage and eventually for her mental health. All my life I’ve struggled with boundaries and respecting my own needs and I’m certain it is in part because I never saw that modeled. Some of the regrets I have in life are directly related to this. So I’m working hard to break that pattern not only for myself but for my children.

      Hope you get some “you” time soon!

  11. I always thought I would be a SAHM and love the shit out of it. Until I had kids, and now I often feel like I’m not even cut out to be a mom. When I take time away I don’t really feel better when I’m back, it just all overwhelms me again so quick. I don’t know what my point is here, just that I think it’s OK to be frustrated at being a mom, I suppose, and knowing we’re not alone.

    • Janeen says:

      I hear you. I wonder if a big part of it is the isolation? I know that is what gets to me. Sometimes I think my husband and I should switch and he should be the stay at home dad. He seems to get SO much more out of spending time with our kids than I do (sadly, often times he seems to want to spend more time with our five year old than he does me). I just feel my energy drain away faster than a battery on a computer laptop when I’m with them but he actually seems to become more energized (so long as he doesn’t lie down, then he’s out cold). I seem to get my energy boost being around one adult person at a time and having one on one with that person whether it’s going out to eat, hitting local rummage sales, or just vegging out in front of the TV.

  12. Janeen: From what you wrote I think you’re dealing with lack of support, not lack of ability. If your husband tears you down instead of building you up, maybe you need to have a serious conversation about WHY you’re having such a hard time, and what he can do to help. Things that come easily to one person may not come easily to another, but the fact that you’re still there sticking it out shows that you care and you love your family. Obviously I don’t know your family dynamic but it sounds like your husband thinks parenting is a one person job – and it absolutely isn’t. Maybe if you remind him that it takes a village to raise a child he’ll be more accepting and understanding of your needs – after all, he gets time away to recharge. You deserve it, too.

    • Thanks. Unfortunately, his idea of “a village” is people within his church or those who believe EXACTLY what he believes. Because of that, we barely ever get out as a couple because he trusts almost no one to watch his kids. And he’s perfectly okay with that (partly because his personality is such that he gets a lot from being around kids) but I’m not. And our marriage is suffering massively because of it. But that’s only MY perspective; he sees no problem with the way things are and sadly, I think it will take me being hospitalized and him having to scramble around trying to find someone to take care of the kids before he really gets it though I’m sure even then he’ll use the fact that I’m not going to church with him as the reason. If I had God in my life, I wouldn’t have all these problems.

      And that’s the thing. I constantly try to tell him how I’m feeling, how burned out and stressed out I am and he simply does not get it. He thinks it’s all due to my attitude and the fact that I don’t go to church or read a Bible.

      • Of course counseling first if he’d go for it – but Maybe you need to get out… When the relationship starts making you feel completely oppressed, it’s not working and SOMETHING has to change.

        I know you/you know me, it’s Silly Jessi from CM and I sent you a request on FB.

  13. To get a few minutes sometimes I put my baby girl in her walker and have my son watch a program or let him play outside and I will stop and read a bit or drink some tea…..a hot bath and some TV is always nice after they are both sleeping 🙂

  14. THANK YOU for reminding us of this because it is so very true. No matter what your situation is any way you can find to take care of yourself and make sure YOU are happy will only make your children and family happy. Again thank you for this piece because it is often forgotten by myself and it’s things like this that give me the moment to remember to take care of myself.

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