Mothers are most often expected to sacrifice for the well-being of their children, spouses, other family members, and even the larger community.
Think about this in your own life. How many times can you recall neglecting to hang out with girlfriends, or get that massage you saved up for, or spend that gift card you got last Christmas (on yourself, not the kids)?
It happens all the time. And it becomes an invisible badge of honor for many of us. It’s the dangerous idea that, “I’m a mom so I’m supposed to be tired, hungry, busy and overwhelmed, right?” WRONG!
Though it may be common, it is not normal to live in a constant state of lack. Lacking sleep, lacking peace, lacking alone time, lacking adult time, lacking fulfillment outside of your family, lacking freedom, lacking the nurturing you require to be all of the things you were before you became a mother. That is no way to live.
We’ve all heard the popular saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup, but I say you shouldn’t even pour from a full cup. Our cups should be overflowing. That way, our needs are still being met while we’re caring for others.
Consider this picture in your mind. Envision a large pitcher full of all the goodness in the world…all the things that fill you up. Time with friends, date nights, cuddles with your babies, hearty meals, joyful movement, long phone calls with loved ones, being in nature, watching your favorite TV shows, prayer and meditation…and whatever else recharges you. Now imagine pouring from that pitcher into a large glass and imagine that large glass is you.
Then, imagine pouring from that large glass into 3 small glasses. These small glasses represent your family, your career, your community and anything or anyone else you are responsible for taking care of. Once you pour from yourself to fill the small glasses, you run out and you end up completely empty. This is how I think most moms approach self-care. We go get a quick fill up (a monthly pedicure, a yearly girls trip, an occasional meal alone) and then we rush back to pour into everyone and before we know it, we’re empty again. At some point our lives just become constantly running back and forth until one day, we run ourselves into the ground.
This type of self-care is not sustainable or healthy. I don’t buy into the idea that mothers need to always sacrifice their happiness and well-being for their children, families, careers or community.
Now envision that same pitcher (your sources), large glass (you) and three small glasses (your responsibilities). But this time, think about alignment and priorities. Arrange the three small glasses close together in a triangle arrangement. Then, place your large glass on top of those three small glasses, dead in the center. Now, grab that pitcher and begin to pour directly into the large glass. And notice as the large glass fills, what happens to the small glasses beneath it?
They end up full as well, don’t they? Why? Because the large glass is so full that it can’t help but overflow into the small glasses.
That’s how I want to do self-care. I want to never be depleted or empty. By default, those people and situations I am responsible for will never be empty either. It’s a win-win.
What does true self-care look like in real life?
For some of us, it might mean you’re getting enough sleep consistently so you have the energy you need to play with your kids. It might also look like taking quarterly girls’ trips so you can miss your babies and enjoy their company more when you return home. It might also mean getting regular massages or committing to a daily stretching routine so that you’re not achy and sore every time you move or feel cranky when it’s time to engage with your partner. It could even be adopting a prayer and meditation practice so that you have more calmness and Zen in your life when you’re managing conflicts or roadblocks at home or work.
There are so many ways that sustainable, consistent, self-care can improve your life and the lives of those around you. Often the centerpiece of our families and communities, mothers and women set the tone for their environment. How we approach scenarios can be the difference between a stressful, overwhelming train wreck and a seamlessly successful triumph.
Life is going to throw so many curveballs our way, so why not control the controllable and set ourselves up for maximum enjoyment? I’m grateful for every martyr who has gone before me, especially those that were women, mothers and Black Americans. They paved the way so that I have many more choices and options than what they were afforded. And in paying homage to them, and honoring and respecting myself, I’m going to step down off the pedestal and give up my ‘martyr’ title. I don’t need it anymore. I most certainly don’t deserve it and I hope you feel the same way about yourself.
This is your reminder to take GREAT care of yourself, Mama. You absolutely deserve it. And if you need help identifying simple, sustainable, options for daily self-care, refer to the list below to get you started.
▪ Go on a walk
▪ Get a pedicure
▪ Sleep in late
▪ Do some gardening
▪ Call an old friend
▪ Take yourself to brunch
▪ Meet up with friends
▪ Take warm bath
▪ Get a massage
▪ Do some deep stretching
▪ Read or listen to a book
▪ Play hooky from work
▪ Lay out on the beach
▪ Have a cocktail
▪ Go window shopping
▪ Make a virtual vision board
▪ Take a solo staycation
▪ Give yourself a pedicure
▪ Take a nap
▪ Do some gardening
▪ Do some deep breathing
▪ Resume an old hobby
▪ Call a close family member
▪ Make yourself some brunch
▪ Have your favorite dessert
▪ Take a hot shower
▪ Give yourself a hand or foot massage
▪ Listen to a podcast
▪ Organize a space in your home or car
▪ Take a day off work
▪ Lay out in the sun
▪ Have a glass of wine or a mocktail
▪ Schedule a therapy session
▪ People or bird watch
▪ Learn a new skill (YouTube University)
▪ Organize your debts/bills & pay them
▪ Clean out a closet
▪ Unsubscribe from emails
▪ Exercise – dance, air boxing, etc.
▪ Start a new series on TV
▪ Try Yoga
▪ Plan your week
▪ Get yourself flowers from the grocery store
▪ Say NO to something you don’t want or don’t have time to do
▪ Send kind texts to your favorite people
The bottom line: GIVE YOURSELF SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO EVERY SINGLE DAY. By creating a lifestyle and routine of daily, sustainable self-care, you will be taking excellent care of yourself and all those you love.
Dr. Lisa N. Folden is a licensed physical therapist and mom-focused lifestyle coach. As a movement expert and women’s health advocate, Dr. Lisa works to help busy moms find their ‘healthy.’ The owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Folden works with clients recovering from orthopedic and neurological injuries. Additionally, she assists busy moms seeking a healthier lifestyle by guiding their food, exercise and wellness choices through optimal organization, planning strategies and holistic goal setting.
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