‘Motherhood in Motion’ by Naava Katz
This Valentine’s Day I’ve chosen to write a blog about self-care and self-love and how these are not selfish, but a necessity especially for mums – because you can’t give from an empty cup. You can only give love when you love yourself, when you are kind to yourself, then love will overflow to those around you. It’s also my personal belief that love should be expressed to your loved-ones every day of the year, with Valentine’s Day being one day where they can be spoilt knowing how loved they are already. So, make this Valentine’s Day all about you (especially if you're a mum)!
What prompted this blog was an incident that occurred last year and has been ruminating on my mind ever since, and because I’ve seen this recurring topic come up amongst mums in several social media accounts I am following. The recurring topic is mums questioning their self-worth, and their efforts in their every-day lives as stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) or working mums based solely on other people’s expectations of them, and specifically on what other people have said to them. People, stating (quite rudely) that our feelings of guilt about going back to work and leaving bub / kids at daycare / school or feelings of being overwhelmed and emotional at times by being stay-at-home-mums aren’t valid just because we are mums and are meant to cop it and just get on with it. Even if these ‘people’ don’t say this outright, they say it with casual statements about SAHMs being lucky to have all that ‘free-time’, making statements like ‘what have you done all day’ as if to insinuate we haven’t done anything, or what happened to me personally – which was baffling at the time, and now has settled as rude and disrespectful – that we are not doing enough, that we are not enough and that our feelings of being overwhelmed or down at times, are ‘excuses’ and we should just soldier on, put on a happy face and keep those inconvenient unhappy emotions to ourselves. This is upsetting and enraging because it assumes that we should put up with the treatment mainly women from older generations (and sadly still some women today) endured, and because it doesn’t take our feelings or mental health seriously. Mums have a hard-enough time dealing with everyday life without having unnecessary criticisms and judgments piled on top of them. This should be common sense, but sadly even today it isn’t. Rant over.
Image by the Gidget Foundation via Instagram @gidgetfoundation
What is burnout?
First, I’ll talk about burnout. If you’re a mum, you’ll probably notice when you’ve got too much on your plate and when you are trying to do ‘all the things’. When you’ve put yourself last on your to-do list for so long now, that at the end of the day you are emotionally, spiritually and physically depleted (i.e. burnt out). This makes for a not-so-happy mum, maybe a snappy (sometimes even an angry) mum, or an absent-minded, or even sad mum. Whatever effect it has on you, you won’t be acting your usual self if you’re burnt out. Although burnout can apply to anyone really, I believe it’s all the more prevalent for mums (especially new mums), with additional postnatal hormones, sleep deprivation, perinatal hormones, etc added into the mix. So, it’s best to recognise the signals of burnout and avoid it in the first place. How do you do this? With self-awareness, self-love and self-care.
What is self-care?
There’s plenty of information out there explaining what self-care is, and what it isn’t, but basically these are any activities that we do deliberately and that we enjoy doing in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Because each of us is different, self-care can mean different things to each of us. While a cup of coffee with a good book, a day at the beach, watching movies and walking in nature might be high up on my list of self-care activities, your list could look very different. I wrote an Instagram post a while back about how finding a hobby was stressing me out, because I couldn’t find a hobby that would fit in with mum-life that wasn’t over the top and dangerous to 3.5-year-old and baby (who still likes touching, eating and climbing everything). Since then, I’ve learnt having a hobby doesn’t have to be part of your self-care routine. Self-care might just mean enjoying an uninterrupted shower, a hot cup of tea, cuddling your baby all day, saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to do and setting boundaries. This artwork by Paula Kuka on Instagram @common_wild pretty much sums up self-care and how it means different things to different people.
View this post on Instagram
I don’t know why but for some reason the mere mention of self care can provoke a bit of panic in me. Maybe because some of the traditional ‘self care’ activities have the opposite effect on me (do not even get me started on day spas… “what is this strange article of clothing?... am I meant to wear it?…which is the front?… do I take my clothes off?... bra?.... where do I put my stuff?… do I shower?....do I just wait in this room or come out?…) 🌞 I made some adjustments 😉 🌞 (This post was inspired by the spectacular @emmylou_loves who recently asked her followers to describe what they do to get themselves out of a rut and got me thinking!) 🙏🙇♀️
What is self-love?
Ah... I was going to go into this before realising its quite a bit more complicated than I thought. In summary though, self-care forms part of self-love, as do self-awareness, boundary setting, surrounding yourself with people who love and support you (get rid of toxic people in your life), and being kinder on yourself (forgive yourself and learn and grow from your mistakes).
I hope this Valentine’s Day is a reminder to you to put yourself first. Do what you need to do in your life so you can be the best, happiest, most loving version of yourself for yourself, your children, for your partner. For anyone who tells you you are not enough and are not doing enough, know exactly that you ARE enough. You are not alone. Your feelings are valid.
Photo by Giulia Bertelli via Unsplash