Taking Care of Ourselves

by Dionna on April 6, 2010

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park benchMany parents (myself included) are under the impression that the moment we are born into the world of parenting, our own needs and desires become secondary. That is true to an extent: parents do not make up the bulk of the nightlife scene, we often have to yield the bathroom to littler bodies, and we have less time to leisurely read the newspaper or go backpacking when children are around.

But sharing our time and space with children does not mean that we have been forced into a life of martyrdom. We have our own needs, and we need to take care of ourselves in order to parent effectively. I recently wrote a guest post on dealing with mama guilt; the first suggestion in that article was to take care of yourself.

Mothers who are stretched too thin – who run from work to their kids’ activities, who volunteer and organize, who cook and clean – without also doing something to make themselves happy, are apt to burn out. There are several reasons this is not ideal, not the least of which is that a burnt out mama is not functioning at her best.

Nor is a completely selfless mother the best role model. She is passively teaching her children that her needs are not important. Consequently, her children will not consider her thoughts and feelings either. She is also influencing her children’s future relationships. Her child may learn to always bow to the will of others, or he may never stop to think about the feelings and needs of his friends and family. Neither is a desirable outcome.

Take Care of Number One

Here are a few things I have tried to do lately to take care of myself:

  • Leaving the house for an hour or two: This gives my husband and son the chance to play uninterrupted. I can run an errand or surf the Internet alone, and my son learns that papa takes care of him just as well as mama does.
  • Stashing a special treat away: Not only does sneaking a treat give me a little chocolate “ahhhh” moment, but it has the added benefit of detracting from any potential mama guilt for letting my son eat too much sugar.
  • Indulging my vanity: I used to care what I looked like when I left the house; not so much anymore. I’m lucky if my clothes match, and I rarely do anything beyond washing my hair. But once or twice a year I have someone cut my hair. And once in awhile I color my hair from a box (I used to pay someone to do that, but I’ve discovered that’s not necessary at this point in my life). And I insist on my favorite shampoo (one big reason I’ve been hesitant to go no ‘poo).

What do you do to take care of yourself, and how often do you consciously do so?

What effects can you feel if you neglect your own needs?

Photo credit: costi

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Dionna (20 Posts)

Dionna writes at Code Name: Mama, where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler/preschooler.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

sara April 6, 2010 at 7:32 am

I make the time to do the things I love: scrapbook, read, GNO’s, and date nights w/my hubby. I used to feel so guilty for taking some “me” time and it was only when I read, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal by Renee Trudeau (www.reneetrudeau.com) that I realized it’s imperative to fill my cup first so I can parent optimally. In the book, I learned that self-renewal/self-care also includes things like accepting the “good is good enough” approach, having gentle thoughts about myself, and nourishing my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It was a life-changing book for me.

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Bethany April 6, 2010 at 7:37 am

I run. Some days I take my son with me in the jogging stroller and we explore our neighborhood together, talking about what we see, and other days he stays home with his dad and they get quality time together. Either way, he sees that being healthy and taking care of yourself is important and can be fun, and he still gets to spend time with his parents. Now that he’s old enough, we’ll end some runs at our neighborhood park and I’ll finish up my workout chasing him around the playground. A win-win situation :)

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Amber April 6, 2010 at 9:37 am

A lot of my blogging is about me. It’s something that I enjoy, that’s separate from my kids, and that helps me connect with like-minded mamas. It’s one reason I write (and read other blogs) so frequently.

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Kayris April 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I exercise heavily, and I don’t feel guilty about putting my kids in childcare at the gym. Besides keeping me healthy, I get some time alone, and an enormous satisfaction out of making and reaching goals. And I think it’s good for my kids to see my stay active. It’s also a big confidence booster to look good in a bathing suit after 2 babies.

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MamanADroit April 6, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I have a tough time with this. Computer time and baking are the two things that I struggle to get and are just for me :)

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Dionna April 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Blogging – yes, that is a big one for me. Writing about things I’m passionate about makes me feel like an actual adult, not just the mama of my son.
Thanks for the comments!

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Lauren @ Hobo Mama April 9, 2010 at 2:07 am

It’s funny, but I’ve almost gotten more efficient and more connected with what’s important to me since having a child. Maybe because I know my “adult” time is limited, I take fuller advantage of it now and am more intentional about what I choose. For me, it’s definitely writing, but also ballet and music.

To anyone reading my comment who has a baby under 1, though, ignore me for now! It took awhile for me to feel together enough as a parent to carve out time for myself. :)

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Angela April 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

Nice article, Dionna. I think we all need a reminder to balance our lives with time for *ourselves.* I take bubble baths, play computer games late at night while laying in bed, watch a mindless TV show (again, late at night after the kids are in bed), or get on the treadmill.

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