An open letter of self-care to the moms, stepmoms, single dads who are moms, and all the other amazing mother figures out there
This self-care advice is for the new mom who is living an existence made of exhaustion, milk stains, and diapers. The mom who thinks she isn’t doing enough. The mom whose kids only want to eat Bagel Bites and chicken tenders. The mom who lost her cool in the grocery store after the third cereal aisle temper tantrum from her toddler. The mom who feels like she’s letting her kids down. I see you, struggling with your inner demons and letting your self-doubt make you feel like less than you are. I see you, putting everyone else’s needs before your own and giving 100% of yourself each day without taking time to recharge your own batteries. I see you. I am you. I know these struggles.
To the new mom
Be gentle with yourself, Momma. The early days are a blur of sleepless nights, feedings, and diaper changes in a never-ending cycle. There will be days where you’ll be convinced that you’ll never feel like yourself again. There will be days you feel like a failure because you can’t summon the energy to shower. You will sleep again, and your baby will not suffer because you let him sit with your partner, friend, or mom for five minutes so that you can attempt to beat the world record for the world’s fastest shower. No one will think less of you for needing a break, even just 15 minutes, to breathe and remember who you were before you were a mom.
To the mom who thinks she isn’t doing enough
Be gentle with yourself, Momma. It’s easy to measure yourself against other moms on social media and to feel inadequate when you scroll through someone’s Instagram and see them baking and exploring with their kids. Carefully curated pictures on Instagram aren’t reality. It’s ok to not spend hours corralling your kids through the local science center. It’s ok to not make cinnamon rolls and pasta sauces from scratch. It doesn’t matter if you don’t live up to the sunny, perfect lives you see on Instagram. The memories you build with your kids are what matter regardless if you build them camping in the backyard or around the dinner table playing board games. What you are doing is enough. Your kids will look back on these moments and they won’t remember what you didn’t do. They will remember all the good times you had.
To the mom with picky eaters
Be gentle with yourself, Momma. Raising little humans is a hard job, and it doesn’t get any easier as time goes on. It is so frustrating to watch your toddler demand the same foods over and over for every meal. It’s easy to feel judged by other parents when your kid has a plain turkey sandwich with the crust cut off for the third week in a row at school. There will be times when you feel like your grocery budget is spent on the same three types of food each week. There will be times when trying to get your kids to eat vegetables feels like an endless battle. You will have to be creative, but you’ll find ways to sneak those veggies in. What matters more than anything is that your kids are fed. If that means mac and cheese and chicken tenders, so be it.
To the mom struggling through another grocery store temper tantrum
Be gentle with yourself, Momma. There will be days that you’ll lose your temper, days that feel like they last for weeks on end, and days that everything seems perfect. It’s ok to have big feelings, to lose your temper, and to forget to have grace when things get hard. You need to remember that you’re a human, too. It’s ok to stick to your boundaries and not accept the temper tantrums that come from tiny humans who haven’t learned to express their emotions yet. Pick up the child, leave the cart, apologize to the cashier, and walk out of the store. Sit in your car and wait for the moment to pass, let the sobs calm and the tears dry. Let yourself cry. No harm will come to your child from seeing you cry in frustration. Bad days, temper tantrums, and rough moments don’t make you a bad mom.
To the mom who feels like she’s letting her kids down
Be gentle with yourself, Momma. It can be hard to deal with transitions, especially unexpected ones. Sometimes jobs are lost, incomes change, and memories you were excited to share with your children have to wait. Sometimes, work and motherhood become too much and little things fall to the wayside. It can be so easy to beat yourself up for the things they’ll miss out on. It’s hard not to feel like you’re letting them down. Feeling that way is normal! Your feelings are valid. But remember this: when they grow up, they won’t remember the things they missed out on. They’ll remember the things you did together, even though times were tough. Make those memories together, and everything will be ok.
Nurture yourself to nurture others
I know that it can be hard to make time for yourself, especially as we all embrace our new normal during the pandemic. With older kids home for some of the week, if not all of it, in so many places, all of those little moments we used to be able to find have disappeared. I cannot stress the importance of self-care and taking time to recharge. It’s difficult to nurture others without taking the time to nurture yourself. Find what helps you relax and feel good doing it, and embrace it. Even if you can only grab a few minutes a day, those few minutes will do wonders for your soul.
Self-care can be hard as a mom
If you need ideas to jump-start your self-care routine, don’t worry! I’ve got you. I do my best to work a few short (5-15 minute) self-care breaks into my day to help keep myself sane through the day-to-day struggles of life with two teens and a baby on the way, a full-time job, a husband, and writing. I have days where it’s difficult to get more than a few minutes in, and I have days where Hubs gets the kids involved in some type of shenanigan and I’m able to get a longer self-care session in. It varies, and that’s ok. The most important thing you can do is develop a few rituals that make you happy and recharge your batteries so that you can keep being the best mom you can be.
How I self-care
The most important self-care ritual I have happens in the five minutes before my shower. I turn the water on to let it heat up, then pull my hair down from my messy bun and massage my scalp and neck. During those few minutes in my bathroom, away from the bustle of the rest of the house, I’m able to focus on releasing tension from my neck and scalp and relax.
The other important ritual I have is reading before bed. Hubs and I both love to read, and it’s something we do every day before we turn out the lights. I’ve also had success with keeping a gratitude journal and brief yoga sessions. I love Cat and Cow Pose to stretch my back and Child’s Pose to help me clear my mind.
My wishes for you
Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had. You are simultaneously a caregiver, teacher, nurturer, budgeter, personal shopper, and so many other roles. It can be a thankless task, and there will be times when it feels like you can’t win. Even on the hardest days, I’m so glad I get to be a mom to my two (soon-to-be three) kids. Being a mom doesn’t have to mean giving up your own interests or putting your own needs behind everyone else’s. Take time to care for yourself, Mommas. I promise you, those moments spent caring for yourself will make a huge difference in how you feel each day.