Mama’s Health: Basics

Mama’s Health: Basics October 12, 2010

I was raised to think that self-care was selfishness, so I avoided spending time or effort on myself throughout my teens and the first several years of marriage and motherhood. I read books like “Created to be his Helpmeet” and truly believed that my only purpose on earth was to serve my husband, and that meant doing my utmost to keep him from having to contribute around the house. I believed that it was my role as a wife and mother to do it all, without ever complaining. Complaining in my mind was ever having an emotion other than pure joy.

I did it all, and when I physically couldn’t (like the times I was post-partum or pregnant and puking my guts out) I felt so guilty. I read articles like this one on the “myth of me-time” and took it to mean that I was right, I did not need to take care of myself, I needed to pour more of myself into my family. The only problem was, I was running short on everything. I had nothing left to invest into my family. I was exhausted, often to the point of falling asleep in mid-sentence. I found myself resenting my kids, because they got in the way of my ability to get everything done. I became more and more obsessed with perfection, and I was forever falling short. I was depressed, I was depleted.

When I first began to come to the realization that I didn’t have to pretend anymore, that it was OK to feel tired or sad or frustrated, I had a whole new question. How do I care for myself? At first I felt guilty even thinking about it, I had everything I wanted, an amazing husband, beautiful children, the opportunity to be a stay at home mom, how dare I think that I had any right to feel drained and in need of re-charging?

As time has gone on, I have become more and more comfortable being human. And when I find myself slipping back into the mindset of thinking that caring for myself is selfish, I am encouraged by articles like this one from Quivering Daughters, how can I follow God’s command to “love others as I love myself”, when I do not love myself to begin with? I still struggle with guilt sometimes. But my biggest struggle is to fit “me” into my day. I often find myself slacking and telling myself that the effort isn’t worth it, that I’m fine and I don’t really need it, that there are more important things to get done, that I just spent time on myself yesterday, so I should be fine for a few days. It’s all lies, and I usually start to struggle after a few days of denial.

All this to say, I am still learning. I’m figuring out that I cannot do everything for everyone. And if I’m running on empty, I can’t do much of anything for anyone. I’m still learning the balance of simultaneously caring for myself and caring for everyone else. Do I have days where I slip up and run myself into the ground? Yes. Do I have days where I find myself irritated with my kids for thwarting my efforts? Yes. But the more ideas I get, the more I learn about what I like, and the more I work to consistently implement self-care into the daily routine, the better I feel and the more capable I become.

When I wrote my post on my attitude problem, I was surprised by the response of guilt from other young moms. I followed that up with this post on the importance of self-care. There were several commenter’s who asked for ideas on how to find the time to care for yourself? So this series in my attempt at answering those questions.

For this first post on Mama Health, I’m going to start with “the basics” of self-care: Nutrition, Hydration, and Sleep.(I know that whole part about sleep sounds like a joke, bear with me!) Without at least some semblance of those 3, you can’t even get started on re-charging. Now don’t worry, I am completely aware that you will not get all of these 3 on any given day, and on some days it is impossible to get any of them it seems! But lets just start this whole self-care thing off, by stating that you have to make these 3 a priority before other attempts at self-care will really do anything for you.

Nutrition: By this I am not saying that you have to eat all raw and organic, I’m sure those things are nice, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m talking about making the effort to eat at all. I know what I’m talking about, because I used to skip breakfast when I didn’t want to bother. I used to call the kids leftovers my lunch because I was “too busy” to make a lunch for myself. A handful of candy is not a good snack, a nice dessert after lunch maybe, but not a snack on it’s own. Please eat each meal! Make it something that will last you till the next meal (one pop-tart is not breakfast). When you have a snack, make it something healthier than candy, have a piece of fruit or vegetable, a handful of nuts, a piece of toast, a smoothie. Your body will thank you!

Hydration: Drink water. This sounds cliche, but it is crucial! Being dehydrated drags down every activity. Aches and pains and tiredness get worse. Skipping the water is not worth it! Plus we moms use more water than average if we are pregnant or nursing! I don’t know about you, but when my baby latches on to nurse I feel like she’s sucking the water out of my brain! So drink water! It’s hard to remember, often I find that several hours has gone by and I forgot again! My sure-fire way to remember, is to drink a glass of water every time I pee. I’ve also had success with measuring my water into a big jug in the morning and trying to finish it all by the end of the day. Yep, you start peeing alot more, but you feel so much better!

Sleep: This is the hardest one to pull off. Getting enough sleep when you have kids you are responsible for is pretty much impossible. But there are still ways to make it a priority. Maybe you can move your bedtime an hour earlier, or maybe move the babies’ bedtime back a bit. Hone your bedtime routine to something that actually helps you relax and fall asleep. If watching the News at night gets you all riled up and stresses you out, you might need to watch the news in the morning. Split your movie into 2 nights, instead of staying up to late to watch the whole thing. Try not to have late night engagements every night. If you had a low sleep night, try to get a nap in during the day. If you can’t do that (I know! Naps are luxuries!) maybe you can schedule a particularly restful day over the weekend. I know it sounds like fantasy, but make the effort to do what you can to make sleep a priority.

If you have any ideas to share on the basics of self-care, and how you try to implement Nutrition, Hydration and Sleep habits in your own home, please share in the comments! Please share this post on Twitter, Facebook or your own blog to spread the word and collect as many ideas as we can.

I have found the mentality of “self-care is selfishness” so damaging, that I find myself wanting to write on how moms can seek to nurture themselves without being selfish. I am planning a series of posts on Mama Health, and I would love for you to contribute! Please leave your ideas in the comments, or write your own post and share the link. Do you think we can scramble up enough contributor’s to justify a Linky? Let me know! We can all use more ideas because all of us Mama’s are different! Each of us feels cared for in different ways, each of us re-charges in different ways.
Be sure to join us next time for stuff you can fit into each day. You know, those tiny little things that we don’t think are worth the effort but it’s all we have time for? The more ideas we have to work with the better! Remember that these “daily” ideas should be things that you can that you can easily put into your day without planning ahead. I’m looking forward to reading some of your ideas next week!
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