When you become a mom, your days, of course, naturally change. How you spend your time changes. How much time you actually have changes. What you need changes. But the one thing that remains the same, the one constant, is how important self-care is. Because it doesn’t matter what’s happening in your life, your needs are still important.
“When my son arrived, I found it wasn’t as possible to do [the same] things with my new responsibilities,” said Christine Vacin, LCSW, a therapist and mom to a 15-month old son, who’s passionate about helping moms navigate their new work/life balance. “Going for an hour-long run, and then grabbing coffee with a friend afterwards was not as doable as it used to be. Between breastfeeding and my new energy levels, things were just different.”
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
This meant that Christine had to find new ways to care for herself. She started going on long stroller walks and field trips with other moms. In fact, she’s found it incredibly helpful to talk about her experiences with moms. “It’s not that your old friendships fade away. But there is something very special about having the shared experience of having kids. It is a lot of work, and you may not have a clean house or everything put away at the end of the day. But you have been moving and active, and have not sat down all day.”
Christine also needed to reset her priorities and listen to her body. For instance, on some days when she’s feeling exhausted, she takes a nap during her son’s naptime. She’s learned to ask for help “like I have never done in the past.” And she’s adopted a positive view on the ever-evolving days of motherhood: “I get to continue to try new things and see how they work.”
In the past few months, I’ve been leaving the house two times a week to exercise with friends. For years exercise has been a big part of my self-care routine. It relieves my stress and empowers me. It’s also my time to have fun and chat with friends. And it’s my time to reconnect to myself. Plus, after having a c-section—and not being able to get out of bed or pick anything up—I appreciate being able to do push-ups, to sprint, to lift weights. It’s amazing how resilient our bodies really are.
I also find myself seeking and savoring small acts of self-care, teeny tiny moments, like taking a shower, applying lotion, listening to a podcast, painting my nails, reading a book. I try to prioritize sleep—another vital part of my self-care. There is nothing revolutionary about these habits. But they are replenishing.
I’d even add writing to the list. While writing is my work, it’s also part of me. And even though it can be exhausting and hard to make time to write with a baby, it’s another activity that reconnects me to myself. (I’m also very fortunate to have an amazing and flexible husband.)
It doesn’t matter how old your kids are. It doesn’t matter if you even have kids. Part of self-care is continuously checking in with ourselves. It’s examining your needs and examining how you’re meeting them, which you might do after a major transition or simply once a week.
It’s asking yourself: Do my current self-care activities still work for me? Are they still replenishing me? What needs to be changed, adjusted? What is my body yearning? Have I been tired lately? What’s the quality of my sleep? Have I felt like myself lately? What helps me reconnect to myself? What’s bothering or troubling me? What can I do? Where can I get help?
When we become mothers, self-care might seem like a dream or a distant memory. And, of course, our days—our time, energy, attention, resources, to-do lists—do shift. But self-care is always vital. The key is to figure out what works for you. The key is to prioritize yourself. The key is to listen to your body, to yourself.