As we approach Mother's Day 2016, I want to call attention to one of the most important aspects of wellness: Self Love. Self Love is having regard for one's well-being or happiness. While this applies to all parents, I ask the fathers to bear with me on this post; forgive my exclusiveness this week. As mothers, we often hear phrases like, "Fill your cup first", or "put your oxygen mask on first." We are reminded, often, to care for ourselves, yet it is one of the most difficult things to do as a mother; guilt-free, of course. I struggle with this. A giver by nature, motherhood has all but destroyed my sense of boundaries. It takes a concerted effort for me to "fill my cup first". These sayings, in and of themselves, are not even about us. They are a means for us to help our family. Do this first for you, so that you may be able to do for them. It undermines the goal. I have had to change my mindset. Rather than think of "serve" myself first, I think about it as "loving myself."
I don't exercise to be healthy to live long for my kids and family. I am physically active because I love myself and like how it makes me feel. I don't make time for myself to read to relax, so I have more patience with my family. I do so because I love myself, and I like to read. I don't make time in my schedule to be intimate with my husband to strengthen my marriage for our family. I do it because I love myself, and I deserve to enjoy myself. Changing my perspective has allowed me a greater sense of self-fulfillment, and self-love. A study conducted in 2009 by Berger, E.M, Spiess, C.K, found that maternal life satisfaction was a significant factor in whether or not children were happy. According to the study her overall happiness is more important to the social and emotional skills of her kids than her education level, income, whether she has a job, and how much time the child spent in day care. That's huge!
Next time we start to feel guilty about taking time for ourselves, or read yet another article about how we're irreparably damaging our offspring, I encourage us to change our mindset. Let's remember that we love ourselves, and we are doing our best. That, that's enough. And if that's not sufficient, let's remember we are investing in our kids' happiness; That our happiness is not a luxury and is, in fact, vital.
If upsetting, stop reading the articles, and trust your gut; Believe that you are the expert for your baby. If nursing makes you want to avoid your baby and your skin crawl - stop (didn't expect that did you?). Lock the door and embrace a quickie while the kids are engrossed in a movie. They will be OK. Go on the girls' weekend. Begin a gratitude journal. Pursue the dream. Allow your partner or support system to help. Practice mindfulness. Buy the impractical shoes, and have the extra glass of wine even if it means having to pump and offer a bottle. Allow yourself to be happy, too - whatever that looks like for you.
If you're having trouble navigating this on your own, don't neglect it. Reach out to a Certified Health Coach, Certified Life Coach, or Licensed Mental Health Counselor. I have personally used counseling for anxiety and am an advocate for reaching out to professionals when need be. We deserve to be happy. My mom shared with me, years ago, a saying that has been immensely helpful in my life. "People will treat you how you allow yourself to be treated.". Lead by example, and begin with how you treat yourself. It won't go unnoticed. Little boys will learn to respect women, and little girls will learn the art of self-love modeled before them. And, you will be happy.
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