Self-care has become a buzzword….we all know we should be practising it. But as busy mums, trying to juggle so many different roles, with an endless to-do list, self-care often gets pushed to the bottom of the list.
So why do mums ignore self-care?
Two of the reasons are:
1. Feeling guilty
Mums often feel that taking time out for themselves is somehow selfish and so good old ‘mum guilt’ sets in.
But why is this?
Perhaps it’s the cultural messages some women have grown up hearing – that they should put other’s needs before their own, and that a woman’s role is to nurture and care for her family.
Many of us may also have grown up watching our own mothers sacrifice their own needs for others: Self- care wasn’t even in their vocabulary.
And whilst things are changing, many mums still feel guilty, even if they are surrounded by supportive partners or family.
It’s almost as though you have to choose between caring for yourself or your child. So if you choose self-care, you end up feeling guilty, but if you neglect yourself, you end up feeling resentful.
So my question is why can’t we do both?
2. Not having enough time or money
The other things mums often say is that it’s expensive and that it’s not realistic to fit it in.
This is partly due to the misconception that self-care is about pampering, such as having a spa treatment, a manicure, or a weekend away. And whilst these are great if you can manage it, most of the time it’s just not possible.
It also becomes yet another thing you haven’t managed to achieve.
So it’s understandable why you would give up on the whole notion of self-care.
What happens if you ignore self-care?
Neglecting your needs can affect different aspects of your life:
- Impacts your physical and emotional wellbeing
Over time, neglecting to take care of yourself can lead to increased stress. This can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to issues such as colds, stomach ulcers, weight gain, and problems sleeping.
Your emotional energy may also be depleted, leaving you feeling unfulfilled, shouting more often and even feeling resentful towards your kids.
- Impacts the whole family
Stress is contagious and can create tension and conflict in the home.
When you’re feeling drained, you’re going to be more reactive to situations at home. Conversely, if you are feeling rested and recharged, you are more likely to respond from a place of calm, which in turn makes your kids happier and more cooperative.
So if you take care of your own needs, you will actually be better equipped to manage those uncontrollable challenges that motherhood can bring.
- Affects your experience of motherhood
It takes a lot of energy to be a mum and by neglecting your own well-being, it becomes an even bigger challenge. It can also mean that you do things half-heartedly which can affect your ability to enjoy motherhood.
You don’t get to turn back the clock. Before you know it, they are all grown up. So when you are in the midst of a long, tiring day, remind yourself that ‘the days are long but the years are short.’
- Model unhealthy behaviour
Your kids are watching you and learning from you. They will remember more of what you do than what you say. So your lack of self-care teaches your kids that it’s ok to neglect yourself.
This applies especially to your daughters. As they see their mothers take care of their own needs and value themselves, they are more likely to respect their own self-worth.
- Leads to burnout
Putting yourself at the bottom of the list may work for a while, but in the long run, it can lead to feelings of utter exhaustion, illness and burnout.
Prolonged stress could lead to adopting unhealthy strategies to manage this stress, such as emotional eating, excessive drinking or overspending.
If you continually ignore self-care, just like a car with no fuel, you will eventually break down and then everything grinds to a halt.
Don’t wait until you’re depleted, before making yourself a priority.
In my next blog, we will look at ways of making time for self-care, without adding to your jam-packed to-do list…..
In the meantime, if you would like help in making self-care a greater priority in your life, you can contact me.
Next blog: Self-care for busy mums: How to find the time (part 2)