When was the last time you actually set aside time to do something nice for yourself? If you’re like many mothers, it may have been quite a while. With all the tasks and chores that are typically on the average mom’s “to do” list in a given week, it’s no wonder that many wind up feeling guilty if they veer from their normal schedule to do something fun or interesting, even if only for a few minutes.
Sure, you may have the chance to catch a glimpse of one of those popular decorating or cooking shows on TV, or take a few minutes to flip through your favorite women’s magazine to try to find a quick dinner recipe. However, chances are, your waking hours are filled with more opportunities for you to serve than to be served.
So, why is it that many moms avoid doing anything special for themselves? For some women, they focus so intently on doing what’s best for their children that they inadvertently neglect themselves. For others, they’re often too tired at the end of a given day–or at the beginning of it–to even remember to do anything for themselves. Unfortunately, when this happens, they can lose sight of who they are outside of their parenting role. In other words, they can lose part of their identity.
But becoming a parent isn’t supposed to diminish or subtract from who a woman thinks she is as a person; it should expand or enhance the image she has of herself. A woman isn’t categorically a better mother if she loses or gets rid of her “pre-Mommy” self. In fact, putting oneself at the bottom of a “to do” list may actually be detrimental to her overall well-being.
If you’ve been doing this, it’s time for you to stop this destructive habit. Make a commitment today to begin making time for yourself and come up with a set of “Mommy Rules” that will help you accomplish this. If you need a little help getting started, consider these suggestions:
1. Make your health a priority. Moms are usually great about scheduling regular appointments with their children’s pediatrician and dentist. But, why is that these same women find it so hard to fit in a yearly physical or gynecological exam with their own doctors? And, why is it that the very moms that make sure their kids stick to a reasonable bedtime and take healthy lunches to school are often the ones that don’t eat right or get enough rest? Don’t be one of those moms that uses so much of your mental energy on everyone else that you’re too drained to focus on your own health and wellbeing.
Basically, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have enough energy or stamina to properly take care of your children. And, when you’re running on empty for an extended period of time, you put yourself at increased risk for health problems, disease and, yes, even a premature demise. So, begin today to put your health at the top of your list of priorities. If you need to schedule some appointments, do so. If you’ve never opened up that exercise video you bought earlier this year, watch it. And, if you’ve been staying up too late, go to bed earlier tonight. You owe it to your loved ones and, most importantly, to yourself.
2. Pursue creative endeavors or hobbies. All moms–whether they’ve chosen to stay at home with their children, work from a home office, or work outside of their home–should be involved in activities that will allow them to flex their creative muscles. Engaging in activities that allow you to further develop existing talents or discover new ones, helps women to feel more fulfilled and productive. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn how to paint, dance, sing, or cook better, try to find a class soon and enroll in it.
Author and speaker Julie Barnhill feels so strongly about this that, in her book One Tough Mother: It’s Time to Step Up and Be the Mom, she subtitled one of her parenting principles “get a hobby other than your kid.” Defined by Barnhill as both a “prioritized activity” and “a pursuit that brings joy and relaxation,” she says a hobby will help moms develop their own “mental, physical, and spiritual health.” And, if you’re a well-rounded person, you’ll increase the likelihood your children will be, as well.
3. Nurture your relationships. With the all the things that are on the average family’s weekly schedule, it’s no wonder that moms rarely find the time to nurture the relationships they have with other adults. But, doing so must be a priority. First, wives must remember to make time for uninterrupted time with their spouses. This could include monthly or bi-monthly date nights, where the two of you go out for dinner or lunch together. And, if you’ve been wanting to plan a couples’ getaway, don’t feel as though you must purchase an all-inclusive hotel or resort package to have a romantic experience with your spouse. Couples often end up pay for costly treats or time-consuming spa services they don’t really want when they opt to take this route. Instead, bring along your own chocolate-dipped strawberries and bottles of sparkling cider and arrange to receive one or two express or a la carte spa services during your stay.
To edify the friendships that you have, why not arrange to go out for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate once or twice a month? If we’re truly grateful for the relationships God has blessed us with, we must set aside time on a regular basis to reconnect with these special people.
Regardless of what you come up with for your personal set of “Mommy Rules,” just remember this whenever you’re stuck in a pattern of putting yourself last: You are not an extension of your children; these blessings from God are an extension of you. And, because you are a distinctive being with characteristics, desires, and needs all your own, you should not feel guilty or selfish. It’s more than just acceptable that you set aside time to nurture your own identity. It’s good for you … and for your family, as well.