Me time, it is not selfish momma, it’s survival. Repeat after me.
I was recently at a gym working out on a treadmill. A mom, ten years younger ran alongside me. We chatted about all things motherhood. She said to me, “You give me hope; you look amazing and young/energized with five kids. What’s your secret with five?” She went on to tell me that her partner wants four children and that she comes from five and loves the idea of built-in friendships for her kids. Yet, she has reservations wondering if she could survive the hard work, physical and mental exhaustion that comes with mothering.
As we sweated alongside each other, 10 years apart in age, I realized that we mothers need to develop friendships with other moms, both younger and older. To help encourage, support, provide hindsight advice, and share wisdom from having gone through all of the earlier stages.
I told this mom it hasn’t been until the past five years of my 16-year mothering journey that I have learned to prioritize ‘me time’. I went on to say, if I don’t, I’ll drown in caring for others without being my best to care for the humans who depend on me. Why did it take me so long to learn this?
As I entered what many call the ‘golden stage’ of mothering, otherwise known as school-aged, I looked back remembering the blood, sweat, and tears of those earlier days with five children ages 0-8. I remember just how hard it was to ever catch a break, to just sit, or eat, or even sleep. If I have any advice in hindsight to share with a younger mom with babies, toddlers, and little people it is this.
Advice for Young Moms
Ask for help! Repeat. Ask for help! I wish I would have done this one more back in the day. You can’t do it alone. Also, know the signs of Postpartum Depression. Hormone changes are real and impacting for some new moms. Sleep deprivation is real.
Create a mom friend co-swap. To take turns caring for one another’s children to catch an hour to breathe or take a break. One hour away can make all the difference.
Make co-op dinner/shared meals. Make a double dinner and share with a friend and they do for you the following week.
Create- find a mothering community circle and village. I had to do this 2x when moving into new cities/towns with children in tow. (Facebook and meet up groups are wonderful ways to find other moms/ playdate circles)
Try to schedule 1 monthly date night and 1 monthly girls’ night out or lunch to keep your adult relationships healthy and strong. I get it, it’s hard to find sitters and hard to leave our babies, especially if they have had special needs. Find your trusting circle and be OK leaving your child. A local church or mommy time-out playgroup? I’ve had to be very creative and resourceful over the years when family wasn’t available to help to find trusted care for my kids. Your children will be OK and more flexible/adaptable because you allowed others to care for them. And you will feel rejuvenated taking that much-deserved, guilt-free break!
Don’t lose yourself in mothering. My mom’s generation did and when the children left home, they had a hard time defining purpose outside of the sole role of mother. Who were you before you became a mom? Did you like to dance? Read? Play tennis? Finding time to be the ‘who’ you were before you were defined by motherhood is important.
Fitness from home. Involve the littles! 30 minutes of dance or yoga together can help on those stressful days when nothing is going your way. A little bit of heart elevated exercise can cure those baby/toddler blues. When we are the most tired, is when we need that extra boost of energy that exercise gives us, the most.
Remember, the early blood, sweat, tears stage of parenting is short-lived. You WILL feel human and energized again. You WILL get a full night of uninterrupted sleep. You WILL eat a meal again without eating scrap leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You WILL get a shower again. A real one. I promise.
Do me a favor; grab an older non-judgmental mom friend who is not too far out of the messy magical stages of parenting little people and ask them for advice, an open ear to cry or scream or open arms to hold or soothe your baby. They have been there momma. They get it.
Remember, child-centered parenting doesn’t mean neglecting your own needs or outlets to be YOU. Finding a balance is hard, and while I know it feels hard some days, prioritizing you is doable. Put your life mask on first, so you can breathe while helping the little people your love most put theirs on too. It might take some time to loosen or tighten the straps. Be patient with yourself and give yourself grace.
I’m dictating this article on my treadmill. Why? Because that’s what we moms do to get it done. And while I’m writing, I’m also thinking about the older moms in my tribe and trusted circle; I’m so grateful for their guidance in my new stage of parenting older children. Those veteran moms have raised teenagers and college-aged kids. I need these moms to be my soundboard when I don’t know which way to turn.
You’re doing the most amazing, most important work, momma. You are raising a human being. Keep going. Just keep swimming. We are all in this together. Keep Calm and Carry On.