*A guest post by Amelia Catone
I believe that if you’re reading the Vibrant Mama blog, you have already had at least a whiff of the self-care revolution. Maybe you are absolutely laced in self-care and glowing as a result of it. Nice! If you feel neither laced nor glowing (today or any day), then I’m directing this post to you.
I feel like mothers have been taught in so many ways to give it all for their children. And “it all” seems to include health, sanity, independence, creativity, energy, money: the absolute basics to live and then some. As biological mothers we sheltered them for nine months and many of us then offered nourishment through our bodies for months and even years beyond that. Whether you gave birth to your child or your child found you, the sleeplessness and prioritizing of the child’s welfare tend to consume our time and attention. Of course it would seem natural to “put the children first” even at our own expense. But some of us are learning that this way is not the way that works best. It doesn’t leave us feeling free, powerful, resilient, or the best “do as I do” role models for our children, male or female. Just as we internalized our relationship habits and parenting skills from the parental figures we grew up with, we are imparting attitudes, patterns, and a beliefs system on our children, often unintentionally.
If it’s not already clear why self-care is absolutely critical, then you can consider it this way: adequate self-care makes you a better mother! Your children have a better chance to take excellent care of themselves, to value themselves and be engaged citizens of the world if you model the behavior for them.
To flip the script: try mothering yourself. What are the things that you would do for your child? You would feed her well, make sure he got enough sleep. You would clothe them in something spiffy and give them time and space to play and have fun. You notice their moods and discern what you could do to alleviate any stress or discomfort they may be experiencing. You offer them opportunities to grow, to create, to dance, to engage in a sport or a hobby, to learn. You don’t think twice about helping them up when they fall, literally or metaphorically. You don’t fault them for it; they’re learning.
Can you give yourself the same tender, loving care? Can you approach yourself with that relentlessly benevolent attitude of a nurturing mother, who does not criticize, belittle, or humiliate her children because she earnestly believes that they are doing their best? I earnestly believe that you are doing your best. And if you are not doing your best, then getting your self-care ducks in a row will ensure that you have the energy to hold yourself to your own highest standards. You have slept enough, you have eaten well. You have taken time in solitude and time doing your favorite activity. You have exercised, you have laughed. You have created the circumstances for you to feel whole; all because you are channeling Beyonce in a L’Oreal ad: You are worth it.
The self-worth piece is another one entirely. In keeping with the theme, don’t you believe that it is your children’s birthright to be treated with respect, to be stimulated and celebrated and challenged and loved? News flash: it’s yours too. If there is a fissure there, here is an excellent meditation on self-compassion from Tara Brach.
Take some time. Ten minutes. That’s the thing, none of this takes as much time as you think it does. So often the refrain is “I will take care of myself after _______.” After dinner, after child goes to sleep, after child goes to college, after child has his or her own child, ad infinitum. The same attitude that has kept you small, that has stifled your vibrant nature under the guise of being a “good mother,” that keeps you putting your own needs last, is the one that wants you to put off your self-care. Don’t listen to that voice. The time for self-care is now.
In the metaphorical hierarchy of needs, self-care is not a Rolex. It is not an unattainable luxury item that will end up starving your children and alienating your family. It’s true, if you have not been taking care of yourself and start carving out swatches of time to pay attention to just you, the you may meet with a little resistance from those who are used to your constant availability. Let them resist, let them grumble. It won’t last. They’ll be fine. No, self-care is not a Rolex, it is toilet paper. It’s not even Charmin, it’s single-ply toilet paper. Does the job, absolutely necessary (I understand that some people/countries/cultures do not have toilet paper or do not deem it necessary. If you have a more suitable metaphor or do not use toilet paper daily, please let me know.). Elevate attention and time for yourself to priority one. And don’t linger on a moment of guilt over it.
If this concept is new to you, it is going to be hard. You will feel the protest on a cellular level, it is one of the least comfortable things you’ll ever do. If you have that sensation, you’re probably doing it right. Something as simple as stepping away for an hour to take a walk, to go to a yoga class or a book reading, to meditate or do something that seems decadent but is basic self-care. Remember, too, over-indulging yourself is not self-care.
Keep with the mothering theme. Would you dose your child with a bottle of wine to take care of her? I know, I just burst your bubble. Sorry. There is a beautiful discipline to self-care. One that holds you to your highest integrity, one that energizes you. The richest ways of parenting couple a comforting discipline with a vast and sincere love. Offer this to yourself.
What will happen over this time of mothering yourself is that you will be born. You will create this safe framework for the truest you to emerge, and to align with all of the other truths of your lives: relationships, work, calling, spirituality. I will be celebrating with you all of your triumphs and staying steady with you through the challenges.
Amelia Catone wants nothing more than for you to be your best self. No kidding! She thinks it’s high time we allow for the extinction of narcissism and usher in a new breed of self-actualized light beings. She is the mother of one, named Selah Vera. During the weekdays Amelia works at Boston University as an academic advisor. Weeknights and weekends are filled with parenting, yoga teaching and practice, and hospice work. She also enjoys cooking and eating whole food meals and supporting others in their practice to become more integrated physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Dancing to soulful house music is her church, her transcendence.
Please feel free to contact her directly firstname.lastname@example.org or via her health counseling website www.soulsticehealth.com