Is the closest you’ve come to a bubble bath streaming Pretty Woman with one headphone in during the wee hours of the morning as you sit up nursing an infant by the light of your laptop with your partner snoring next to you?
Do the spa certificates your mother-in-law lovingly gifts you each holiday mock you every time you open your bedside table drawer?
When we stick to the narrative that self-care as moms is facials, long baths, and pedicures we are doing ourselves a disservice. Those things are lovely, don’t get me wrong, but as mothers and as people, we need to be caring for ourselves on a daily basis. Not just during our quarterly (if that) massages and facials.
So can we all agree it’s time to reimagine self-care a little bit?
Can we create a system for ourselves that helps us to create boundaries for sustained energy throughout our days and our lives? By managing our energy through creating boundaries with our families and our interactions with others we are better able to stay present in the little moments that truly matter.
It’s all about energy conservation and balance.
As a mom, creating boundaries, especially with our children, can feel a bit icky. We’re programmed to feel as though we have to give all of ourselves in the name of raising good humans. Creating a boundary, saying no, and reimagining what caring for yourself can be conflicts with many of the motherhood narratives we hold true.
This is important to notice and recognize. This icky feeling isn’t stemming from the fact that what you are striving to do is wrong; it’s rooted in dismantling narratives and stories that up until now you perhaps have never questioned which flip your identity inside out and upside down. Expect the ickiness, sit in the ickiness, reflect on the feelings that come up when you lay down a boundary. Is this feeling arising from actions that truly do not align with who you want to be as a mother, or from fear of judgment, shame, or guilt about conflicting with the narrative that up until now you’ve held true?
The other piece of this is that creating boundaries can be inconvenient for others, so you may experience a bit of push back.
Protecting yourself and your energy will require more responsibility from those around you. This may look like your partner questioning why they are doing more, your kids crying and whining, or perhaps remarks from other family members.
Once again, this is okay, and this is expected. Any meaningful change in the history of the world has been inconvenient in some way to someone. As mothers, perhaps, we should grow more comfortable with inconveniencing people.
When you experience this pushback this is a perfect opportunity to have a conversation about boundaries, which is an important concept for our kids to learn and develop in themselves. It may take several times for them to understand what is expected of them in regards to your limits and boundaries, but if given the opportunity children thrive with predictability and consistency. They’ll get there.
One of my boundaries with my children is that I get to eat breakfast without a person on my lap and without getting up 29 times while I’m eating. Was this difficult for them at first? You bet it was. But, now they know that while mom is eating they have to wait for a refill or for me to come play with them. They know they can sit next to me but not on me and that I am more than just a robot waitress at mealtimes.
Managing your energy throughout your day by creating boundaries can look like:
- Asking for help
- Eating a meal uninterrupted
- Saying no
- Moving your body intentionally and uninterrupted
- Sleeping in and letting your partner start the morning with the kids
- Talking with a safe person about your feelings
- Speaking with a therapist
- Putting the kids down for an early rest
- Getting out of the house on your own
- Placing more of the household responsibilities on your partner or children
- Delegating or deciding not to do certain tasks
- Forming concrete routines and roles around transitions
- Taking a minute when you need or want to
The first step in establishing boundaries is noticing periods during your day when you feel increased frustration, tension, anxiety, and identify what the unmet need is within those moments. From there you can begin to reverse engineer what sort of change or what sort of boundary you can put into place to alleviate that tension and conserve your energy.
Moms need more than facials and massages as self-care, we need sustainable daily strategies to help us thrive; that begins with rewriting the narratives that caring for others takes precedence over caring for ourselves. There is room for “both/and”, it doesn’t have to be “either/or”.
What moments in your day feel tense, and where can you start to establish some boundaries?