By Stephanie Sullivan
A little self-care can go a long way to helping stay balanced and in a good mental state, which enables us to show up in a more present, giving and effective way in our key relationships (as mum, parent/grandparent, partner, friend, employee, team leader, etc.).
As mums (or caregivers), we tend to prioritise caring for our children (and often everyone and everything we care about) before ourselves. With all of the new demands placed on us, we tend to put our own personal needs and self-care on the backburner. It may not seem like a high priority when you consider so many other things that need your attention. And, at times, it is understandably necessary (I’m sure many of us have experienced a few days of sleepless nights and a clingy sick child attached to us all day). However, many women experience feeling “mum-guilt” or selfishness when they just need a few minutes to take care of themselves in the normal course of a day or week, particularly if that involves alone time (without your child/children). This is not as common in men, however it can occur for any caregiver. Even if you are not personally experiencing guilt associated with self-care, you should be aware that your partner may be, as they often will not discuss it openly. Some people sacrifice their own health and wellbeing in service of their children and family, others in pursuit of their professional goals or to meet the demands of a stressful job, or possibly to juggle both. But here is the problem….no matter what the reason, if you (and/or your partner) continue to put self-care on the backburner for extended periods of time, this is what it can lead to:
- Your personal energy gets depleted, and you start to feel burned-out, unmotivated or exhausted
- Your mood and happiness become negatively impacted
- You feel more stressed and possibly overwhelmed, and then everything seems even more difficult to manage
- Your immunity is impacted and you are frequently getting sick (sleep deprivation is also a contributing factor here)
- You become more irritable, less patient, more “snappy” with those you love
- Negative and resentful feelings can start to creep in, having an impact on your relationships (likely with your partner and possibly with your child and others)
- Lower self-image or self-esteem, which can lead to removing yourself from beneficial connections with other people
- Your main worth and identity become mostly about what you do for everyone else (family and/or work), leading to feelings of losing yourself or your own individual identity and interests
- Less physical intimacy with your partner
… and I probably could go on with the list.
This is why self-care is so important and needs to be a high priority. Consider this….If so many people and things rely on you, what is going to happen when you collapse? I am sure you’ve heard the expressions, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” or more critically, “put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.” They say this because you are no help to anyone if you collapse because you didn’t secure your own oxygen mask first! This is why self-care is not selfish. While our intentions are good and admirable (we want to give as much of ourselves to our children, loved ones, and careers as possible), can you really give your best self when you are experiencing low energy, moodiness, stress, irritability, sickness, resentment, or poor self-esteem? If you are not taking in the essential fuels (your “oxygen”), you will have nothing beneficial to give (or breathe out of you).
So, is sacrificing your self-care really doing a service or a dis-service for your loved ones and passions? It is definitely not serving you, but for some reason, we have an easier time prioritising our self-care when we see it is a necessary priority to serve or care for others more so than for ourselves. Being a mum (parent/caregiver) is challenging at times, so we need to be equipped and in the right head space in order to handle challenging situations when they arise. Look, none of us are perfect, but a little self-care can go a long way to helping stay balanced and in a good mental state, which enables us to show up in a more present and effective way in our key relationships (as mum, parent / grandparent, partner, friend, employee, team leader, etc.).
After becoming a parent, of course we have to prioritise caring for our little ones, and at times that means sacrificing some of our own needs. However, what is not healthy or beneficial for anyone is to get “stuck in a rut” or a pattern of not taking care of ourselves and sacrificing our own needs and interests. Having said that, it can be difficult to change patterns and behaviours, so it is important to recognise when you may need a little extra support and encouragement (free of judgement and guilt).
I am passionate about helping mums, dads, and others to bring self-care, energy and balance back into their lives, judgement and guilt free. My dual life and health coaching certification has a strong focus on effective strategies for coaching people through behavioural change. I have established Elevate Your Life Coaching to help people live better (healthier, happier, and more productive) lives. I have chosen to focus on helping people in the areas of self-care, energy and stress because these have an enormous impact on our mental and physical health, and thus our ability to be present, effective and giving to the things which matter the most in our lives (our families, relationships, career, passions and community).