I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had on the subject of being a mom and still feeling good and balanced in life. Sometimes it’s me who is stuck in a rut, and sometimes it’s a friend, but this is such a common thing. Women, especially moms, tend to delve so deeply into the caregiver role that we end up feeling totally lost in the process. So here are some ideas to help you feel like a “real person” again:
1. Make Time For Your Hobbies: This is so valuable for me when I remember it as a part of our day to day routine. If I can spend a little time doing something I really enjoy, I feel so much more energized afterwards. Sometimes, I will just sit down and play guitar (quietly!) while the girls are both napping. Other times, I may feel like painting, so I pop the baby in the Ergo and set Simone up with some paint too. We might make a mess of the kitchen, but involving her in one of my favorite activities is a special treat for both of us!
2. Move Your Body: Movement can be so beneficial for our moods and overall well-being! I’m not talking about the “kick your own butt” gym workouts that feel like punishment for the number of snacks you’ve had in the last week. I mean just popping the kids in the stroller and walking to the park. Or having a super wild and fun living room dance party with your toddler. Make fun movement a part of your daily priorities and see how awesome it makes you feel. Added bonus: not only will this be fun for your kids, but you’re also teaching them the value of keeping their own bodies moving!
3. Take A Shower Every Day: This one seems SO simple, yet so many of us just don’t make the time for it. I feel infinitely better to just be clean at the beginning of the day. It helps wake me up and gets me motivated to have an awesome time with my kids. So set the alarm to get up 15 minutes before they usually wake. Or set them up with some activities in a safe space while you quickly clean up. Your uplifted mood will be SO worth it!
4. Dress Yourself: I just looked down at my pajama pants. Yes, I’m still wearing them at 4pm… So I need to remember this one myself. Sometimes all it takes to feel like a normal person is a pair of jeans. They can be comfortable jeans, sure, as long as you put on something that you feel good in. It may feel silly or pointless to get dressed on days when you don’t plan on leaving the house, but I think it makes a difference. Wearing clothes that fit and make me feel like I have a shape (besides “undefined blob”) can definitely affect how good I feel. And while we’re at it, a touch of your favorite makeup can boost your confidence too!
5. It’s The Little Things: If I’m feeling particularly frumpy or low, I try to ask myself what one small thing might help in that moment. Sometimes it’s a latte. Sometimes it’s a new plant or some fresh flowers. Sometimes it’s going out for dinner that night instead of cooking at home. Sometimes it’s calling a friend and feeling connected to the outside world. Whatever those little things are, give yourself a boost when you need it.
6. Mom’s Time Out: I don’t care who you are and how infinitely you love your kids (because we all love our kids infinitely), there is nothing wrong with a little time away. I have a three month old, so I don’t leave her very often right now. I usually go out one night a week to meet with some friends, and I take her with me when I go. Still, leaving the house feels so wonderful when I am home so much of the time. My girls and I have some wonderful days together, but I still need some time to remember what it feels like to be myself. This can be the infamous “trip to the grocery store without kids” (a vacation!) or a drive down the street to get a massage (heaven on earth!). Time with my children is so incredibly valuable to me, especially when they are so young, but taking the time to get out a bit is healthy too.
7. Don’t Put Your Needs Last (Or Leave Them Out Entirely): We all want to be the perfect mom, and feel like we are doing everything we possibly can to help our children grow and succeed. Somewhere along the line, we’ve been taught that the perfect mom is selfless. (Or, perhaps even that the perfect woman is selfless.) Think of the connotations of the word selfless: self-less, without a self. I don’t want to be without a self, without an identity apart from giving to and caring for others. It’s OKAY to have needs, and to balance them with the needs of your children. We can still be loving and caring (and I find that I can be even more so) when we address our own needs as well. If I am feeling taken care of, because my needs are met, I feel happy and joyful. I am much more likely to respond to my frustrated toddler with compassion and understanding. But when I am drained, exhausted, worn out, forgotten, frumpy, and sad- the minute things get challenging with my kids, I want to yell and scream. Working to stay balanced has changed who I am as a mother in such a positive way. You have to put your own needs on the radar.
8. Go With The Flow: I will be the first to admit that I have control issues sometimes. I can get so caught up in the plan of what we are supposed to do in a day, that I forget to be in the moment with myself and my kids. Scenario: It’s Wednesday morning and I have planned for us to go the zoo. My toddler slept in later than normal and now we don’t have a lot of time before we have to come home for a nap. I will run around the house like a maniac, throwing things together, overwhelming the girls with my frantic behavior, to get to the zoo as quickly as possible just because that was the plan. What I’m learning now is to go with the flow instead. If we wake up late, if one of the girls is moving slowly, if I wake up tired after a rough night with the baby- it’s okay to change our plans. It’s okay to say no to an obligation or invitation if it isn’t right for us in that moment. Adapting to what our needs are that day helps us all feel much less stressed. We may not get everything done, but feeling great is well worth it.
9. Plan For Rest Days: Sometimes, we will have 3 or 4 days in a row where I feel like we just have so much going on. Maybe one of the girls isn’t feeling well for a bit. Or we end up running around for various appointments or other obligations. I can feel myself getting more and more exhausted each day. When this happens, I clear the calendar for a day of rest. We stay in our pajamas all day, play games, eat healthy foods, and just relax and restore. Odds are good, if you’re feeling tired, then your children are too. Sometimes some down time is just what everyone needs. While getting out and getting things done can be wonderful, there is a time when rest is more valuable.
10. Ask For What You Need: Speaking up about where I need help or support has always been a challenge for me. Then, one day, I realized- why do I expect the people around me to read my mind? I would get frustrated when they didn’t step up and do the things that I wanted them to do, but I would never tell them what I needed. This especially applies to my husband, but I know I’ve had these ridiculous expectations with my friends and family as well. Now, we have a rule in my house. If my husband or I need the other one to do something, we ask. At first, I was still pretty bad at this, but it’s gotten easier. And let me tell you what a huge difference it has made! There were so many little things that he didn’t mind doing at all, once I let him know I needed them. Like holding the baby while I did 15 minutes of meditation. And instead of feeling frustrated that I couldn’t get 15 minutes to myself, I end up feeling relaxed and centered. It really is a simple concept, it just takes some focus and determination to make speaking your needs work for you.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean that you have to get completely lost in staying at home with your kids. It DOES matter how you feel. And if a few small things can help you feel way more confident and happy, your entire family will benefit. Plus, when you demonstrate how to live a balanced life, your kids will be watching and learning from your example. So take the time to make your days great!