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Have you ever heard the saying, “When Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy”? While it’s meant to be a witty catchphrase, it couldn’t be more true. In most cases, mothers are the heart and the hub of their families. They’re the planners of everything – from weekly meals to the minute details of birthday parties to kick-ass playdates and bi-annual dentist appointments. They’re the executers of the 20,000 daily tasks that go into maintaining and running a home. They’re the boo-boo kissers, the midnight snack-getters, the lunch packers, the laundry doers, the dog poop cleaner-uppers, the homework helpers, the endless huggers, the school drop-off and pick-uppers, the dreamers, the planners, the worriers, the warriors – they are their families’ multi-tasking, masterminded wonder women. Just thinking about how “a mother’s job is never done” is exhausting.
It’s no wonder moms rely on coffee and wine to help them tackle their daily mile-long to-do lists. But, at the end of the day, so many women feel like no matter how hard they try, they’re just not living up to their own expectations of motherhood. It doesn’t help that the expectations we set for ourselves are usually highly influenced by society and skewed images of motherly perfection on social media.
But, set all of that aside for a minute. In fact, grab your lukewarm cup of coffee or glass of merlot (because we know you have one or the other in your vicinity right now) and sit down in a quiet spot for just a second. Now, think about your daily struggles as a mother.
Are you stressed out? Do you find yourself yelling too much? Are you run-down? Out of shape? Over-touched? Under appreciated? Are you exhausted – physically, mentally, and emotionally? Have you been neglecting yourself in every sense of the word?
Take a sip of that wine, close your eyes, and breathe. Let your mind wander to your happy place. Where are you? At a spa? Gliding through the aisles at Target with an iced coffee in hand? Sitting in a bubble bath with a juicy romance novel? On a date with your husband (remember those days?)? Are you at the gym? Or are you sipping wine with your girlfriends at your favorite pre-kids bar?
Now, come back to your reality – to your children. What’s most important to you when it comes to your family? Health? Love? Happiness? You spend your days giving every ounce of yourself to your loved ones. You keep them healthy and shower them with attention and compassion and love, and their happiness is a reflection of your ever-giving heart. But what about yourself? Have you given any of these things to their mother? Are you taking care of the person who’s taking care of the most precious beings in your life? If not, it’s time.
These are three of the most important things keeping you from being the mother you want to be, and what you need to change in your life in order to truly embrace that precious woman within.
Between school events, dance class, soccer games, PTA meetings, and play dates, a mom’s calendar is filled with appointments, appointments, and more appointments.
Pediatric Dentist: every 6 months
Pediatrician Wellness Checks: every 6 months to a year
Pediatric Optician annually
And approximately 5,000 sick visits during cold and flu season.
Our children’s health is our top priority. Mothers have the ability to evaluate every cry, every fever, even the tiniest changes in mood and behavior. We know when our little ones are going to get a cold and whether or not their fever is caused by teething or a virus. We can decipher the cause of just about every bout of diarrhea from the first tummy rumble and can spot the onset of a rash often before the first red dot even sprouts. We are more in-tune with our children’s bodies than we are with our own. And that is the first problem.
It is so easy and all too common for mothers to put their children’s health and well-being before their own. But what happens when Mama gets sick? More often than not, her world (and therefore, her children’s world) comes crumbling down. If mothers don’t take care of themselves when they’re sick, they won’t be able to properly take care of their families. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to “take the day off” and bunker down in your bedroom with a cup of tea and binge on a season of your favorite Netflix series.
We get it, though, sometimes it’s damn near impossible to take time to yourself. But when moms are sick, they deserve, and more importantly, NEED to be selfish. So, Mamas, if you’re feeling ill, call in the troops. Ask your partner to take the day off of work and hold down the fort. Not an option? Hire a sitter. Is that just simply unrealistic in your world? That’s ok too. If you can’t take a sick day for yourself, the very least you can do is let go. Let go of the unnecessary things stressing you out both physically and mentally during that day.
The laundry can wait. The dishes can wait. The vacuuming and cleaning can wait. Do the bare minimum to keep your house and your family functioning. Create a fort in the living room for your kids, have your partner prepare snacks for the day before leaving for work, and rest your body and your soul. Trust us, it will benefit your entire family if you take care of yourself.
But self care goes beyond just resting when you’re sick. When was the last time you visited a doctor for a routine exam? No, a pregnancy checkup doesn’t count! Remember all of those health appointments you schedule for your children every year? You should be scheduling those for yourself as well.
Most insurance plans cover an annual visit for an adult with a general practitioner. “But if I’m not sick, why should I visit a doctor?” At an annual visit, your doctor will perform just about the same exam as your children’s pediatrician does. She will check your vitals, examine your mouth, ears, eyes, reflexes, and discuss and evaluate any concerns you might have. You can take it one step further and have basic blood panels drawn and evaluated to make sure everything is functioning properly internally as well.
Most adults don’t visit an eye doctor until they are having vision problems. But by visiting an optometrist annually, you can catch any vision changes or issues before they become serious or cause side effects like blurred vision and migraines. Not only that, but routine eye exams can also detect a number of diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, and can even determine if you have a higher risk of suffering from strokes, just to name a few – all by examining the blood vessels and structure of the eyes.
While most women visit their gynecologists annually, you might not realize why it’s important not to skip this appointment. For women between the ages of 21-65, Pap Smears (a test performed to detect cervical cancer) are recommended every three years. Women over 30 can opt to have the test every five years if it is combined with a screening for HPV. And women over the age of 65 who have always had negative Pap Smears can opt out of them altogether. So, why should a woman visit her gynecologist annually if she only needs a Pap Smear every three years? Pap Smears can only detect cervical cancer. An annual gynecological exam can help detect tumors, sexually transmitted diseases, common infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and cancerous lumps on the breasts. You can also use this time to discuss issues with your menstrual cycle as well as your fertility and birth control options.
When was the last time you visited a dentist? If it was when you got your braces removed, chances are, you’re long overdue for a checkup. Most adults don’t visit a dentist until they get a toothache, but annual dental checkups are an important way to detect a variety of oral issues – some of which can be reversed or stopped in their tracks before they get worse, if caught early enough. Gum disease, tooth decay, cavities, receding gums, and plaque are just a few seemingly minor issues that can have major consequences if left untreated. While many adults avoid a dental visit because it’s not covered in their insurance plan, it’s much more feasible to pay out-of-pocket for an annual checkup than it is to pay for major surgeries due to irreversible damage.
Take care of your health, Mamas!
You don’t truly understand what it means to love another person more than you love yourself until the very moment you’re holding your baby in your arms for the first time. While motherhood is all-consuming, especially during that first year, that absolutely does not mean you have to stop loving yourself. How can you put every ounce of your being into making someone else happy? The simple answer is: you can’t. In order to be the best version of yourself and be able to spread your love endlessly to your children, you have to love yourself.
The good thing is, motherhood has a way of showing you every little nook and cranny of who you are, inside and out. It brings out the very worst in you and then, almost instantaneously, shines a light on the very best. In that endless seesaw of highs and lows, you will discover who you truly are and find beauty in your soul. Motherhood gives you no other option but to let go of your insecurities, your vanity, your fears, and helps you to see the beauty within you.
Just as important as finding your true inner beauty, you have to love the “person” you are as well. Remember that happy place we asked you to find at the beginning of this post? Why aren’t you there right now? Why is it so hard to find time and not feel guilty about treating yourself to the things that make you happy? Get out of your house. Go to the spa. Plan a date with your husband. Put on those heels and have a girl’s night. Don’t feel guilty about making yourself happy. Love yourself. In your reflection, your children will learn how to love themselves.
Forgiveness might be the most important key to being the mother you truly want to be. You need to let go of all the shit tying you down emotionally. Let. It. Go. All of the fears and insecurities and comparisons – as Elsa would say, let it go! Stop trying to be the perfect mother. It’s not going to happen. There’s no such thing. You can make a Pinterest-worthy five course meal out of home-grown organic ingredients, and guess what? Your kids probably won’t eat it. And they certainly won’t remember it. But they will remember that day you sat barefoot in the yard with them, eating lukewarm hotdogs and staring at the stars. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
Forgive yourself for not living up to your visions of what you thought motherhood would be like. Let it all go. And live your life. Be true to yourself – both the person you were before you had kids and the person you became afterwards. The true you – the perfect mother – is a combination of both of those versions of yourself. Don’t let either one take the reins. Just be you.
Photo credit: Danielle Kowalski