Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Over 70% of U.S. moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful.” Studies also show that chronically stressed moms tend to be more insensitive to their kids’ needs, and that a mother’s ability to manage her own stress is a strong predictor of the quality of her relationship with her children and how happy her children are.
So now we can be stressed about how our stress might be harming our kids!Despite the widely held belief that self-care is important, most mothers express guilt over taking time for themselves, or even consider it indulgent. Or they simply can’t fit it in between meeting everyone else’s needs. But caring for ourselves not only improves our capacity to be more attuned to our families, it models an important message to our kids: You are important and deserving. Be good to yourself. Our kids learn these things from us, and what better way to teach them than to model it for them?
Here are 5 ways to model the importance of taking care of ourselves:
- Bring back the playpen! (or the age-appropriate equivalent). Mothers of our generation were taught that our kids should have free rein in order to explore their environment. And while we know that exploration and experimentation is good for kids of all ages, so is mom’s ability to take a shower or pay the bills without fearing that baby will stick his finger in a socket. Kids don’t get free rein at our expense – so put baby in the playpen, or turn on the TV if you must. Having your full attention and the freedom to explore their surroundings is important, but so is your getting a shower when you need one!
- Say “no”. No, I will not drive you to Johnny’s house, because I’m tired. No, you cannot sign up for gymnastics on Tuesday nights, because mommy’s favorite yoga class is on Tuesday nights. No, you cannot have the new iTouch, because it’s expensive and I want to buy something for myself this month. We want our kids to be happy and we want them to have every opportunity. This is all well and good, until their needs and wants become more important than ours. Since our brains are literally hard-wired to meet their needs before our own, it’s crucial to take a step back and remember that we need to prioritize ourselves sometimes.
- Prioritize relationships. One of the best things we can do for our kids is to invest in our relationships. It’s just fine to have a night (or many nights) out without the kids, or to shush the kids or shoo them away if mommy and daddy are talking. They will see that mom and dad care about each other and listen to each other, and this will teach them to seek a good partner who listens to them when they are developing relationships in the future.
- Lock the bathroom door. They’ll bang on the door and shout and cry, but if you’re consistent, they’ll get the picture eventually, and leave you to your business. Moms need a few minutes alone to shower, and going to the bathroom doesn’t have to be a family affair.
- Go to Therapy. Therapy can be a place that’s just yours, with a person that’s all your own, to talk about whatever it is that’s on your mind. For many mothers, it’s the only hour each week that’s all theirs. At Parents Place, we see moms for therapy for a variety of reasons including help with managing stress, working through relationship problems, guidance in making a tough decision, improving parenting, and more.
Take care of yourself! And feel free to call us at Parents Place if you would like a little help balancing everything that it takes to be a parent today.
Alyse Clayman, LCSW, is the Children’s Clinical Director at Parents Place in San Rafael, CA. She provides consultation and therapy to families and children of all ages. To reach her for an individual consultation. please email AlyseC@jfcs.org. www.parentsplaceonline.org