We all know that a good mother should be loving, nurturing, giving, and kind to her children. But can a good mother offer those same traits to herself? As a mother and stepmother of five children, I’ve learned the importance of proper care of myself. I also know how difficult it is to make it happen.
First is the issue of guilt. I’ve noticed that women have an easier time sacrificing themselves than taking care of themselves. Most of us would rather drop from exhaustion than face the guilt of caring for our own needs. However, when Mom is depleted, the whole household suffers.
Second, even when we understand the importance of self-care, the issue is logistics. How do we fit self-care into an already-overflowing schedule? Who has the time, energy, or money for spa days, date nights, gym memberships or new hobbies?
Fortunately, mothers can find solutions without engaging in time-consuming activities or drastically changing their circumstances. Self-compassion and the resulting feeling of calm is an inner process. The following well-being practices, inspired by Shortcuts to Inner Peace, are so simple to do and so easy to implement that they fit into any lifestyle. These tools offer effective and guilt-free TLC for busy moms.
When: When you wake up and before you get out of bed in the morning.
What: Lie on your back and place one hand on your heart. Place the other hand on your belly. Rest like this for a minute and imagine light within you, the light of love. Breathe in the words “I am loved” and breathe out the words “I love.” Think of your partner, your children, or someone else whom you love (a person or a pet) and let that love fill you, expanding within you and radiating in the form of light.
Why: Most women — most people, in fact — struggle with the simple goal of loving themselves. If you take just a moment to fill yourself with love first thing in the morning, you lower your stress level and begin to tap into the refueling property of self compassion.
When: When you are in the bathroom.
What: Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Hold the breath to the count of five. Exhale long and deep through your lips to the count of five. Let your shoulders drop as your body relaxes.
Why: A regular breathing practice helps calm the body and still the mind. As you center yourself with this simple breathing technique, you will be more energized and less stressed. Make it a habit and notice a feeling of calm begin to weave through your days.
When: After you finish lunch.
What: Text a friend, family member, or your beloved partner.
Why: Mothers need to remember that they have important relationships with people other than their children. Taking a moment to connect, even briefly, with someone special helps you recall that you’re more than a mom and readies you for confident and loving mothering.
When: In the late afternoon, when you have tea/coffee/protein drink.
What: Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself in a safe, beloved, wonderful place. A place of peace. Breathe in the scene and exhale slowly. You may picture a scene from your childhood, a great vacation, a special haven, or even an imaginary tropical beach. Imagine the sensory details of sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
Why: Even a brief imaginary visualization acts like a mini-vacation. Treat yourself daily to a place that makes you smile. Your body and mind will relax in response.
When: When you reunite with your romantic partner at the end of the day.
What: Approach each other and hug for 10 to 20 seconds (the time it takes to activate the bonding hormone, oxytocin).
Why: Small daily acts of connection help to keep your relationship strong. Furthermore, modeling intentional intimacy for your children will help them understand the importance of maintaining healthy relationship habits. You’ll be surprised at the dramatic effect this simple hugging habit can have on your romantic relationship.
When: When your head rests on the pillow at night.
What: Think of three specific things from your day for which you are grateful (gratitude for a hug from a child, for fresh strawberries, for a lovely sunset). Notice small details and let the feeling of appreciation really sink into your body and mind.
Why: Gratitude is a practice that increases your sense of well-being. It not only increases your satisfaction with your life but, when you make it a habit, it can actually change your brain in a way that expands your capacity for feeling fulfilled.
Using these six essential daily habits is a foundation for healthy living. You’ll begin to feel more at peace and more connected in a way that renews your enthusiasm for mothering. Show your children that taking care of yourself and your adult relationships is what all good mothers do.