From the onset of motherhood, moms face many a paradox.
One of them includes striking the balance between baby care and self care.
Many of us aren’t aware of this challenge until we are burnt out and in desperate need of alone time.
At that point, resentments and victimhood taint our ability to enjoy a long walk or half a spa day.
I am one of a lucky few who has a partner that insists that I take time away from the family and the home.
He models self care by asking me to spend time with his friends, coworkers, playing tennis and pursuing hobbies.
Not only does he encourage me to do the same; his choices impart a sense of entitlement that helps me make the same choices.
The first year of motherhood, he would literally shove me out the door and lock it! I often didn’t know what to do with myself and felt guilty and sad that I’d become reduced to nothing more than a baby care-taker.
I didn’t feel connected to myself, my interests or my needs. But being forced to try and find something to enjoy by myself was the exact invitation I needed to begin building a new identity.
Showing Self-Care Helped My Daughter
Before long, my partner and I established a routine. We both get one night a week to ourselves and we take turns going out of town about once a month.
As I developed boundaries with my daughter, I noticed positive changes in her. She became more independent and demanded to doing things ‘all by myself!’
She respected my ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’ more, because I was clearer in using them. She started using the phrase, “I need space” and would go take a few minutes of private time, developing the ability to self-soothe.
The most exciting change I’ve noticed is an increase in her self confidence and appreciation. She’s 4 years old now and capable of a level-headed conversation.
When I explain to her that I have a workshop to run or a friend to visit or an event to attend, she doesn’t resist it. She accepts it as normal and then asks me lot of questions about what I’m up to. Then she incorporates it into her play!
My heart beams at watching my daughter play “Running a Vision Board workshop” where people “meditate, talk about what they want to create in their lives and make art!”
She throws parties for her stuffed animals and teaches them dance moves in her ‘exercise dance class.’ I can see that for her, these activities won’t be considered self care activities. They will be a normal part of daily life, as maybe they should be for all of us.
And because I’m not available to meet each and every needs at all times, she appreciates the time we have together even more. Before I knew how to take ‘me time’ I was jealous of how much she fawned over her dad. We called it the ‘novelty parent’ phenomenon. I became a piece of furniture and he was the VIP special guest performer.
Now we are both treasured treats that my daughter relishes.
What I Want to Teach My Daughter Through Showing Self-Care
I want my daughter to internalize, on a foundational level, that she is her own person, first and foremost, aside from the roles she plays in others’ lives.
I want her to always prioritize her own needs first and then attend to those around her, if she chooses. I want her to understand that her needs are just as valid as a man’s needs.
I want her to learn how to communicate her needs just as I describe my own to her.
Most importantly, I want her to feel entitled to her needs and desires the way I never did until recent years. As a woman and therapist, I’ve deeply identified as a helper, a healer, a supporter of others.
This gives me great joy and satisfaction, within reason!
I need balance like everyone, and that what I’m really teaching my daughter. By the way, she’s singing “12 days of Christmas” at the top of her lungs as she plays with Mr. and Mrs. Potato head on the floor right in front of me.
I’ve asked her to keep it down a couple times because “Mom is writing an article.”
We’re all works in progress, so lets be kind as we strive for more and better and flounder a little along the way!
I delight in helping new parents manage the transition to parenthood in my private Online Therapy practice or call or email for a free consultation.