There is one thing that all moms have in common: Motherhood is hard.
Hard is defined here as messy, psychologically challenging, unpredictable, heart-breaking at times, confusing, and chaotic, to name a few universal characteristics. Yes, it is also wonderfully empowering, beautiful, heart-filling, hilarious, and joyful. But without a doubt, it is hard.
How do we tolerate all the challenges? How do we stay steady on our own two feet while the world around us seems to go all topsy-turvy much of the time? How do we manage to live through the pain that is inevitable, the mistakes that we make, and the responsibility and burden’s that we carry?
The answer? We must take care of ourselves. Without enough focus on our own health and wellness, we will inevitably collapse under the weight of it all. But we are led to do something different in motherhood, aren’t we? We are taught along the way to sacrifice ourselves for our children. To focus on what our kids need rather than what we need. To forgo our own pleasure and rest to show up for our kids when they want and need us to be there. Somewhere along the way we are taught that taking care of ourselves is selfish.
You see, without enough focus on ourselves, we will become depleted and resentful and lost in our lives as mothers. We will become impatient and rigid. We will likely develop symptoms of depression and anxiety and other mental health complications. We won’t parent as well as we would like to. We will become so overwhelmed by it all that we can’t possibly show up in the world the way we would like to.
Maternal mental wellness matters. Maternal mental health challenges like depression and anxiety are one of the leading causes of childhood mental health challenges. Our children need us to be well for them to be well. Their future sense of safety in the world depends primarily on our wellness. So, it’s a win-win. When we begin to take care of ourselves (you know, our biological, psychological, and social health) and when we begin to feel happier and healthier, our children benefit.
The problem is, however, that it all sounds easier said than done, right? - we can tell ourselves to take better care of ourselves, but then we don’t to it. Somehow that little voice in our head jumps back in and says:
“You shouldn’t want that.” “But Good Moms don’t need that.” “That’s so selfish.” “People will think badly of you.” “But my kids need me to do something different.”
Self-care is an emotional task and not a logistical one. If seems like it should be easy, but it’s not. Because we have been taught over and over (by society, our own mothers, and/or non-mothers out there) to put our kids first all the time, it just feels wrong and dangerous to do anything different. I have never met a mother who doesn’t want to be a great mother, and so if there is even a tiny part of us that believes we are doing something wrong and harming our kids in any way, we simply won’t do it.
So, people, we need to change the narrative. We need to change the narrative so that more moms feel able to take the time and energy that they need to be well.
In support of all moms everywhere, I invite you to take a deep breath and ask yourself, what do I need right now to take care of my body, brain, and spirit?
Maybe it’s to go to bed early tonight and leave the dishes in the sink. Maybe it’s to pass the torch on to a partner, family member, or babysitter and meet a friend out during bed and bath time.. Maybe it’s to go take a dance class or a yoga class or a kick-boxing class or an Italian class. Maybe it’s to drink more water or eat more protein or spend money on a therapist? Maybe it’s to go and buy yourself a gift of some sort, just to tell yourself “Thank you.” Maybe it’s to take a shower by yourself with the door closed, or to sleep late on a Saturday morning, or to lock yourself in a closet first thing in the day and do a 10-minute mindfulness practice.
Whatever it is do it. Do it for all the other mothers out there so that they know it is ok to also take care of themselves.
Let’s all work together to change the narrative about “good mothering” so that each of us can take the time we need to be healthy and well and happy and fulfilled and mother from that place.
You with me?
Kate Kripke, LCSW, PMH-C Founding Director, psychotherapist, coach, consultant The Postpartum Wellness Center/Boulder www.pwcboulder.com
Kate Kripke, LCSW, PMH-C is a psychotherapist, coach, consultant, and educator in the field of maternal mental health and wellness. In 2005, Kate founded the Postpartum Wellness Center in Boulder, CO. where she works with mothers and families to prevent, support, and treat mental health challenges like postpartum depression and anxiety, Outside of her work as the Director of the PWCB, Kate coaches mothers of children any age to find more joy, purpose, and health in motherhood.