Motherhood is a curious phenomenon. No other identity seems to have the same effect on our minds and bodies. One moment we are consumed with love and adoration for our children, wondering how we created such marvelous beings; the next moment we want to run from the house screaming, “Save yourselves!” To what end will we go to protect our children? To provide for them, to help them, to love them in a productive, unconditional, all-encompassing way?
There is no end. There is no length.
We exhaust ourselves daily — hourly — to make sure we’re doing all. the. things., and when we aren’t awake doing all the things, we’re struggling to rest each night because our brains are already working on tomorrow’s To Do List. But there’s a catch: We aren’t invincible. We can only function so long on caffeine and second winds. While we like to think we can do it all and do it well, the truth is that women need a certain elixir specific to them that recharges and re-centers their mothering efforts.
What works for one woman may not work for the next because we are a glorious tribe of diversity. We have different personalities, different interests, different things available to us. Our daily routines aren’t the same and some of our priorities may not align, but these disparities don’t negate the fact that every mom needs a way to recharge. Every mom, at some point, must have a moment to breathe.
For me, there are three things I need to be the best possible mother.
1. I put myself in time out.
Sometimes time out is a long run where I can churn mileage into a workable plan, but sometimes it’s just ten minutes in my bedroom away from the kids and whatever has caused tensions to rise. I learned this trick in my earliest days as a mother when I couldn’t console a crying baby and my temper flared. The same was true when my boys were in elementary school, and the same is true now as they begin their teen years. In order to be careful with my words and actions, I need to walk away when tensions run high. Not only can I return to a situation with clarity, but my efforts are better received through a calm disposition instead of a frantic one.
2. I wake up an hour or two before my children do.
As an introvert, I enjoy and require a certain level of calm and quiet each day. That’s hard to accomplish with two busy young men in the house. Plus, we homeschool, so we’re together all day, every day. Homeschooling families experience an obscene amount of togetherness, and while it’s deliberate, it can also be draining for mothers like me if there isn’t designated alone time. I get up early to read, drink coffee, and absorb the peaceful stillness that only exists before the rest of the world wakes up. Not only do I protect this precious time, I look forward to it. When it’s time to wake the boys up for school, I’m centered and ready to begin the day. Watching the sunrise each morning is icing on the cake.
3. I prioritize self-care.
I’m fiercely passionate about self-care. (In fact, I wrote a three-part series about self-care on my personal blog.) I’ve been guilty of putting myself last during earlier seasons of parenting, but no more. Not again. A healthy mom is at the ready. She’s equipped and prepared. Particularly as I enter the season of parenting teens, I need all the equipment and preparation as possible.
What does self-care look like?
For me, self-care includes running, reading for pleasure, and designating weekends with my college besties three times a year. Sometimes it’s a simple as drinking enough water everyday. It means getting quality sleep and carving out time for hobbies I enjoy. I endeavor to eat well and I stopped over-committing myself to life-draining activities. Self-care is less about massages and manicures and more about daily practices that promote overall health. Self-care isn’t self-centeredness; rather, it’s a series of little decisions that pack a big punch. When a mom is well-rested and clear-headed, she is her best self, and her children reap the rewards.