The Myth of Mommy Martyrdom: Three Mindful Ways You Can Practice Self-Care in the New Year
DECLUTTERING -- Out with the old, in with the new! But decluttering isn’t just meant for our homes or closets; decluttering should also happen within us -- mind, body, and soul. Here’s one mindset we definitely need to purge this new year -- The Myth of Mommy Martyrdom.
You're not being selfish to meet your own needs. In fact, you owe it to your child. --Dr. Laura Markham, The Secret of the Full Cup: Self Care
In the traditional Filipino setting of family, it is commonly accepted that being a mother is synonymous to sacrifice -- often, even self-sacrifice. We lament our unwashed hair and missed meals but well-meaning friends and relatives just chuckle and say, “Ganyan talaga, Nanay ka na eh.” (That’s really how it is, you’re a mother now.) But is this really how things are meant to be? Not according to Dr. Laura Markham.
Dr. Laura Markham is a trained Clinical Psychologist at Columbia University, but she's also a mom, so she understands kids -- and parents! And she translates proven science into the practical solutions you need for the family life you want in her three best-selling books: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life, and The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids WORKBOOK.
According to Dr. Markham, “Every one of us can get pushed to the limit and go over the edge. Since we're the grown-ups, it's our job to stay away from the edge. And that ability to self-regulate is impossible if we don't notice our own needs and emotions. We aren't doing our children any favors if we don't care for ourselves at the same time that we're caring for our kids.”
I know that for some of us, the concept of “self-care” seems like an unrealistic ideal, since going to the bathroom alone is even a challenge! But even in the flight safety demonstration, we are instructed to put on our own oxygen mask first.
We’re not saying pack up your bags, leave the kids and head to Hawaii (although that does sound tempting hehe); there are other ways we can look at to be more caring and careful of ourselves.
Here are three mindful ways you can practice self-care in the New Year:
Check Your Health
The idea of writing this article came about while I was anxiously waiting for the results of my Pap smear last year. I know it sounds almost funny to be anxious about what should be an annual procedure but because I had failed to do it since my daughter was born four years prior, and I had not taken care of myself as well as I should since then, all sorts of paranoid thoughts raced through my mind in what felt like the longest week of my life.
And this wasn’t the first time I went through this anxiety, early last year I also had another “health scare” when I was experiencing weird headaches that didn’t feel like the typical migraine. At first I thought it may be related to my eyesight but when both optometrist and ophthalmologist from the American Eye Center cleared my eyes and calmly suggested a trip to the neurologist, my heart couldn’t decide whether to race or stop beating.
I went to one of the top neurologists in St. Luke’s Medical Center who couldn’t find anything during a physical examination so she requested a full blood panel, urinalysis and a brain CT scan with contrast — the tests and the cost of the tests were equally alarming.
Both “health scares” left me crying and feeling helpless, worried about my daughter especially because I am a single parent with really no tangible assets to my name. Who would take care of her? How could I leave her with nothing? What am I going to do if something was terribly wrong with me?
It did not feel good to be faced with those thoughts and I thank God every day that all the test results came back normal.
But it really woke me up to the fact that as mothers WE REALLY CANNOT NEGLECT OURSELVES. Although we often feel and act the part, WE ARE NOT INVINCIBLE.
Too much relies on you, Momma! Don’t take your health for granted!
Some simple but necessary Self-Care Reminders:
● Eat healthy
● Drink plenty of water
● Pee when you need to -- don’t ever hold it in!
● Shower daily.
● Change your clothes daily.
● Brush your hair.
● Brush your teeth three times a day.
● Exercise. If you can’t, try taking walks.
● Save up for a trip to the spa or massage place.
These things may sound funny or even silly to some but I am sure that there are moms out there who have neglected at least one or all of these things at one point in their motherhood — I know I have and I don’t want to ever again — neither should you!
2. Listen to Your Heart
Just as important as your physical health is your heart-health. Be honest, do you feel good about yourself right now? When you look in the mirror, do you like who you see? Before you close your eyes to sleep, are you at peace or do you feel like a failure?
Let’s face it, everyone runs to mom; if you’re a married mom, then I’m sure you are your husband’s main source of support too. And often as women we take on the world then proceed to suffer in silence under all the weight — and reach the point of imploding and/or exploding without anyone knowing it.
But the Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV): “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
How you feel about yourself affects how you treat other people. If you beat yourself up emotionally, you may emotionally wound your children and/or your spouse too. If you are angry and unforgiving toward yourself, you may notice that you are also angry and unforgiving toward the people closest to you.
Hurt people, hurt people. I learned this a long time ago but have often failed to take it to heart. Those who are hurt tend to hurt others and the ones they hurt will pass on that hurt as well. It’s a vicious cycle and you have to decide that it ends with you.
I’ve found that surrounding yourself with even just a few genuine people who sincerely love and care for you and sharing your life with them is a step in the right direction toward a healthier wellbeing.
I am part of a small group of women from our local church whom I meet with personally every other week, but we also stay in touch throughout the week in a Viber group. We share our rants and raves, ups and downs, victories and defeats. We encourage each other, lovingly correct each other, pray for each other and keep each other accountable in our daily lives and in our relationship with God.
I am not forcing my faith or decision on anyone. But I am suggesting and encouraging you to find your own community where you feel safe to belong. Remember, no community is perfect because none of us are. Just find one where your heart is most at peace and work at it from there.
As women we need to surround ourselves with fellow women who we can learn from and who we will allow to speak into our lives as well.
3. Give Your Hopes a Chance
When was the last time you had a dream? As children we were full of hopes, dreams and ideals but somehow as we grew older, we lowered the expectations of our hopes, forgot our dreams and abandoned our ideals.
Sometimes when we become moms, it seems we give them up altogether and instead focus on the hopes and dreams of our children and our spouses; working hard to help make their ideals come true.
But why do we feel we need to give up one for the other? More importantly, why do you feel that your hopes and dreams can be set aside? Are you less important than your family? Your children? Your husband? No you are not, Momma!
You are just as important as your children and your husband. Your hopes and your dreams matter as much now as they did when you were younger or even more because I know that whatever those hopes and dreams were, they are still part of your new (and bigger!) heart as mother and wife.
So if you’ve stopped hoping, start again. If you’ve stopped dreaming, dream again. Write these down and make plans to pursue them. Begin investing on yourself. You have not stopped growing because you’re a mom. In fact, your growth in this season of motherhood has just begun.
About the Contributor
MarketingMom Sheryn Alvarez is a freelance Marketing and Management Consultant and a blessed single parent to her wonderful daughter, Keilah. She occasionally blogs about all things Marketing, Management, Motherhood, and Mom Finds. Visit her website on www.marketingmom.co and follow her on social media @marketingmomph on Facebook and Instagram.