Dear Sweet Struggling Mama,
I know it can be difficult. I know that sometimes self-care doesn’t even make it on the to-do list.
Feelings of guilt or selfishness, as well as overwhelm, exhaustion and frustration can make it hard to even know where to start.
I would like to ask that we begin by removing the word “struggle” from our vocabulary. Struggle implies violent or forceful effort and the art of self-care—which includes anything that nourishes or nurtures your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being—should be gentle.
As women and mothers we may put the needs of our children, partners and parents before our own and prioritize all manner of things at the expense of time for ourselves. It’s not a new revelation, I know, but sometimes we need a reminder that we are made of stardust and it is gentle compassion, not struggle, that best prevents burn-out.
When my boys were little, I was sure to get “me time,” though something was missing. Whether I was soaking in the tub or painting, it was rarely relaxing. My boys were likely to interrupt and even when they didn’t, I felt selfish for choosing myself over some household task or another. In the early days with a toddler and baby, and for many years after, I stayed up late to pursue my own interests, only to wake up exhausted the next day. Despite trying to master the art of self-care, I always felt hurried. One day I realized that it had been years since I’d taken the time to apply lotion to my legs after showering. Neglecting such a small ritual, for so long, was a huge sign that it was time to up my self-care game.
I wanted to be in service to my family, but I also needed to be in service to myself.
I started rambling on with loose metaphors about the emptying and filling of vessels, in hopes that the boys would understand. We discussed the lack of sustainability of a communal garden that only one person waters and the airline protocol that asks adults to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting a child. When things got rough, it was a reminder to breathe and tend to myself first and without guilt.
We are often conscious about treating others the way we want to be treated, but fail to extend the same courtesy to ourselves. When we are feeling guilty or selfish it may be time to ask if we’re being as gentle as we would with a friend or if we are judging ourselves too harshly.
On days when self-care feels like a chore, perhaps the best thing we can do is rest.
Self-care shouldn’t contribute to our sense of overwhelm. If you want to curl up with a book and some coffee or binge on snack food and Mad Men, it will be okay. You’re allowed. On the days when everything feels hard, release the guilt and invite joy. Start small, start where you are. After years of gestating, lactating, child-wearing and co-sleeping, I started moving my body in ways that I once enjoyed. Committing to regular yoga felt like too much but stretching throughout the day was totally doable. I couldn’t handle the pressure of going to the gym but I could dance in my living room and now I do, every single day. Sometimes I would take the boys to the park and play with them and even if I wasn’t doing laundry or pulling weeds in my own yard, we were connecting and getting some Vitamin D. Self-care can be as simple as asking what feels good in our bodies and making necessary adjustments. Find the ways that your body wants to move and move it. When you’re frustrated try shaking it off. Literally. Imagine how animals shake their fur or feathers after any sort of upset and then do it. Embarrassed? Good! Getting silly is an easy way to make room for joy.
Magical things happen when we find peace in our choices instead of hopping on the shame-cycle. The key is to make the best choices when we can and practice self-forgiveness when we can’t. Remember that each one of us gets to feel good and determine our own parameters for feeling good. Repeat after me: I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy.
Now, stand in your beauty and remember, you are not struggling, not ever.
Understand there is a magical quality to our words, which are a product of our thoughts. This is the key to creating, each, our own universe. You are learning how to slay obstacles and opponents, especially the ones in your head that ask if that ethically sourced, organic lotion was too expensive. If you love it and didn’t break the bank or buy all the lotion like a hoarder, you’re good, and you should feel good every time you use it.
Author: Valeri Blossom
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: London Scout/Unsplash