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May is Women’s Health Month Why It’s Not Selfish to Take Care of Yourself

By Dana Hall McCain

May is Women’s Health Month Why It’s Not Selfish to Take Care of YourselfMy epiphany came during the pre-flight safety ritual on a recent trip. You know the routine: exits are here, here, and here; your seat cushion is a flotation device (great!); stay seated until the captain turns off the seatbelt sign, etc. The thing that got my attention in a new way was the set of instructions regarding the drop-down emergency oxygen masks. Our flight attendant reminded us that if others around you (children, for instance) need help with their masks, put on your mask FIRST, then help them. Why? Because if you can’t breathe, you may fall out before you’ve adequately helped them, or even helped yourself.

It’s a perfect illustration of the life of a mom. Everyone around us—our kids, our husbands, our older parents—depend on us for a thousand things each day. In order to be able to meet those needs, we need healthy bodies, clear minds, and nourished souls. Many moms don’t take the time each day to exercise, to have a time of spiritual renewal, or to invest in friendships which “fill their cup.” They feel guilty focusing on themselves, even for a brief interlude. But is it really selfish if it makes you a better, more balanced mom?

Taking care of yourself makes good sense for you and your family. Here are four reasons you need to take care of yourself.

1.  You will hit the wall one day.
Putting others first is noble and acceptable much of the time, but it can’t be all the time. If you constantly prioritize caring for others over your own health and wellness, you will eventually hit the wall. For some women, it’s in a matter of months after bringing the first baby home. For others, it’s a slow build-up that finally erupts in a midlife crisis of discontentment. Moms are rarely at their physical, emotional, or spiritual best when this happens and no one benefits.

2.  It’s not just self-preservation, it’s teaching.
Do you want your children to know how to lead balanced lives and take care of themselves? Do you want them to take time to invest in their own spiritual growth, to cultivate meaningful relationships, and to take care of their bodies? Then you must model it for them. Children learn far more about how to “do life” from watching us do it ourselves than from anything we say.

3.  Moderation is the key.
Can a mom go too far in the “taking care of myself because it’s important” mindset? Absolutely. I’ve watched moms keep their children in childcare almost full-time while they worked out with the personal trainer, got the massage, had their hair cut and highlighted, lunched with girlfriends, and shopped until time for their husbands to get home. Self-care can creep into self-centeredness and indulgence. But some quiet time to pray and an hour in there somewhere to exercise and de-stress are not too much to ask. Neither is an occasional coffee or lunch date with a friend. All things in moderation.

4.  Balanced moms are nicer people.
Moms who are physically and emotionally healthy are more positive, more patient, and more kind. Aren’t those personality traits you’d like to exhibit with your family? Trust us, when your husband and kids find out which activity—whether it’s your bible study group or a 5-mile run—turns you into “nice mommy,” they’ll push you out the door to do it! If you’re not sure where you’ll fit it into your day, try one of these 7 strategies for finding some downtime.

It’s funny: after a big meal, my husband can go to the living room and pick up a newspaper and relax. If I try to do the same thing, I hear a tiny voice in my head saying, “You really should just go ahead and tackle those dishes. You shouldn’t be sitting here. That laundry…those emails… what about the dishes??”

You’ve heard the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl.” It holds true for moms! Stop thinking of taking time to rest and rejuvenate as a luxury. If you’re going to be at your best—for your family, your boss, or your friends—you must take care of yourself. Here are some tips for finding time in your busy life to recharge.

1. Schedule It.
You schedule just about everything else in life, right? So write your time to exercise, pray, or whatever it is you need to feel great into the schedule for the day. Then honor that appointment with yourself just like you would one at the doctor’s office.

2. Start Early.
For many moms, the calm before the storm is the hour before the rest of her household comes to life. Try setting your alarm to wake a bit earlier and use that time to do something just for you.

3. Ask for Help.
Too many moms are martyrs, suffering under a list of chores and to-do’s that could easily be accomplished by other members of the household. If you need a break in the afternoon but feel that things won’t get done if you do, delegate! Assign one child to fold that load of laundry and another to set the table for dinner and take a walk to clear your head.  Our Printable Chore Chart can help you get started (go to imom.com).

4. Tag-Team with Your Husband.
Your hubby likely feels the time pinch just as much as you do. Work together to create an escape for each of you in the schedule. He holds down the fort while you break away, and you return the favor for him.  If you are a single mom, try trading childcare with another single mom friend.

5. Work with Your Kids’ Schedules.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom to young children, you probably have fewer options for time alone than most. If you do have one or two mornings per week where your children attend Moms Morning Out or a similar short-term childcare program, don’t spend your entire three hours without the kids running errands and striking off to-dos. Carve out one of those hours to do something that refreshes you.

6. Make the Most of Nap Time.
When your children are small, naptime is as precious as gold—It’s your only chance to regroup! Resist the urge to dash around the house cleaning and working the whole time. Take the first half hour after you put them down to read or relax. Those piles of laundry will wait.

7. Keep Outside Commitments Reasonable.
Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s not child abuse to limit the number of activities your children are allowed to participate in. Likewise, it’s not necessary for you or your husband to say yes to every request for volunteer help at the school or church. Keeping those commitments within reason will help you to fit down time into your own life, and the lives of your family.

Copyright 2017. iMOM.
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with
permission. For more inspiration and
resources, visit iMOM.com.

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