Me First


Since becoming a parent, whenever I feel overwhelmed by stress, household minutia, and/or the seeming inability to pee or shower in private, I repeat the airline mantra, “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” Moms are notoriously challenged in tending to their own needs; today, Tracy offers thoughts on how to work towards better self-care (and she’s a doctor, so listen up!):
“One of my biggest struggles as a mom, and really, for my whole life, has been how to take care of myself, so that I can take care of those who need me. These days, those who need me are primarily my husband and children. As a clinical psychologist in a new private practice, however, I am increasingly giving of myself to others on what can seem like an almost constant basis.

Professionally, my occupation demands much of who I am as a person. My style of interaction, the challenge of being attuned and empathic for clients is required each and every hour I spend with a client. At the end of the day, my reality is that I then go home to a husband and two boys who also will want some of that attunement and empathy. We’ve all had a long, hard day. Some days, I am spent. It’s difficult to summon more empathy. Enter self-care. By making self-care part of my routine, day-to-day life, I can re-fill my cup and go on.

How do we begin to implement change toward greater respect for our own self-care? Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

  • Realize that you cannot make time or find time. There are only 24 hours in a day; no more. In order to have time for yourself, you must take it.

  • What would you do if you had enough time to do some self-care? Make a list. It can be as fanciful (an exotic spa somewhere warm), or as practical (20 minutes a few times a week to exercise) as you want. In fact, there should be a range of options on your list. Think of ways to care for yourself without leaving the house. A 5-minute recharge behind closed doors with soothing music or the sounds of silence can do wonders to help you feel back to yourself again.

  • Having trouble starting a list? If a mama friend phoned you, feeling just as stressed as you are, have been, or can be at times, what would you suggest she do to regroup? Put those suggestions on your list. We’re often gentler with others than we are with ourselves, so this is a good way to balance the list.

  • Good self-care is habitual. It is a mindset. A way of being that allows for the reality that if you are not filled up, you cannot give of yourself to others. Make as many things as you can about self-care. It may seem a chore to take time to get a haircut, shop for a new outfit for yourself (instead of more stuff for the kids), or to sign up for a weekly lesson, group, or workshop. But, by believing that time for you is important and necessary, you take the first steps toward being a more balanced person, and a saner parent.

  • Start to notice changes. You might be surprised that, as you begin to prioritize and balance child and other care with self-care that you feel less guilty about focusing on you. You may find that your interactions with your children, partner and others are more focused, less fraught with urgency, and the up-tempo problem-solving mode of parenting that can sometimes take over our lives.

  • Finally, be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness of our errors, slips, and miscues is also self-care. You give your children lots of chances to get new behaviors and tasks down pat. Your own journey on the path of self-care should be no different.”