Moms are often portrayed in our society as being selfless. But taking the best care of our kids starts with an honest look in the mirror. If the woman peering back has dark circles under her eyes and a teeth-clenching grimace, it’s time for some self-care.
According to the World Health Organization, women are more prone than men to experience anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms that cannot always be explained medically. That’s why it’s so important for mothers to remember that being a good parent doesn’t mean giving it all up for your kids.
Modeling self-care to your children is just as important as modeling good manners, according to Triple P, the Positive Parenting Program supported in Palm Beach County by Children’s Services Council.
“Moms are often more effective when they take time out for themselves, such as getting their nails or hair done, going shopping, talking to a friend on the phone or turning up the music to a favorite song before picking the kids. It’s about being good to yourself so you can give your best back to your children,” says Jaime-Lee Brown, vice president of community services for Community Partners, which run several BRIDGES sites across the county. BRIDGES, funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, are community hubs across the county that offer families an array of services to help parents raise their children to be healthy, safe and strong.
Think you’re too busy to make a little time for yourself? Think again:
1. Get moving. Check for fitness opportunities in your workplace for the added bonus of convenience, team-building, fellowship and fun. Community Partners started free Zumba classes on-site a month ago for its employees. Heidi Dixon, director of human resources, says they’ll be adding a second class soon. “Zumba made me realize how much I missed ‘me’ time and camaraderie with other women,” Dixon says. The busy single mom says she has noticed fewer headaches and greater energy levels; her pre-teen daughter says she seems much happier, too.
2. Eat healthy. Take a few extra moments at the grocery and enjoy the brightly colored offerings in the fresh fruit and vegetable aisles. Choose one new-to-you healthy food to try. Chew slowly. Savor the experience of eating a non-processed food. Or pick out a small packet of dry tea packed with antioxidants, which may boost the immune system and keep you healthier. Prepare a hot, aromatic cup in your favorite mug to enjoy at the end of a busy day.
3. Explore a hobby. Schedule some down time with your favorite girlfriends. Try painting pottery, beading bracelets, scrapbooking or making Macramé plant hangers. Split the cost of the materials, and put the date on all of your calendars. Take turns hosting. You’ll love revisiting the memories when you admire your handiwork. Or make new friends at a book club or a sports league just for women. Be brave; try something new.
4. Be quiet. Solo activities such as reading, coloring, journaling, gardening or grooming your pet can be very calming and meditative. Try tending to potted plants or walking outside in one the many natural areas of Palm Beach County. Be intentional about finding a space in which to listen to the deeper stirrings of your soul. Silence your cell phone and avoid the tendency to chronicle your adventures on social media. Instead, focus completely on the antics of a single lizard, bird or squirrel.
5. Pamper yourself. Instead of a quick shower, block out an hour and fill the tub. Ask or friend or relative to watch your kids so you can indulge in a long soak or an afternoon nap. Try applying a fragrant facial mask while listening to some soft music. Put aside extra quarters to buy a fresh flower at the end of the month “just because.”
6. Arrange regular child care. Don’t feel guilty about asking a relative or a close friend to watch your kids for an hour here or there to do something besides those necessary appointments and errands. If money’s an issue, swap child care with other trusted moms so everyone gets a short break. (Your kids will have fun, too!)
7. Join a group. For moms looking for meaningful group activities that include child care, Kathy Wall, public education manager for Community Partners’ BRIDGES sites, says that their Child Watch program makes it possible for parents to attend workshops on a variety of self-care topics – including financial fitness, health, adult learning and nutrition – while their kids play and read with staff in a separate room. Many BRIDGES sites also have parent-led art nights, Zumba classes and sewing groups. “We tell our parents daily that they are their children’s first teachers,” Wall says, “but they can’t take care of others until they first take care of themselves.”