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Why Moms Should Put Their Oxygen Masks On First

Motherhood is a paradox. In one day you can feel complete chaos, as your toddlers wreak havoc on your home (and sanity), but then peace, as they fall asleep, snuggled in your arms. There can be tears of frustration and moments filled with deep belly laughs. You’re energized during a Mommy & Me class, as you watch your baby learn and explore, but come bedtime, the level of exhaustion is unreal and you pass out trying to put said child to sleep. It’s at times overwhelming and consuming — so much so that the idea of “me time” gets prioritized last. Why is that?

I’m definitely guilty of this. I just started taking one hour for myself every morning to workout. That’s how I like to practice self-care, and up until this point it’s been something I did intermittently. (Read: one week I would go to the gym three times, then skip the next three weeks for whatever reasons.) Obviously there will be days (and have been) where a 60-minute class just isn’t in the cards, but that doesn’t mean the idea of self-care has to get tabled for another time.

“We always return to the example of: ‘Put your own oxygen mask on first,’ because it is true and effective,” says Dr. Ginnie Love, Psychotherapist, Ph.D, M.A., M. “To be the best for your family, you have to care for yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s actually the opposite. If you do not practice self-care you are robbing your family and self of your best you.” 

Woman drinking cup of coffee.
Sometimes self-care is having a hot cup of coffee with no interruptions.

Here are three ways to practice self-care:

1. Take A Moment Of Silence, Even If It Can Only Be For A Few Seconds.

Kids fighting over the same toy for the 10th time that morning? Or maybe your toddler is refusing the eggs he just had a meltdown over because it wasn’t cooking fast enough. “Our autonomic nervous systems can go into overdrive [in these instances] and need a break,” shares Love. “We can reset our system with as little as 15 seconds of silence and a few deep calming breaths.”

2. Rethink Self-Care.

“It isn’t all yoga and meditation,” says Samantha Ettus, Keynote speaker and bestselling author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction. “Sometimes it’s a margarita with a friend or date night or playing hooky from work to pick your kids up after school. It is all about including fun in your every day.”

3. Do Something To Rejuvenate You.

Maybe it’s calling a friend and catching up. Or taking a walk or reading a book when your kids go down for a nap.

According to Ettus, when parents are asked what they want for their children, most respond that they want them to be happy. However, these same parents fail to model enjoyment of their own lives. “Ask yourself, ‘What are you showing your kids? Are you modeling just getting through the day, just surviving? Or are you modeling a fun, fulfilling life? Go live that fun life,” says Ettus. “If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your children.”

Self-care also includes boundary setting — learning to say no when you need to and saying yes to you when it’s necessary, and without guilt, shares Love. “If you still feel guilt in the beginning ‘fake it until you make it.’”

Ravelle Worthington is a wife, momma to three, and the founder of Mommy Brain. Follow her on Instagram here.

Join the Mommy Brain private community where members can have open and honest discussions about all the parts of motherhood, whether that’s parent/child-related, self-care, life after becoming a mom, divorce, career changes, intimacy with your partner — there are many layers to who we are as women and as mothers. This is the space to talk about it all!

By Mommy Brain, January 9, 2018
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