I wish I could remember who first told me those words about a year into being a mother, but mom brain is very real and I’m just not sure who that person was. Trying to be a good mom when you aren’t taking care of yourself is like trying to go run the Boston Marathon when you’ve only ever run your local town 5k. It’s going to be one heck of a struggle. Your mind needs a break. Your body needs a break. YOU NEED A BREAK MAMA. And guess what, that’s OK!
When I first became a mom I felt like I needed to hide the fact that I was tired because I had this overwhelming pressure to be everything and do everything. If I showed anyone that I was tired or looked like I couldn’t handle every little thing that was going on in our rollercoaster of a life, it meant I was weak. After becoming a mom I felt this overwhelming pressure to look like I had everything under control whether I actually did or did not. Guess what? I did not. I’m not sure who actually does. Let’s be honest, even Beyonce can’t do everything, BUT that still didn’t keep me from feeling like I had to at least try to look like I did.
That feeling was paralyzing at times. I thought pregnancy was so hard. Then my son was born and as a first-time mom, I felt like THAT was the hardest thing ever. I laugh because my son is now 2.5 which has been a blast, but oh my goodness the tantrums. The funny thing is that I know this pattern is just going to continue. The things I thought were hard got easier then came the new and potentially harder stages. Time flies. Everyone tells you that, but I don’t think it’s fully felt until you’re a mom or a parent in general for that matter.
As moms, we’re continuously giving pieces of ourselves to everyone all day long. Our love, our energy, our time. That’s what being a mom is all about though, right? There’s nothing wrong with it. The problem isn’t what we are doing, it’s what we aren’t doing. We aren’t taking care of ourselves after we’ve taken care of everyone else. Take a second and think about this for me. No, for yourself. How are you going to refill those little pieces that you’ve been giving away?
What did you feel after thinking about that? Did you feel a calmness come over you almost like your entire body took a deep breath in and thought, “Ok. Here we go. I’m going to work on me.” Or, on the flip side of things, did you panic? A slight (or maybe major) feeling of anxiety, like “how in the world am I going to find time to work on me when I don’t even have enough time or energy in the day to get everything else done in life?!” You’re right. Whichever way you felt is right and OK.
Mama, we’re GO! GO! GO! constantly. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay at home mom, working mom, a mom who works and also stays home, or anything in between. This is tough. All of this. But I’m here to say that we’re in it together. We’re all struggling. Even the beyond “perfect” moms that you scroll past on social media who never have a hair out of place (uh, hello postpartum hair. It’s real) and who apparently have Cinderella’s mice doing their cleaning. I’m here to tell you that you need to take a break here and there without any guilt.
There is always something that needs to be done, that’s just how life works. Our minds are designed to keep tabs open for our ongoing to-do list but we have to train them to pause. It’s hard to go take a nice bath with some Epsom salt or essential oils when that little voice in your head is hollering “YOU HAVEN’T FOLDED THE LAUNDRY THAT’S SITTING ON TOP OF THE DRYER YET” but you need to get in that tub. Either ignore the voice and put off the laundry for just a bit longer or give yourself a goal. For example, once you fold and put away the laundry on the dryer, then you can get in that tub and not even have to think about it. Some of us won’t be able to enjoy the bath without finishing that one thing (just don’t turn getting that one chore done, into breaking down your whole list!) and others can separate them better. Whichever works best for you, just make sure to take a minute. Or 20.
A car trying to run without gas isn’t going to go very far. A mama running on empty may not be able to react as calmly as she wanted to after a cabinet door was opened and slammed shut for the 367th time after already explaining how they are to be closed carefully! Sure, you may snap here and there. I think that’s what makes us human and able to continuously feel emotion. A 20-minute bath isn’t going to cure you of stress, but it can help give you that pause that you need. If baths aren’t your thing, there are a ton of other options for you to try out. If you try something and it doesn’t give you some much-needed relief, try something else. Don’t give up. YOU NEED THESE BREAKS.
Exercising, talking on the phone with a friend while sitting on the couch or in bed (not multi-tasking like we’re prone to do), grabbing a fun dessert alone or with a friend, going to a movie by yourself, or journaling your thoughts-the good and the bad-whether it’s in a physical journal at night before going to bed or while sitting in your car for a quick 5 minutes before picking up the kids from school. Shoot, go grocery shopping by yourself if you can manage it! Shopping in general with a child can be like grocery shopping with an octopus, and a sassy one at that. If you can use solo shopping as a break, girl run to your nearest Target and get to it!
Ideally, I’m sure we’d all love our breaks to be a spa day here and there. Or one spa day. Ok, a quick mani? More often than not I’d say that isn’t really doable because of time, money, or any other roadblocks that seem to consistently pop up in life. That doesn’t mean that every single one of you doesn’t deserve a break now and then, they’ll just look different. We put off our mental and physical wellbeing time and time again but it’s only costing us in the long run. Mama, take that break. For yourself, for your family. Just try it out. Do something, ANYTHING. Refilling your cup is only going to make it easier the next time you pour yourself right back out again.