We often talk about mothers that we hold in awe using descriptions such as “selfless”, “putting their family first”, “self-sacrificing” “price of motherhood” and all those nice warm and fuzzy words. I am sure you have heard of those mums who seem to ‘do it all’. We look on in awe at women who bring their babies on outings loaded with containers of food, prepared for everything and looking great. We wonder how a mum can energetically volunteer at kinder, host dinner parties, organise great outings with their kids and keep a clean house. We hear women say that they are willing to put their careers on hold because they want to be there for their kids. Or that they had to stop doing something they love, because they want to put their family first.
But at what cost? As a long-time psychologist and mother of 3, I see the consequences of women devoting all their time looking after everyone in their family. Mums spend a lot of energy caring and worrying about their baby, and feel anxious that they are doing a good enough job; and they feel guilty for doing anything for themselves.
Women often feel like they have to make excuses for going out, spending time with friends or playing sport while their child is in childcare. But I love it when I hear about a mum taking up a new hobby that does not involve the kids. Or when a mother leaves her young children with a babysitter for a few hours to go to the movies or have a massage.
Most women rarely ask for help from other mothers, even though we are all taking our children to the same places and have the same child-related tasks to do. If we do ask for help, it’s only for something ‘important’, not so we can have time alone to go for a walk or see a friend.
It’s nice to be able to watch your children at swimming lessons, to take them to and from kinder or school every day, and make sure all their needs are met. But it is also important to follow your own path and your own passions. For your child to see that you have your own needs and interests.
If you know a woman who asks for help, applaud her and follow her lead! She is probably someone who is not trying to ‘do it all’ and feels comfortable enough to ask for help. Most of us are happy to help others out, but we rarely ask for help ourselves. We are frightened of seeming incompetent or unable to cope. But I don’t recommend trying to do it all yourself. It’s the mums who try to do it all themselves that I worry about the most.
Not taking time for yourself, and never asking for help, increases the risk of depression or anxiety. Self-care is not selfish!
Here are my top ten tips
1. Alone time
3. Pleasurable activities
4. Date nights
6. Asking for help
8. Passions and interests