When we become mothers, sometimes it’s difficult to love ourselves as we should. On top of media and social platforms that show smiling families, perfect homes and the best angle (literally and figuratively) of each person we see online, there are elements–physically and mentally–that change when we become mothers and make loving ourselves even harder.
It’s easy to lose ourselves and forget who we are as individuals, removed from our children and significant others. We get caught up in all the other identities we take on when we become a parent, and as the days continue to pass by, it gets even easier to put off our own basic needs to stay in touch internally and maintain ourselves externally.
When push comes to shove, I often choose the dishes over a book, I choose an extra 30 minutes of sleep (to add to my often sleepless nights) over a workout, I choose a quick meal over a healthy one, and I choose others over myself almost every single time. And it shows.
It shows in the bags under my eyes. It shows in the 30 pounds of extra weight wrapped around my body. It shows in my demeanor just how hard I find it to love myself on days where the only thing I see are the things I could do better and the pieces of myself I don’t recognize. It makes me sad. It makes it hard to love myself. It makes it even harder for those around me to see me.
During times when I feel like it’s hard to see the things I like about myself, to put myself first or to love myself, I’ve learned it’s important to push everything else aside and focus most on changing that feeling. We must treat ourselves with as much care and priority as we do our families or no one gets the best version of us.
Decide you matter. It starts with deciding that you matter. No one can do that for you. Not often is anyone else going to say, “Hey, take some time and focus on yourself today.” You have to make the decision to prioritize your life. You are just as important as your kid(s), as your significant other, as your boss. Stop putting yourself second and maintain you, because if the foundation on which all of these things stand crumbles, it will be much harder to rebuild.
Carve out time. Ideally, it would be great if we had a whole day a week or a couple hours each day to focus on ourselves, but life as a parent is never ideal. If you can, get up a few minutes before your children; or if you’re like me and hate mornings, take time after the kids are asleep to focus on you. Even if you can only find five minutes today, in a locked bedroom, with children incessantly calling your name in the background, take those five minutes. Wash your face, change your clothes, eat a piece of dark chocolate or simply look in the mirror and say something positive.
Unplug. So often we’re pulled in several directions at once. The kids need this, there’s an appointment, a deadline, a date night, and the list goes on. And when there’s finally a moment for silence, we turn on the t.v., listen to the radio or get out our phones. On occasion, take those times to just be in silence. Use the silence to think, grow or relax. Write in a journal, spend some time outside or go for a walk. It’s good for your soul.
Love your body. I’m not saying you’ll necessarily enjoy all the changes or to embrace the weight gain, but know that you are beautiful no matter how physically different you may feel. Your body is powerful; it housed, nurtured and birthed children. A 120 pound, unmarked body is not the only thing that equals beauty. Your body has experienced something, it’s grown, and it’s changed–in my mind, that makes it even more beautiful. Loving your body can also mean treating it well and making an effort to put the things into it that reflect care and love. Accepting physical appearance does not define you, taking the steps to change the things you can and taking care of your body’s health will change your image inside and out.
Recollect. Before you had a family, what did you enjoy? What other things brought you happiness? Don’t let the things that made up who you were before adulthood and parenthood completely disappear. Make time to enjoy them, and furthermore, take time to grow in areas that interest you–new or old. Pick up an instrument, take a class, pursue a passion or do that thing you’ve always been afraid to do. It will be worth it; it will be fulfilling. You deserve the chance to further yourself and become a better you.
As you begin (or continue) to focus on yourself, know that your children look up to you. They learn from you. Realize that self-love is one of the most important things you can teach your children, and one of the best things you can offer to those around you but especially you.
“I bought the rice, the rice of motherhood, but for a few years, I wasn’t cooking it properly. I was feeding my children uncooked, stale grain. I was starving their spirits to death.
I didn’t understand that I am the sustenance for their hearts. I am the rice and I am responsible for cooking myself properly.” –Rebecca Lammersen
It’s time. Love yourself again. Put you first today.