A mom’s best prescription
There is one prescription that all mothers should have. They should receive it before they are discharged from the hospital when they give birth, and when they come in for their postpartum visit it needs to be checked that they are using it. At all annual visits, refills should be given.
That prescription? To make sure they have time to themselves at least once a day, with an increase in the dose if needed. Times when it may be appropriate for such a dose adjustment include during the holidays, on Mom’s birthday, and whenever certain “milestones” are happening in their children’s lives, such as teething, dropping naps, and the discovery of talking back.
I might be joking a bit here, but I am completely serious that all mothers need to take care of themselves. A mother (and of course, a father, too) can’t be a good parent if she is so tired, stressed, and neglected that her own self is falling apart. Just like when the flight attendant says you need to secure your own oxygen mask before helping those around you, the same goes with parenting: you can’t care for another life if you are letting yours fall apart.
Kids also look to us as models for themselves. If they see that their mother has been willing to abandon all self-care in the name of being Mother of the Year, they may think that is an appropriate way to treat their own bodies. Children need to see that at times they need to step aside so that mom can have time for her own breakfast (not just grabbing whatever was left on the plates as they run off to school), time for her to exercise, and time for her to spend with her friends having an adult conversation.
I know when I first came to this realization I had a hard time not feeling guilty. I thought that instead of enjoying a nice pedicure or getting a chance to shop by myself, I should be home getting ahead on the day’s tasks and giving my husband a break—especially since he spends all day caring for kids as a pediatrician. However, I soon learned that these small treats (and it can be as small as taking 30 minutes to read a book for pleasure instead of making a gourmet dinner one night) left me recharged and energized. Because of that, I was a better, more patient mom in the days to come.
So moms, dads, and caregivers: please be sure to take some time for yourself every day. Use that prescription. You need it, and your kids will learn to respect you for it too. In fact, my cup of coffee and book are waiting for me as I type, so it’s about time I follow the doctor’s orders.