Health Matters: Self-Care for Moms
As moms, we are often busy taking care of everyone else—making our children’s lunches, scheduling medical appointments for our spouses, checking in on extended family members, buying thank-you gifts for teachers, and the list goes on. As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s time to put yourself on the care list. It’s time for some self-care! It may feel overly indulgent, but the truth is, you can only fill others’ cups if your cup is full.
For soon-to-be moms, so much is going on inside your body as you grow a new human. This is the perfect time to pamper yourself with healthy activities like going for walks, getting plenty of sleep, and eating healthy meals full of fresh produce. It’s also a good time to consider your support system for when the baby is born. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. People who love you want to help, but oftentimes don’t know how. Ask them to freeze a casserole for you or empty the dishwasher when they come to visit.
For new moms, it’s important to be patient with yourself. You’ve never done this before. There’s a learning curve and you can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate. In fact, you should give up on perfection now. Choose a different goal, like “wonderful” or “amazing” because no matter how hard you try, you won’t be perfect. Give yourself some grace and give some to family members, too. Everyone’s adjusting and learning.
As you make your way through each age and stage, and each new child, you’ll face new challenges. Each of us is different, but every mother needs to recharge her battery from time to time. Do you need time alone? Do you need to go out dancing to live music? Do you need a date night at a fancy restaurant with your sweetheart? Do you need time to paint or read or do yoga? Whatever it is, put it on the calendar just like you would any other important appointment. Find a babysitter or trade babysitting duties with other moms who need some self-care time; you watch their children one week and they watch your children the next.
And just about the time you think you’ve got this parenting thing down, your kids become teenagers and everything changes again. In the early years, children depend on us mothers for their physical needs—diaper changing, feeding, learning to walk, etc. As children age, the pendulum swings from physical to emotional needs, and by the time they’re teens, although they may be able to feed themselves, wow, do they need a lot of emotional support. This often comes at a time when moms also need support because we’re perimenopausal. If you are a perimenopausal mother of teens, you absolutely need to make time for self-care. In addition to finding ways to exercise that hot-flashing body of yours, whether that’s taking fitness classes at a gym or walking your dog every day, it’s important to find ways to center yourself emotionally. Teens are on an emotional roller coaster, and as hard as it is, they depend on us to stay steady.
In our 40s and 50s, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy. Eat well (and typically less than we used to). Exercise regularly (Mayo Clinic recommends moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes a week. In addition, strength-training exercises are recommended at least twice a week). Keep up with preventive health care (don’t skimp—get the pap and mammogram when you’re due). And pay attention to changes in your physical and emotional wellbeing. If you need extra emotional support, consider seeing a counselor who can help you navigate life’s big changes—empty nesting, chronic health conditions, divorce, or whatever you’re dealing with.
If you’re a grandmother or a woman in her 60s or older, it may feel like your body is falling apart. It’s not fair, but there it is. Do what you can to stay strong and healthy and continue to invest in meaningful relationships for emotional support.
Katrina Lieben is a certified nurse midwife at Care for Her, a service of MCHC Health Centers—a local, non-profit, federally qualified health center offering medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino Counties.