Mother’s Day is a holiday meant to honor and celebrate motherhood. It’s supposed to be an opportunity to shower moms with signs of appreciation and love. Yet many mothers find ourselves working as hard as ever on this holiday, hosting events and accommodating everyone else’s schedules and needs. We expect moms to do it all, all the time, for everyone else without having needs of our own. It should be no wonder that moms end up burned out and exhausted.
This Mother’s Day let’s celebrate with a call for moms to do what it takes to feel deeply nourished and for a support system that encourages this self-care.
Let’s be real. Moms can love our children fiercely and still acknowledge that mothering is a ton of hard work. It’s a 24-hour, demanding job that requires an enormous amount of time, energy, attention, and patience. It’s emotionally and mentally taxing. Moms tend to the tears of bumped knees and broken hearts. We try to diagnose and find care for kids with everything from stomach pains to anxiety and depression. We are constantly trying to figure out how to best support and guide our kids through the challenges of this world. Most of the time we’re guessing and hoping it works out okay.
Even when moms aren’t with our children, we think about them, worry about them, plan for them. We talk about our kids with our friends, family, therapists, trying so hard to give them what they need. Moms often push past the aches and pains of our bodies to lift kids into car seats, drive to another game in the rain, stay up late helping with homework or friendship woes. We feel ourselves edge toward an emotional breaking point at times, overwhelmed and digging even deeper into our own inner resources.
Sometimes every wonderful mom will just lose it. We cry. We yell. We lock ourselves in the bathroom. We have internalized the unrealistic standards that have been set for moms in our culture. We push ourselves into burnout trying to do it all for everyone else while surviving on small sips of self-care when we’re utterly parched. So we lose it sometimes. Afterwards, we feel guilty and ashamed, pushing ourselves to give more and repeat the cycle. We fear that self-care as a mom will seem selfish. And no mother ever wants to be viewed as selfish. It’s the very antithesis of our ideals of motherhood.
The Call for Self-Nurturing
What moms need more than anything is to feel replenished in deep, nurturing ways. A healthy, nourished mom is the greatest gift a child or family can have. We need to stop treating this as a luxury but instead as a basic necessity. Moms need this type of care far more than flowers, breakfast in bed, or a coupon book for free hugs (although the handmade cards are still pretty adorable).
Moms can reclaim Mother’s Day by creating a new tradition of self-nurturing. Rather than trying to make anyone else happy or impress family and friends with cute, Mother’s Day pics, this holiday can be about moms giving ourselves the thoughtful care we so desperately need. We must give ourselves permission to prioritize our wellness.
To accomplish this, moms and our support systems must value self-care. We need to set aside time for moms to do whatever it takes and ask for whatever is required to be the best version of ourselves. We all know that we have more to give others when we fill our own cups first. The following steps are designed to help moms identify their self-nurturing needs, ask for support, and create a practice that sustains this energy.
Mother’s Day Self-Nurturing Steps:
- Identify what it takes to replenish yourself. This is often the toughest part for moms. Dedicated caretakers are so accustomed to being tuned into everyone else’s needs that they can lose touch with their own needs. It takes a focused practice to look inward and ask yourself a what it would take to feel nurtured. Begin by imagining one full day in service of your own wellness. Imagine what you would do, where you would be during that day to feel rested, replenished, whole. Focus on how you could map your day based on factors that are in your control right now. We cannot set expectations based on uncontrollable factors, like the children all getting along or keeping the house perfectly clean or perfectly sunny weather. Instead, we can focus on making realistic choices to deeply care for ourselves. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- How does my body, mind, and heart feel right now?
- What helps my body feel relaxed?
- What can I do to fuel my energy needs?
- How do I like to be shown love and appreciation?
- Do I want to be alone or with others to feel replenished?
- Who would I want to spend time with?
- What helps me feel my best?
- When do I feel most at ease?
- Where do I feel most myself?
- How much time do I need to feel really rested?
- What do I need from the people in my life to support this?
- What could I do less of so I can feel more energized?
- What would I tell someone I love to do in order to feel well?
2. Communicate to your family how you want to celebrate a nurturing Mother’s Day. Every mom needs a community of support. Speaking your needs can feel both unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It feels vulnerable to ask others to step up for us, especially to support our self-care. We risk hearing that others can’t or won’t accommodate us. This is why it’s important to focus your self-care needs on the factors you can control right now. The act of asking for support is part of meaningful self-care. It’s a sign that we value and prioritize our own wellness as well as the wellness of everyone else in the family. It’s beneficial for children to grow up knowing that moms have needs and see examples of asking for support. It’s healthy for children to practice caring for mom too. Don’t wait for your partner or children to just know what you want. No one will read your mind effectively. Take the time to speak your needs so your family has an opportunity to understand and care for you.
3. Celebrate at a time that works for you. Mother’s Day itself may already be full of kid activities or family parties that don’t meet your self-nurturing needs. Or maybe the people you want to celebrate with aren’t available that day. If you aren’t able to fulfill your needs for celebrating and nourishing yourself on Mother’s Day itself, then choose a separate date for your own events. Knowing that you have a special day protected for your own self-care time will reduce the pressure on Mother’s Day itself to fulfill all these needs.
4. Repeat regularly. A well nurtured mother requires regular practice of this type of self-care. Plan how you will refill your cup regularly. Create time for yourself like this each season, each month, each week, each day. We don’t have to accept the small sips of self-care that leave us feeling burned out, parched. Plan how you will continue to drink deeply from a well of self-nurturing. You deserve this for your own health and wellness as well as the health of your children and family.
Written by Suzanne J. Smith, Ph.D. for Lakefront Psychology Blog. If you are interested in more original articles about mental health, wellness, perinatal mood, relationships, or parenting, please subscribe to the blog using the button below. If you are interested in scheduling a consultation for an appointment with Dr. Smith, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.