Me Time and Mommy Guilt

Moms come in all different shapes, sizes, personalities, and temperaments, but one thing I have found universal among moms is our ability to feel guilty… about nearly anything and sometimes everything.

Thinking about what makes a great parent, I came up with a handful of broad categories in no particular order. Each of our interpretations of the trait may be different, but I think we could all agree that those are enviable traits, no?

  1. Engaged
  2. Patient
  3. Providing
  4. Loving
  5. Supportive
  6. Approachable

My problem is that I have a hard time being any of these when I’m frazzled. I didn’t admit it in the Busy Badge of Honor post, but I totally snapped on my family in the car on our quick errand. Littles wasn’t the only one who wanted to cry… me too! Maybe I’m a complete psycho, but I don’t really think I’m alone in being short when I’m stressed.

I became acquainted with the term “self care” on a therapist’s couch while suffering from postpartum depression that made me want to sleep my life away and gave me anxiety that kept me from leaving the house. How the hell did she think self care would help fix my problems? Seriously, could taking a bubble bath or reading my book actually change things? Did she not understand that I had an infant and two year-old who demanded… everything? Oh, she did.

The therapist probably has some sort of scientific evidence around how self care helps depression suffers (and plenty of other people, for that matter.) All I know is that once I started making time for self care and practicing the act, it was like an elixir that made things a little bit better. Then it started building on itself.  Maybe it is that I acknowledged that I was still an important person, even though most of my time was spent caring for two needy individuals. Perhaps it helped me relax and relieve stress. Whatever it was, it restored my energy.

You know what I need energy for? That list of enviable traits of great parents. I’m incapable of patience when I’m burned out. Approachable? Forget it. So we have arrived at the chicken and the egg dilemma. Which comes first self care or being a great parent? Honestly, I don’t think you can have one without the other.

Now, somehow, society has told moms (especially) that they are being selfish if they take time for themselves. We could debate whether other mothers or some other group are the biggest transgressors of this lie. You know the mom… you confess how exhausted you are and could really use an hour to yourself and she responds with:

a. “What did you expect? It’s your job to take care of your kid(s).”
b. “I just love being with my kid(s) and can’t imagine being away from him/her/them.”
c. “I don’t know what I would even do with time to myself.”

If you don’t feel up to throat punching the woman who says these things, give me a jingle and I’ll have your back. Now we all are screaming some response to each of these in our heads. I may or may not have vomited a little in my mouth just thinking about the experiences of hearing each. Nevertheless, let’s stop perpetuating the guilt.

When a friend tells me about a trip to the spa to recharge or fill in the blank with any self care activity, I’m sometimes guilty of thinking, “It must be nice…” but those words never escape my mouth. Instead some form of “It’s great that you are taking care of yourself” is conveyed. This may be a completely selfish act, because if I can tell a friend that she is doing the right thing by practicing self care, I can tell myself the same thing.

I’ve heard the safety speech on airplanes hundreds of times. “If oxygen masks come down, please put your own mask on before helping someone else.” Self care is an oxygen mask in life. Oddly with self care and oxygen masks, you can’t always see the oxygen coming in, but you can feel the effects of it being there.  Let’s proudly put them on together. I’m here today to encourage you to take care of yourself. (Heck, I’m encouraging myself!) Not only does it help you be a better parent, but I think it is good role modeling to our kids. Not everything is about them, right?

Tonight after I get my kids to bed and essential household chores completed, I’m going to spend 30 minutes reading my book. That is my usual act of self care. I would love to hear in comments what you have done or will do today to take care of yourself.

2 thoughts on “Me Time and Mommy Guilt

  1. My doctor used the oxygen mask analogy whilst talking to me about the necessity of looking after myself last winter – it wasn’t the first time a health care professional had mentioned it to me either. It has taken me a few years of motherhood to fully realise the truth behind the cliché – if you don’t look after yourself everything else pretty much falls apart. So, in fact, I conclude, you are being a better parent, a better partner and a better colleague if you make taking care of yourself a priority.

    You know what? I’m going to go have myself a snooze right now!


    • I hope you enjoyed your snooze! Putting the oxygen mask on first is important and something we should encourage each other in. Looking forward to reading more of your blog. I think there is something special about people named Ruth. 🙂


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