I was recently interviewed by a maternal health consultant about my postpartum experience and what it was like to return to work after having my daughter three years ago. We talked about practical things like the importance of parental leave, but we also discussed many of the same things the moms in the the Nurse-Family Partnership program are currently working on when they set goals in the Goal Mama App we’re currently piloting. One thing kept coming up – the importance of self care.
Care? I’ve got that down. Care for everyone else that is. I have child care lined up so I can go work 40+ hour a week. I have a fully-stocked fridge to ensure that my family eats well-balanced meals. Our house is clean and the laundry is folded (most days). Skinned knees are cleaned, bandaged, and kissed. My daughter’s hair is combed and ponytailed. She’s signed up for camp and ballet class. She’s loved, fed, and tucked into bed. All of the boxes are checked. And some nights I crawl in bed with an overwhelming feeling that I’ve failed. That I didn’t spend enough time with her, that my patience waned too thin, that we didn’t get to the zoo over the weekend, that I missed some big moment. Whatever it is, it’s certainly a self-inflicted feeling of failure most likely brought upon myself because I rarely take the time to take care of myself.
There is a self care prompt on the Goal Mama Mom Community, a feature built into the app, that says, “We need to take good care of ourselves so we can care for others. Do you have some self-care activities planned for this week?” I know it’s important to take care of myself. I’m the first one to tell my mom friends to take a break, and offer to pitch in so they can actually make that a reality. And because I’m the last one to do it for myself, I’m taking a little inspiration from the moms in the Nurse-Family Partnership program and working on cultivating my own self-care routine.
When setting a goal, making one that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) is going to help me achieve it better, so I’m going to start small. Using the Goal Mama mom community as inspiration, I see some pretty great goals in there related to self-care. For instance, one mom is going to take a hot bath and listen to music. That sounds nice. Another is going to take a break to talk with friends and also set aside time at night when her baby is sleeping to watch TV. Those seem totally manageable. There are certainly more ambitious goals that moms are talking about in the community. One talks about how she just made an appointment with a therapist to talk about the stressors about being a new mom and to learn some coping mechanisms to handle it better. Seeing that post on there is pretty powerful. It makes me think of the national survey Hopelab co-sponsored with the Well Being Trust that pointed out the power of teens and young adults seeing health stories from their peers. 61% of those surveyed reported having gone online to have read, watched, or listened to another person share their health experience.1
It’s really helpful to hear what other moms are doing to care for themselves. For me, it was helpful to choose an easily attainable goal, like take a hot bath one day a week as a self-care goal for myself. I think having just thirty minutes to myself will be really rejuvenating. If I can start small and stick to that, I can work up to self-care that actually means taking better care of myself. That might mean integrating meditation into my life or reading a book that will help me shift my thinking; I’m not sure yet. It’s so easy to get lost in loads of laundry and meal planning, caring for your family and little ones. My needs often get put on the back burner and that’s why I’m sure a lot of moms go to bed feeling empty, maybe even in tears some nights. If anything, that’s not the example we want to set for our children. When children are tired and run down we tell them to slow down and rest, so why wouldn’t we do the same for ourselves? Self-care is a SMART goal we can all get behind. Thanks to the moms in our Goal Mama study for helping to inspire me.
1.Hopelab/Well Being Trust Teens and Young Adults Survey, February- March 2018. N=1,337 young people ages 14-22.