Mothers have martyred themselves in their children’s names since the beginning of time. We have lived as if she who disappears the most, loves the most. We have been conditioned to prove our love by slowly ceasing to exist.
- Glennon Doyle, ‘Untamed’
As mothers, we have been told that we absolutely HAVE to incorporate self care during this year of stress and anxiety, but at the same time we have been conditioned to believe that it is indulgent and narcissistic.
What exactly does it even mean to practice self care?
If you Google or go to Pinterest to search for self care, you will likely see the same 5 tips in each and every blog post or article - Meditate, Yoga, Exercise, Journaling and Sleep.
Nothing on that list really calls out to me personally - which got me thinking, shouldn’t self care really be about finding what works for you and makes you feel serene and centered?
The actual definition from the Oxford Dictionary is:
‘the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress’
Now THAT is more like it! To take an ACTIVE role in YOUR well being and happiness. You don’t like meditation - who needs it? The key is to get in tune with your body, your limits and to literally find what makes YOU feel good.
Let’s explore some ideas together.
When I was a little girl, I remember my mom in constant motion. She sat down only mid afternoon to drink a coffee, but she was cleaning, cooking, driving, gardening and just moving all day long. And she complained every single day about being exhausted.
I can recall times when she had thrown out her back and yet was still vacuuming and mopping the house. Now, I am very much my mother’s daughter and when my family began to grow I too would spend every free moment ‘getting sh** done’.
But, I was driving myself insane. I would freak if my curious toddlers took out their toys. Milk spilled in the kitchen would send me into meltdown and I would take these normal motherhood moments as a personal attack on my time and effort.
After overreacting to one of these little domestic disasters I had a long look in the mirror. I was putting my welfare - and sanity - behind some arbitrary ideal that only I cared about!
I came up with a plan - each day I would have a house cleaning task, one day it would be the bathroom, one day vacuuming and so on. No task should ever take more than 30 minutes. If I didn’t get around to it, no big deal, I would get to it next week.
I refused to clean if I had free time. I forced myself to take time for myself in the bits and pieces of my day that were suddenly freed up - I’d read, cook or take a walk - or even binge Modern Family on Netflix. Anything I wanted to do - within reason obviously with 3 littles you can only do so much. But the point is that I stopped putting the small stuff ahead of ME.
When my son was a baby and I went back to work we had a nanny. She teased me sometimes because she noticed that I was not big on ironing - my sons clothes, while not a disaster, were not perfect.
Embarrassed, I decided to become a super woman. Working at my spa where I spent all day giving massages and facials on my feet, pregnant with my second and running after my one year old I was shamed into ironing EVERYTHING. Little baby clothes, sheets, everything.
Until I realized I did not care, my son certainly did not care, and given that anything I put on him was filthy in 5 minutes my heart would break just a little bit every time he made a mess.
I calculated the time I was wasting and the stress I was putting myself under to realize someone ELSE’S ideals and it put things into perspective.
I do not iron. I do not do a lot of different household chores. I rarely volunteer to help with school functions and I do not get coffee with someone unless I truly want to spend time with them.
I have become extremely protective of my time and it has made me so much happier.
Don’t Try for Perfection, Find Balance
I love cooking for my kids. Having lived in Italy for 10 years and spending every Sunday at lunch with my mother in law, I learned the Italian ways of cooking from scratch. Using wholesome, natural ingredients to make pasta sauces that simmer for a couple of hours is always a wonderful habit. And yes, I DO try to keep the tradition alive.
That being said, my freezer is always stocked with chicken nuggets and french fries. I have a selection of ready made jarred sauces always on hand.
It’s about balance, sometimes the evening just calls for nuggets and fries (or surviving on coffee and prosecco some days)… and that is perfectly fine!
I was very fortunate when my kids were born that I was able to nurse them exclusively for the first 6 months of their lives. There must have been something in that American milk because their growth was absolutely off the charts.
I can recall each and every follow up pediatric visit the same theme - the doctor would ask me how things were going, if the baby was eating enough blah blah - and then they’d weigh the baby.
Staring at the scale they’d look back at the last weight, laugh a little, and then weigh again. The doctor would usually call the assistant, they’d giggle and then weigh AGAIN until they’d confirm that the baby was growing well. Every single time!
At my first son’s 5 month check up, the same scene at the pediatrician. She then looked at me and asked what he was eating, basically accusing me of giving him sugary treats and fattening him up. I explained that I believed in nursing ‘on request’ - basically any time my son was fussy I would nurse him. And frankly he was the most relaxed baby on the planet but that’s another story.
Back to the pediatrician, she told me my baby was obese (he wasn’t) and that he was eating too much. I kind of laughed and asked if I should let my baby cry and not nurse him because of a fear that at 5 months he was too fat. I was shocked when she flatly replied ‘Yes.’
Obviously I ignored her advice. When I tell this story people are shocked and furious. I have to say, hand to God, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to trust my instincts and to realize that NO ONE knew my child like I did. No doctor, no grandmother, no well meaning neighbor knew what MY kid needed like I did.
Just like NO ONE can possibly know what is right for YOU. You just have to learn to trust yourself. It is so important that you, mamma, learn what helps you through difficult days. That you learn what keeps you present and happy.
You are the light of your family, if you aren’t happy, everything goes wrong. It’s important to experiment and try different things - you might roll your eyes at journaling but who knows, it might just be the key to your serenity.
What Does Any Of This Have to Do With Skincare??
Prioritizing yourself, establishing boundaries and balance all while trusting yourself are also vitally important to your skincare routine.
Feeling beautiful FOR YOURSELF can have a dramatic effect on your self-esteem and even your day to day mood. Carving out 2-3 minutes every morning and evening is all you need to be the very best version of you.
If you have not always made your skincare routine a priority, it will feel like a bit of work at the beginning. But rather than focus on that, focus on how great you feel afterwards. How your skin is soft and hydrated. Think about how good it feels to take care of yourself. And then it will become such a routine part of your day, like brushing your teeth, that it will become automatic...promise!
Keep things simple. Boundaries, balance and trusting yourself are critical to creating a skincare routine that will be easy to maintain and that you will enjoy. As a busy mom you probably won’t have time for masks or complicated treatments, regardless of what your aesthetician tells you you SHOULD be doing.
All you need to start with is a good cleanser - it should leave your skin feeling soft and fresh. If your skin feels dry or even greasy after using, try something else. The next fundamental step is to find a moisturizer that makes you feel wonderful - you should love the texture, the smell, the way it makes you feel.
And the final component of any skincare routine is an exfoliant, like my Clean Beauty Swiss Skin Polishes. Developed to be fast and easy to use, your skin will be glowing after the first use. By exfoliating regularly all of your skincare products will work better and your skin will be healthier and brighter.
Mamma, You Got This!
This year has SUCKED. Big time.
The silver lining however, is that it has shone a spotlight on just how critical it is to take care of ourselves and to perform self care with more regularity.
You can’t pour from an empty cup mamma, and this year you have had to pour A LOT!
You need to know what works for you. Don’t get caught up in doing self care right - there is no right or wrong, only what makes you feel good right now. What feels good today might not work tomorrow and that’s actually great, it just reminds us that we are constantly growing and changing.
The important thing is that you stay in tune with yourself and don’t ever give up. It’s never too late to make yourself a priority and to protect your well-being and happiness.
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