Moms, Are You Feeling Selfish About Self-Care?
by Dr. Candice Williams
This story is part of our MYND x RUNGRL Mental Health Series
Juggling mommy duties while pursuing your passions can feel like you're burning the candle at both ends. With such limited time available in a day, as a mother, it can sometimes feel “selfish” to prioritize your own health and wellness. We know that mommy burnout is real, so “reclaiming your time” (hey, Auntie Maxine) is a necessary part of maintaining optimal wellness and raising healthier children.
But how is that possible? Adopting a positive mindset for self-care can help you develop a practical approach towards mastering the art of putting yourself first without feeling selfish or guilty for doing so.
Why Moms Feel Guilty
Many mothers struggle with the concept of putting self first. This is not surprising, as Ashley Eder, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. noted in a 2018 article on PsychCentral, “We are surrounded by overt and covert messages that encourage us to minimize our own needs and feel guilty when we engage in self-care.”
This guilt can be triggered by the stigma associated with sacrificing time away from their children, causing some mothers to develop an unrealistic goal of operating as a "supermom" and instead of as a "healthy mom".
These feelings are amplified even more for Black mothers, whose parenting is both scrutinized and political. As Dani McClain pointed out in a recent article for The Nation, “We need a...reminder to ourselves and each other that we are not who the wider world too often tells us we are: criminal, disposable, lazy, undeserving of health or peace or laughter...Black women have had to inhabit a different understanding of motherhood in order to navigate American life.”
In addition, The Root notes that “the very act of parenting while Black can take a toll on mental health,” since Black parents must balance the additional weight of educating their children about the world’s biases and worrying about their wellbeing on top of traditional parenting duties.
With so many things to worry about, it’s not surprising that something as simple as self-care can lead to internalized guilt or feelings of shame.
Being a Mindful Mom
Adopting a positive mindset around "me time" can help mothers embrace a more mindful approach to prioritizing their own needs. To be mindful is to be fully present and aware in every moment. As a mom, it can be difficult to practice being “present in the moment” when you have so much to manage.
Still, paying attention to your own needs apart from your duties as a mother shouldn't feel like a selfish act. In addition, modeling self-care for your children is crucial because it teaches them the importance of taking care of their health, helps them to regulate their emotions, fosters self-awareness, increases their independence and helps them to feel empowered about taking care of themselves.
Need some ideas on where to begin your mommy self-care routine? Try these mindful mommy tips.
Mindful Moves for Moms
Rise, retreat and affirm. Before starting each day, take a breath and practice being kind to yourself. Recognize your strengths and practice acts of kindness towards yourself throughout the day.
Focus on the process, not the outcome. Mastering self-care is a process and doesn't happen overnight. Be patient. View each situation as a learning experience for you and a teachable moment for your child(ren).
Plan ahead. So many things can arise that can potentially impact your ability to prioritize self-care. Recognize those barriers early on and develop a plan to work around them. Self-care doesn't happen unless you make time for it.
Take a mental Mom-cation. Set aside time (even if it’s only 10 minutes) to participate in a guided meditation and relax. Allow your mind to focus on things YOU desire outside the needs of your family. It's okay to daydream about taking a vacation (or even a trip to Target) without your kids.
Mind your emotions. Listen to your emotions and how they impact your interactions and relationships with others, including your family. Try not to allow negative thoughts to fester. The more in touch you are with yourself, the better you will be at recognizing emotional changes in your children.
Make mindfulness a priority for you and your children. Empower your children to lead a self-care activity, either on their own or as a family. Making self-care a family routine helps foster togetherness and accountability while emphasizing the importance of being a healthy family.
Self-care for moms is both non-negotiable and necessary. Develop a plan to prioritize your health and well-being. This won’t take away from your responsibilities of being a mother, but will instead enhance them. Being a mindful mom helps you to focus on the time spent rather than the time lost when it comes to caring for yourself and your family.
If you are struggling with “mom guilt” or feeling overwhelmed, it's okay to seek support from family, friends, fellow moms or a mental health professional. You don't have to go it alone. Seeking help is a commendable first step towards honoring your health and well-being.
There is no need to feel selfish about self-care when putting yourself first.
Follow Dr. Candice Williams’ journey and tips on Instagram @myndmentalhealth.
Candice Williams, PhD, NCC, LPC
Dr. Candice Williams is a Texas native living in Washington D.C. and specializing in both clinical and trauma counseling. Dr. Williams has over ten years of clinical experience across various treatment settings with adolescents and adults. Her work is centered around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and includes a strength-based approach to helping clients understand how their thoughts impact their feelings and thoughts. Insightful, competent and highly experienced, Dr. Williams has helped hundreds of clients towards their desired personal and professional goals with her private counseling organization, MYND Mental Health + Wellness Group, LLC.