Think about your kids. I doubt you would dream of looking a child in the eye and saying any of these things to them:
“You’re such an idiot!”
“Seriously, you messed up again?”
“She probably said yes just to be nice, but she doesn’t really want to be your friend.”
“You should be able to do more.”
And yet, we sometimes allow traitorous thoughts like these to creep into our own self-talk. It’s so easy to get down on ourselves, especially as moms whose job is never done and who are often pushed to our emotional and physical limits. However, we’re better moms, more loving wives, and happier individuals when we remember to treat ourselves gently.
Here are a few reminders of how to be kind to yourself:
Have realistic expectations
I can’t do everything. And nobody really expects me to…except when I expect it of myself. I have so many ideas of things I want to do in life. I want to be an expert photographer, pianist, quilter, writer, traveler, chef, decorator, and super awesome mom. But even if I stopped sleeping altogether (which isn’t a good idea), I will not be able to do all of those things.
As much as I hate to admit it, I am realizing that I will notaccomplish everything I want to do in life…or even everything I want to do today. And that’s okay. Once I accepted that just using my non-existent super powers to do everything wasn’t an option, I was able to step back and set priorities for what really matters most to me.
Ask yourself what is essential to your life right now. What needs to be done? Be honest about the difference between needand want.I need to feed my children, but I don’t need to make an amazing meal every day. Some days, I’ll make a really good meal because I enjoy cooking, but other days it’s okay to have grilled cheese and sliced apples.
Realistic expectations doesn’t mean LOW expectations. You can still push yourself to grow and develop new skills, but be honest about what you need, what you want, and how much time and energy you have to dedicate to the things you allow into your life.
Set aside time to refuel
When I first became a mom, I got completely burnt out trying to keep up with caring for a baby, cleaning a house, doing projects, paying bills, cooking meals, and so on. As soon as I’d put my baby down for a nap, I’d rush around frantically trying to get as many “productive” things done as I could before he woke up again. And then, I’d be exhausted when he did wake up, and I felt awful for not being a “good” mom.
After a while of this, and several unsuccessful attempts on my husband’s part to get me to relax, I realized that I was destroying myself. I could not function if I always ran myself at top speed. So I set myself a schedule. At the time, my son was taking two naps, so I set aside morning naps as “productive” time (since I still had energy) and I made afternoon naps “me” time. Doing this had two main benefits: I was actually more productive in the morning because I knew I had the afternoon break to look forward to, and I enjoyed the afternoon break without guilt because that’s what the time was for.
Now I have two boys who both (thankfully) take one afternoon nap, so I generally set aside the first 20-30 minutes for cleaning, and then I allow myself to have some “me” time. I am such a happier mom when my boys wake up if I take some time while they are refueling to refuel myself.
Communicate your needs
I have an amazing husband. However, he stinks at mind-reading (I hear this is a common problem). He will bend over backwards for me…when he knows what will make me happy. I think we often feel like we can’t ask for help because we’ll be considered “needy,” or we just want our husbands to know intuitively what we need (again…realistic expectations people…not just for ourselves), but the kindthing to do is to communicate clearly.
I know that I am a much better mom if I have at least a little bit of time in the morning to get ready and mentally prepare for the day. When I communicated this to my husband, we worked out a way so that I could have 20-30 minutes to shower and get ready in the mornings before he left for work. It makes such a huge difference in my day! There are still days when this doesn’t happen, and I just do the best I can on those days. But for the most part, I can count on a little time to myself-to just be me-before I take on the day as “the mom.” And it never would have happened if I hadn’t communicated the need.
Allow for mistakes
I tend to obsess about mistakes I make…times I lost my patience with my kids, times I got too wrapped up in a project and didn’t give my kids the attention they needed, times that I inwardly complained that my husband had to work late. But, rather than beating myself up, I’m learning to accept my imperfections, try to improve, and move on.
You don’t have to be a perfect mother…just a loving one.
When my kids make a mistake, sometimes I’m frustrated, but I try to use those opportunities to help them learn that they can improve. When they fail, and they know that they did, I’m never mad, because I can see their own disappointment. They don’t need a judge in those moments. They need a cheerleader. So I’m trying to apply the same kindness to myself. When I’ve recognized a mistake, in some ways I consider it a success…at least I knowI need to improve, and now I can work toward it.
Make peace with yourself
My plea is that we stop making war with ourselves-that we stop fighting with ourselves and feeling like failures because we’re not perfect. Instead, let’s treat ourselves the way we try to treat those we love…with love, with forgiveness, and with kindness.
This article was originally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.