Like I have mentioned before, I have been a stay-at-home mom for over 7 years. I must stay that the rewards are endless, but for me, the lifestyle of a stay-at-home mom has had some challenging aspects as well. I let a lot of things slide including my personal well-being. I gained weight and chose to spend the majority of my time catering to my son and his activities while neglecting my own. Just as I see all the benefits of choosing not to work outside the home until my son was younger, I am also aware of the the things I didn’t keep in check.
Now I am in the process of doing the things for myself that I had put off for so many years. I am aware that others may be in my same position for various reasons. Some may be taking care of an aging parent, a recuperating spouse, or settling into retirement. All of these things are honorable and good, but one must take care to not neglect oneself. Taking care of yourself takes nothing away from the good that you do for others. I have realized that now that I am working to put myself back in the shape I was in prior to being a wife and mother. I would like to share some of the things I have learned from my past mistakes.
Your health is priority
You would think that your stress level drops dramatically after you quit your 9 to 5. For me it didn’t. Being responsible for another human being can be very stressful. There were so many things I had to plan and to plan around. I didn’t have a scheduled lunch break so oftentimes lunch did not happen for me. It no longer became part of my routine. I made sure that my son was fed and dry and well rested, but I didn’t schedule that same thing for myself. Sometimes I only ate once a day. Usually my meal was fast food eaten in the car while my son was napping in his car seat. I felt that I was being a good mother because I was placing my needs above my son’s. Eventually the pounds started to pile on, my blood pressure began to rise, and when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself.
Maintain a connection to the outside world and also make frequent ventures into it
I didn’t realize how much structure my job outside of home added to my life. I had scheduled meetings, lunches, presentations, and most importantly social interaction with adults. These social interactions were vital to my life. These connections were not only important for my work, but also for me as a person. I did not realize how important they were until I no longer had them. I also didn’t realize that my social skills needed to be exercised. After a while I began to shy away from any social interaction. I stopped going to church, I stopped going out with friends, and I spent most of my time at home. Had I continued to to maintain some form of social interaction I may have been able to keep some of the things in check that I had let go. I could have had the encouragement and fellowship of other people to aid me in that transition.
Accept help when it is offered
I can’t tell you how many times I turned down offers of babysitting just because I felt I didn’t deserve a break. I felt that it would be selfish of me to accept help for something I had quit work to do myself. What I failed to realize is that parenting is work. And just like with any other job breaks are not only deserved, but should be mandatory. If you are a caregiver in any capacity you must give yourself a break. Accept the extended hand that is offered to you. If you aren’t offered help there is nothing wrong with asking for it.
Don’t compare yourself to others
I am still struggling with wondering if I am a good enough mother. My I breastfed my son for 10 months. He began to ween himself I had very little choice in the matter. If it were up to me I would have done it for longer. I was envious of the women who were still nursing their children. I also wondered if my son was involved in enough activities, if I was feeding him the best possible food, if I was capable of providing him with enough intellectual stimulation, etc. Every time another mother mentions something they were doing for their children I would feel bad if I wasn’t doing the same. In reality nothing is perfect an we are not going to do things perfectly right all the time. All we can do is our bests.
It wasn’t until 2 miscarriages and several hospitalizations that I, who had always been very healthy, realized that I was seriously harming myself. The altruistic behavior that I had placed so high on a pedestal was killing me. I could not do my best if I was making myself sick. I am so glad I learned my lesson before it was too late. I would encourage all of us to do the same. There are enough hours in a day to get what you need done. Take full advantage of them, but most importantly, use some of that time for yourself.