Newsflash! It's official. The greatest challenge for moms among SO many challenges is to make, find, and prioritize the time and means to care for herself.
And, turns out the greatest hurdles in this challenge are 1) being convinced that self-care is a real thing, 2) understanding what self-care actually is and 3) understanding why it's so very, very imperative.
Marriage therapist and bestselling author Esther Perel explained that one’s spouse cannot satisfy your every need. It's impossible for your spouse to fulfill the role of confidante, partner, breadwinner, therapist, and best friend simultaneously. This burden is too overwhelming for any one person to carry. Since it is not your spouse’s job to make you happy, whose job is it? Well, only you can make yourself happy.
That's right moms! We made ourselves happy before we got married, and guess what? That doesn't change. I know you were taught to believe that since you found your soul-mate and prince charming, he would now make you happy for the rest of your life. The truth of the matter is that your once-expertness at making yourself happy is what attracted him to you in the first place. Keep discovering and doing the things that make you happy, and he will not be able to resist your attractive pull. He will be ready to add to that bucket of your happiness and fill it to overflowing!
When we learn to care for ourselves, we remove tremendous pressure from our spouse and our children, and internalizing this concept is the first step resulting in a peaceful relationship and home. You see, moms, your happiness sets the tone for your marital relationship, which in turn sets the tone for your home and family.
So, is self-care a real thing? The term "self-care" might bring to mind a day at the spa, the salon, or getting a massage. While these things certainly could qualify for your self-care, the real self-care entails actions and experiences you have every day, without notable stress on your budget or your precious time. True self-care is simple, calming, warming and delighting.
It is important to start by considering what is fun, what makes you happy, what brings you peace, joy or contentment? And then creatively incorporating these little gems into your daily routine (3 each day!). Include other mom friends, incorporate play dates or exchange watching the kids so you both can practice self-care.
Start today by making a list. It may be challenging to come up with even a few items or experiences at first. Persist. Keep thinking about your interests, your talents, your leisure and add to your growing list. What will fill your cup? Once we become a mother, we can spend sunup to sundown just taking care of the needs of our kids and spouse. We tell ourselves certain things are our responsibility to do and stoically take on all we imagine is expected of us. Real or imagined, these expectations begin to boil up a familiar recipe- resentment. Yes, self-care is a real thing, and it is the extremely necessary antidote to the intimacy killer- resentment.
Since true self-care is simple, calming, warming and delighting, let's look at some real life examples. One mother I know enjoys walking with a friend. Another enjoys having a morning devotional. One likes to sit with the sunshine on her face for a few minutes while she dreams of vacations she wants to take, then takes a minute to write down her dreams. One mother likes to sit down and play a song on the piano. Baking a new recipe brings a smile to another mom. A warm bath is a favorite for one mother. One enjoys taking a few extra minutes to enjoy the feeling of the brush through her hair. Another of my mom-friends likes to watercolor or sketch. One likes to write in her journal. Your self-care list can be as simple as enjoying a warm cup of coffee while listening to a favorite podcast, or as delighting as lathering up in your favorite lotion. Start making your list. Start planning and dreaming!
Picking three of these self-care items to do each day must become a priority for every mother. Why? Because we cannot give what we do not have. We must approach each day with a full and brimming cup. Because we are mothers, the very definition of which is to sacrifice and bleed out our very life to provide life to another. We must approach this privilege of caring for the young and nurturing the growing generation with a full cup and truly joyful and happy countenance and soul. All we have to give is ourselves, so we must make and replenish ourselves in order to give this precious gift.
This principle continues into our marriages, but in a much different way. In our marriage relationship, we are not the givers (as we are with our children), but rather the receivers. We do ourselves and our spouse a huge favor by filling our own cup daily, getting to know and always considering what makes us happy, considering often our desires and wants, making ourselves happy, then receiving from him the overflowing. Because, you see, your husband cannot create happiness, but when he sees it already existent in you, he can easily add to it. Part of this dreaming and considering what makes you happy is learning to express to him often what you want and love and desire. And then staying open to receive these things as he is able to provide them for you. Self-care is the catalyst to you coming to know what you want and what makes you happy, and thus to your spouse (through your expressions of these desires) knowing what you want so he can make you happy.
You see, moms, your happiness is the guiding star for your marriage and for your entire family. They get the priceless gift of watching you be creative, relax, have fun and find joy in life's simple pleasures. They get to participate alongside you. This is the most powerful lesson they can take with them throughout their life!
And wives, your happiness is the measure of your husband's success in his eyes. Being able to overflow your bucket of happiness gives him the precious gift of a high self-esteem and makes him feel that he is successful in your relationship. His one desire is to make you happy. But again, he cannot create your happiness, only add to it. In order to do so, he needs to know what you want. He cannot hear complaining- a complaint from your lips falls on deaf ears! He can hear your true desires. What would you love to do? What would you love to experience? You can only come to know the answers to these questions as you consider your own self-care. As you dream, create and enjoy experiences, you will know what you want, what makes you happy. Then, and only then, can you express these desires and dreams and hopes to your man. And- then, and only then, can you receive his efforts to provide them.