The Importance of Self-Care: A Wake-Up Call
Self-care. If you spend any time on Pinterest or Instagram, you know that self-care is the latest buzzword. But let’s be honest, when you’re a busy mom it’s just one more thing to add to the to-do list – and it’s usually at the bottom.
I’ve just been given a wake-up call that has highlighted the importance of making self-care a priority. While I have a lot on my plate – just like we all do – I recognize now that self-care is vitally important, not only for my own health but to ensure that I’m the kind of Mom I want to be.
A few weeks ago I picked up my three-year old, who had hurt himself and was quite upset. Halfway through carrying him up the stairs I immediately knew I had done something to my back.
I wasn’t able to move without excruciating pain. I’ve had minor back pain before, and even some more significant issues in my last pregnancy, but I’ve never experienced back pain so completely debilitating. I couldn’t go from lying down to standing without help, sitting was unbearable, and there was not a chance of me being able to lift any of my kids.
Let me tell you, being unable to move is humbling. I couldn’t care for my children beyond reading to them in my bed, I couldn’t lift or hold my daughter at all, and navigating the 15 feet from my bed to my washroom felt like a marathon. This went on for much longer than I would have expected. I was completely incapacitated for a week, and it was more than two weeks before I was able to lift the baby again.
I’ve learned a few things through this experience. The first is that my husband and my mother are absolute saints. They took over all of the childcare so that I was able to rest and focus on getting better, and have reaffirmed the truth of the statement, “it takes a village.” They did this with absolutely no complaints, and I’m so incredibly grateful to them for helping me through this.
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Second, good health should not be taken for granted. So many of us give barely a passing thought to our own health, putting our bodies through years of abuse or neglect. It’s not until something goes wrong that we recognize the need to make our health a priority.
Third, and relatedly, self-care is SO important. My body has gone through three pregnancies in relatively close succession, which I’m sure has wreaked havoc on my core. My exercise routine during these years has been sporadic at best and non-existent most of the time. It was easy to put off because I was busy, or I justified my neglect because I was just going to be pregnant again soon anyway. Meanwhile, the demands on my body were ever-increasing. As parents, we’re always bending and twisting and contorting our bodies to deal with little ones, often while holding a baby at the same time. Like all of us, when I’m at home I very often have a baby on my hip.
I was surprised that I could injure my back so easily. However, when I look back at how I’ve treated my body, I shouldn’t be. Given what I’ve put my body through, I should be grateful that it’s put up with what it has, and that it’s given me this jarring but relatively gentle wake up call. Obviously, I don’t know if my less-than-stellar physical condition caused me to injure my back, but I’m sure it didn’t help.
I wanted to blog about this because I know I’m not alone in putting myself at the bottom of the priority list. As moms we take care of everybody and everything, but we need to make ourselves a priority too.
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Doing so is the opposite of selfish. Making your physical health, your emotional health, and your mental health a priority not only keeps you healthy, it ensures that you’re able to be there for your family. I’m not much use to my family when I’m unable to move, and I want to do everything I can to make sure I don’t end up in this position again.
I want to be able to keep up with my kids. I want to model an active lifestyle, and teach them – by example – the importance of making their health a priority. None of this is possible if I don’t take care of my self first.
And it’s not just physical health. This time, my physical health was the issue, but it could have just as easily been my mental or emotional health. All are equally important, and self-care must include all of them.
So my takeaway from all of this is that I – and I suspect most moms – NEED to make taking care of myself a priority. I know what that looks like. It’s time for me to stop making excuses and to make time to take care of myself and my health.
I would encourage you to do the same. Carve out time for yourself before there’s an issue – don’t wait for a wake-up call. Yes, we all have a lot on our plates, but our physical, mental, and emotional health are far too important to ignore.