Over a year ago, many of us were adapting to an entirely new way of working, parenting and homeschooling.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a tremendous effect on women, working mothers in particular. Managing a career remotely while taking on full-time childcare and schooling responsibilities is difficult enough regardless of the everyday tasks that never went away. According to the Brookings Institution’s Gender Equality Series, one in four working women, 15.5 million, has a child under the age of 14 at home. More than 10 million, or 17%, rely on childcare and schools to keep their children safe while they work. A lack of affordable, high-quality childcare options has long been an issue, but COVID has made these options even more scarce. The stress on mothers has been extraordinary.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner. A day that we honor the people in our lives who have cared for us with a selfless, pure love. Motherhood is often described as putting our children’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own, doing things for our children that we don’t do for ourselves—a way of thinking that is, in my opinion, dangerous and outdated.
We can still be caring, loving, dedicated mothers without putting ourselves last all the time. In fact, I think the more I take care of myself and make time for the things that keep me feeling my best, the better mother I become. I am more present, more patient, more fun.
As a society we are quick to judge ourselves and others. When someone is taking time out for themselves, it is easy to label them as selfish or irresponsible. This is especially true when it comes to mothers. However, setting aside time is especially important when you bear the responsibility of caring for others. Licensed Social Worker and CHD Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic Director Janice Mitchell says “Caring for others, especially our children, requires that we care for ourselves as well. If a person, in this case a mother, cannot demonstrate a commitment to their own self-care and well-being, then how are they to provide their children with the love and nurturing they need? When mothers care for themselves, it is a great example for their children to be exposed to. Lead by example!”
“Caring for others, especially our children, requires that we care for ourselves as well.”
Janice Mitchell, LSW
CHD Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic Director
Here are a few ideas to encourage the moms in our lives to take care of themselves, not just one Sunday in May, but all year long.
- Help them commit to taking at least one weekend getaway with friends each year.
- Offer childcare.
- Get to know someone as they were before becoming a mom. Find out what they’ve given up and encourage them to revisit old hobbies.
- Subscribe to a meal order program.
- Take turns car-pooling kids to extracurricular activities. Insist they use the free time to take a bath or mediate, not to catch up on household chores.
- Splurge on a cleaning service a few times each year.
- Find out what they like and don’t like to do. You may be surprised. Just because mom always tends to the garden doesn’t mean she loves gardening. She may just like the yard to look a certain way and no one else is making it happen!
- Book a massage or a yoga class.
- Dedicate a quiet space at home that is uniquely theirs. This can literally be some extra closet space with some comfy, pretty pillows—a makeshift reading nook. No one is allowed in and no one is allowed access to mom while she’s inside.
- Decide on more ‘Mother’s Days’ throughout the year when you’ll take time to celebrate them like you would each May.
It’s important for the moms out there to take charge of their own self-care. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought, but remember, a good rule for introducing any new routine—start small. It is not about how much money you can spend on yourself, but about setting aside some space and time to regroup.
Mitchell shares the following examples with the people she serves. “If you enjoy chocolate, treat yourself to some and take the time to really savor the treat. Every day, we need to do one thing that makes us happy. Take a solitary walk in the sunshine with nothing to distract you. Buy yourself a new item of clothing that makes you feel good. Get a great book that you have always wanted to read and set aside time to read a little bit every day. The key is developing the great habit of being good to yourself every day and in whatever way you can.”