I still remember the first MOPS (Mother’s of Preschoolers) meeting I ever attended 5 years ago. The vulnerable feeling of walking into a room full of moms, only casually knowing a couple of them. The concern my child would cry in the nursery and I’d have to go get him. The small talk at my table and trying to feel out the ladies I was sitting with.
Then there was the speaker. There was one line of the story she told that stuck with me so much I still think about it now, years later. She shared how one day when she was in the bathroom all her kids were lined up outside the door shouting questions to her through the door, and then she overheard her husband tell the kids “Mom is a person too and needs a few minutes alone.” Freeze frame.
“Mom is a person too?!?”
Apparently I had been spending so much time focusing on the needs of the tiny people I was raising I had forgotten I was a person, too. Those were the words I so desperately needed to hear. Words telling me it was ok to take a few minutes to myself from time to time. Words reassuring me that desperately needing some alone time wasn’t selfish, didn’t mean I was a bad mom, and didn’t mean I didn’t love my kids. Those were the words that brought me to tears, knowing somewhere under my outer shell of “mom” I proudly wore, Shannon was still in there.
I am a mom, and in this season with littles that is the role I most proclaim and identify with, but I am also still a person–a daughter, friend, wife, follower of Jesus, food lover, reader, planner, and more. All of me is still here, even if parts seem buried under diaper changes, dark eye circles from not sleeping, breasts leaking at inopportune times, and hair that hasn’t been washed in a week.
When you ride on a plane a sharply dressed stewardess teaches everyone how to use their seat belt and oxygen mask. In that demonstration is usually the statement “In the event of an emergency one should put on their own oxygen mask first, before helping those around them.” Reason being, if you try to help others and then end up passing out you are no longer any good for anyone.
This scenario is the same in motherhood. If we don’t care for ourselves and meet our basic needs to ensure we are healthy, we will be of no assistance to the tiny humans we are raising. When we neglect ourselves we end up tired, frazzled, impatient and sometimes resentful.
The first step is to realize what the speaker at MOPS said that day: “Mom is a person, too” and to acknowledge our own needs. Think about what fills your tank and empties it, then make the time and space to do things that fill you. Be intentional. Put it on your calendar.
Recently, when talking to the moms at my MOPS table, I realized that zero of the 10 moms at my table regularly shut or lock the door just for a few minutes to use the bathroom. We all claimed to have children wandering in and out even during those few private moments we needed in a day. Our mentor mom was horrified at this. She said in her generation moms had always shut and locked the doors when they went to the bathroom, and you know what, their kids all lived and turned out fine despite having to fend for themselves for a few minutes each day! Huh!
All of this has shown me that if I don’t first respect myself as a person and acknowledge my needs, my children never will. Not only is it healthy for me to do so for myself, but it is the foundation for building respect and boundaries with my children, teaching them they can’t always have everything they want from me at the exact moment they want it. These are good life skills they need to learn, and the younger the age they learn them, the better.
Here are a few simple ideas of ways you can care for yourself each day, mama, and be a healthier version of you as you also care for the needs of your kids.
Get enough sleep. This isn’t always possible with young ones, especially ones that get up throughout the night, but do what you can to get into bed at a reasonable time so you can have as much rest as possible.
Nourish yourself physically. Drink plenty of water. Eat 3 meals a day, sitting at a table, not just eating the leftovers on your kids plates while you stand at the counter.
Do something that fills you everyday, even if just for a few minutes. Make a list of what types of activities fill your tank, then make intentional time for these things. This could be exercise, talking to a friend, prayer, reading, time outdoors, getting up early to have a few minutes of quiet before the kids get up, yoga, journaling, or whatever works for you.
Shut the bathroom door and lock it while you are in there. Apparently, our kids will survive and be just fine even if we were unavailable to them for a few minutes at a time each day. Do yourself a favor and avoid the chaos and frustration of tiny visitors during your bathroom visits and lock the door.
Mommin’ ain’t easy, and we all have some basic needs we need met so we can be our best selves for our little loves. Take the time you need, mama, and don’t feel one bit guilty about it.