With the start of the new year I, along with everyone else, set goals for myself. This year something that is especially important to me is self care. I often find as a mother and a wife that I put myself last. Usually my family, my work and about everything else comes first. That’s why this year I really want to put an emphasis on doing things for myself and taking care of myself. I reached out to my friend Cassidy Freitas, a licensed marriage and family therapist, who practices in San Diego, CA to discuss this subject. Cassidy specialties include: anxiety and depression, illness adjustment, life transitions, loss, couple/relational issues, child life/parenting, and perinatal mental health. Read below for her brilliant and insightful essay regarding a mother’s relationship with self care.
Self-Care and the Millennial Mother
by Cassidy Freitas
I was recently having a discussion with my grandmother and mother about mothering. My grandmother was a huge part of my childhood as we were lucky enough to grow up down the street from her. As a child I never experienced either of them being spread too thin, but, were they? Did they ever find time for personal projects and self-care amidst child-rearing? My grandmother was a homemaker and my mother an attorney turned judge, so I felt that they could give me a broad perspective from their own experiences. We discussed how the social context of motherhood has evolved over the decades. My grandmother shared that she wished she had been encouraged to pursue more education and a career, but that she looked back fondly on her years at home with young children. While she did not recall the difficult times as well as the good, she did recall a lack of self-care and self-attention during those child-rearing years. I was shocked to hear my mom talk about how spread thin she felt during those earlier years, she had hid it so well. We then talked about the privileges and pressures of millennial mothering that comes with having information at your fingertips. I think our generation can easily suffer from a case of acute information overload, leading to stress, anxiety, and even disconnection. With the filtered squares of modern social media we can easily fall into the trap of doing more, being more, and expecting more. Within this context, it’s hard to see where self-care fits in.
While our society takes steps toward gender equality in education and the workforce, mothers are navigating the choices of how to divide their attention, time, and energy. On the topic of gender, if a man is asked to add something to his plate but he deems that he is too busy, he is likely to say no. If a woman is in the same position and asked to add one more thing to her plate, she is more likely to say yes. What often falls to the wayside is self-care, self-compassion, or just simple unscheduled space to refresh. In my private practice I will often ask my clients to take stock of their self-care activities. I’ve especially seen mothers have a difficult time naming the things that they do for themselves. I’ll pose the question, “how do you fill your own cup?” The “cup” is what I would consider your source of energy, joy, and compassion. What we often see is that they are filling everyone else’s cups while their own runs on empty. I’m amazed at the capacity of these women, to run so efficiently on fumes. Once we acknowledge how incredible their capacity is, but also unsustainable, we work to identify how they might begin to fill their cups.
While we begin the work of attuning to her needs, I like to explore her range of introversion and extroversion. Is she an introvert who needs alone time? An extrovert who needs to be around others? Following that assessment, we can begin to identify specific activities that will bring energy to her life. The point is to not just fill her schedule with even more things to do. Sometimes self-care looks like a scheduled massage, a pottery class, a child-less date with her partner, but sometimes it looks like a free afternoon. When choosing commitments in any area of life, I like to remind my clients (and myself) that saying yes to something is inevitably saying no to something else. Every time we want to say “yes,” we have to ask ourselves, am I willing to say no to that other thing? An overly scheduled week is a huge culprit when it comes to a lack of self-care. The New Year brings a fresh start, a metaphorical reset button. In 2017 I encourage you to explore what energizes you, to clear space in your schedule, and to discover ways to fill your cup. Like the air steward reminds us every flight we take, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
In 2016 I welcomed my second son, adding to my other already wild and crazy 2.5 year old. My husband also started a new career in medical device sales where he is on call 24/7 and I am on my own quite a bit. Our family all lives in Northern California and comes down as much as they can to help, which is amazing, but it’s hard without the help. Add that to owning and running my own business and I’m one busy gal! I’ve noticed how little of time I give to myself and really wanted to focus a few of my 2017 goals on self care. So many days go by where I’m so focused on meeting the needs of my family, which is obviously my first priority, but let’s face it – even the dog comes before me! That’s why this year I’m really going to make an effort to focus more time on me and my needs, because I know it will make for a happier home. I’m not going to try anything crazy, as I realize that’s completely unrealistic. Let’s be honest, I’m not going to get that much time to myself! But my goals for this next year are to do small things that I really love. The list includes reading more books, going running more and to spend more time with my girlfriends. All things that I did prior to being a mom regularly. These may sound small and silly, but they are good medicine for this mama’s soul and I’m really hoping to make them happen!
First of all, I’m glad my friend and partner Jacquelyn asked me to talk about my goals for self care, because if she didn’t, sadly I most likely wouldn’t have been aware of them. My family and I are in what you would call survival mode haha! With 2 babies at home and a 4 year old going on 14 it’s a challenge everyday to take time out do things for anyone else let alone myself. What I’ve noticed so far is that when I talk to people about my life situation they have this surprised look on their face, which always turns into a comment like “whoa, you have your hands full”. And believe me I do, but I don’t want to look at it like that, it’s almost negative to me. I see it as a precious time that I was given that I need to be present for, a time that I don’t get back and when I’m frustrated I like to take a step back and think about how lucky I am to have such a crazy little life with my babies and husband. This time will come and go and from what I’ve heard they are the golden years, the best years of being a parent. With that said, I do believe that taking time out for myself to “re fuel” is a necessity for happy and healthy family all around, especially since mothers are usually the family managers. It’s like what my husband always says…happy wife, happy life haha! It’s so true. How am I going to do that this year? The big one for me is starting to pencil in my “me” time so it actually happens. Whether it’s going to get a facial, nails done, massage, getting in a good kick butt workout, or time with just the gals, time to myself with no kiddos is always a good little break. Spending more time with my husband, just the two of us is also a top priority of mine. It’s embarrassing to say how many times we went on dates last year, so again penciling in that time is necessary too!
Hope we have inspired you all to take more time for yourself and to set goals for self care in 2017!!