We’ve all heard about how important self-care is, so why is it that stay at home moms don’t practice self-care? Actually, a lot of the self-care notions out there are doing women a disservice. All of those articles you’ve read on self-care aren’t necessarily wrong, but they didn’t get it completely right either. Part of the story is missing, and they set moms up to feel like they are failing because of the unrealistic expectations around self-care. I’m here to tell you we need to rethink what self-care actually looks like, and acknowledge the unrealistic expectations that prevent stay at home moms from practicing self-care.
We’ve all felt mom guilt, in all its insidious varieties and nuances. Society places a lot of expectations and lofty ideals on moms, with special ones just for us stay at home moms. And society got a few things mixed up over the years, leaving moms with a bunch of unrealistic expectations ingrained upon us.
The Selfless Mom
“Your grandmother never complained. She was kind and always so giving of herself,” I heard my mom say once again. But this time the underlying message landed on me differently. The faint whispers of the selfless mom ideal washed over me, and I recognized them as the unrealistic message being passed down through generations of my family’s stay at home moms. A good mom is selfless and receives high praise for sacrificing herself.
On the surface, being selfless seems like a good quality, but underneath it slowly chips away at the very core of moms. There is a difference between being generous and being selfless.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary literally defines selfless as “having no concern for self.” What would it be like to live a life with no concern for yourself? If you’re like me, it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination. I’ve lived it, and I felt absolutely miserable.
As a stay at home mom, I sacrificed so much for others that I felt hollow. My life was about everyone else’s wants and needs. Everyday I focused only on what I “should” do, what I “have to” do, and what I “need” to do. My concerns weren’t being valued by me or my family.
Everyone in a family deserves to have their wants and needs heard and be cared for, including me as mom.
Selfless Versus Selfish
If you are not selfless, are you, by default, selfish then? No. You can be generous with your partner and children, without sacrificing yourself completely.
You can be generous with yourself, without sacrificing your partner and your children. Your goal should be self-supporting, meaning you are able to support your own basic needs.
Think of it in terms of your children. You want them to be kind, but not pushovers. You want them to be mindful of others, but also stand up for themselves. The goal is for them to become self-sufficient. Don’t you want these same things for yourself?
One simple change I made was regarding family decision making. Let’s say my family wanted to watch television together. We’d throw out suggestions. Since it was always difficult to get my children to agree on a show or a movie to watch, I would just watch anything, even if I really didn’t want to watch it. I’d sacrifice what I wanted, or maybe more importantly, what I didn’t want.
Although the change was small, I began by simply saying which shows I did want to watch and which ones I didn’t want to watch. I let myself voice my wants, and my family noticed that I did that. My voice was heard.
Self-care is including yourself in caring for the individuals in your family as human beings with feelings, wants, and a life of their own. Sometimes someone may need more attention and care, including you.
I glared at the list of self-care ideas on my screen: make time to exercise, eat healthier, and get more sleep. I didn’t feel better after searching for self-care ideas online. Instead, I felt worse. Why? Because I knew I “should” be doing these things to take care of myself, and I wasn’t doing them.
So naturally in the next instant, I started blaming myself for not taking better care of myself and feeling guilty about it. I also threw in a heap of shame for good measure, my unhealthy weight and diet, and my tendency to stay up later than I should. It’s my own fault I don’t feel good. I only have myself to blame. Or do I? Like so many other stay at home moms, why wasn’t I practicing self-care?
What are all the things that our society pressures moms into believing? Right at the top of that long list is that “we can do all things!” We are women living in an amazing time period where moms can work full-time outside the home, part time, from home, or stay at home. We can be a perfect employee and a perfect mom! The perfect mom has it all and has it all together!
True, we have so much more freedom and choices than the women that came before us. But we also get the back breaking pressure that moms can do it all! And if we don’t do it all perfectly, there is something wrong with us. We just aren’t good enough.
Guess what?! There is nothing wrong with you. Let me say that again! This is important. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! We live in a world where women, especially moms, have unrealistic pressures and expectations put on us daily.
Awareness and Choices
It is up to moms to step back and recognize these unrealistic beliefs for what they are, impossible and unattainable. Only when we do that, are we able to decide what is important to us and choose to live our life the way we want.
In order for moms to get the self-care they need, we need to be aware of the expectations that push us to sacrifice ourselves and lead to perfectionist thinking and mom guilt. Unrealistic expectations, selflessness, and mom guilt will trip us up as we try to take better care of ourselves. Being aware of these stumbling blocks will help stay at home moms take simple steps to practice self-care and avoid mom burnout.
Helping Stay at Home Moms Practice Self-Care
You are not alone, mom, I am here to help you. If you are unsure of where to start, take the self assessment (LINK), and get some strategies that you can start implementing today to feel better and overcome expectations.