When you are so far down the list of priorities, or your caring responsibilities are incredibly intense, self-care is something that is needed like air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Ironically, for the people who need it more that anyone, it’s often something that feels as achievable as climbing Everest. Much as I love to spread the message that mothers (and I’m focusing on mums because we are often the primary carers) need to get out of the house and put themselves first, I also know that can be a really triggering message to some of you.
Not every mother has the resources to leave their child. They may not a partner to share the emotional and physical load with. They may not have the money to pay alternative childcare. They may have a child so medically fragile, they cannot physically leave them alone and the childcare needed is so specialist that the options for help are severely limited.
Self-care looks very different in these situations and while regular nights out with friends and mini-breaks and date nights and evening classes would be amazing ways to press reset and make you feel whole again, we both know nothing like this is going to happen. So what do you do when time and finances are against you?
Aaaaaaaarrrrgh. This quote. This mentality. THIS is why mothers today are struggling so much. It’s such toxic messaging.
A friend shared this meme the other day and while I recognise myself in it (I’m often the first up and the last to eat breakfast), I also recognise that continually putting myself bottom of the pile is the reason I get overwhelmed, angry, burned out as a mother.
We need to stop doing this. We need to prioritise our needs. We can show our loved ones that we love them in so many ways, including respecting and honouring ourselves. Modelling that we are worthy of eating when we are hungry, having a hot meal, using the loo when we need to.
Otherwise our daughters won’t treat themselves with the respect they deserve. They won’t learn to recognise their needs. They too will buckle under their mental load. Our sons will see us as someone who meets their needs at the expense of their own and expect their partners to do the same. Our partners will carry on letting us shoulder so much of the responsibility of raising a family without even realising the imbalance and the negative effect it can have.
We can change this message. Put yourself first, at least some of the time. Show everyone that your needs are as valid as everyone else’s. It’s a small act with big consequences and your family and your mental health will thank you for it.