As a mom of two kids under age 5, I know how hard it can be to take care of yourself on a regular basis. And I don’t mean taking a shower or brushing your teeth. I mean something I call “self-care” — practicing self-nurturing and self-development. It may seem like the only people who engage in these practices are single people who are unaffected by the stresses of modern parenthood. But what about modern moms? Why is it so outrageous for us to be engaged in regular self-care practices?
It’s a mindset issue. With the pressure on to parent more meticulously than ever before, a mom’s success is often judged by how much she does for her kids: how many activities, how many nutritious meals, how well they are doing in their development. And once a mom addresses these bars for success, usually the expectation and message is … give just a bit more. Give it all away, and you are doing something right. WRONG.
In our type-A Silicon Valley culture, taking time for yourself is cast as a luxury, but, in fact, it is necessary in order to remain healthy within our fast-paced way of life. The thought that a mom’s need for nurturance and development might come before her child’s often does not seem appropriate. But the more a mom cares for herself and continues her own development, the better she will parent because her efforts will not come from a place of worry and exhaustion.
Here are five ideas for moms to implement to help them feel more cared for, grounded and committed to their own development and nurturance.
1. Regular Exercise and Healthy Nutrition
So many moms have told me that they just don’t exercise anymore. They don’t have time. I understand that and know how hard they work to make the pieces fit together each day. But leaving out exercise is a recipe for diseases and a shorter life expectancy. We all want to watch our kids grow and to know and participate in our grandkids’ lives. So we have to take care of ourselves, and exercise is the most important element of a self-care program!
And our area has many excellent exercise offerings that include childcare options. For example, the YMCA of Silicon Valley offers a family membership that includes free childcare, and the Oshman Family JCC, in Palo Alto, is offers childcare to members at $6/hour for children older than 1. The facilities are state-of-the-art, and it has an amazing kid’s pool.
You don’t have to spend money on a membership to exercise regularly, though. Combining a walk or run with a few situps and pushups at least three times a week works, too. After your cardio, do a couple sets of pushups, situps, squats, lunges and planks before jumping in the shower; this will give you a great overall workout—all for free! There are also many excellent free workout videos online.
If you are exercising yet still find yourself battling other issues, such as sugar cravings or other poor eating habits, you might want to consider seeing a health coach who can guide you in making a plan to eat in a more healthful way.
Kristen Kancler is a holistic nutrition coach, emotional eating expert and natural foods chef based in Los Altos who works with people one-on-one and in groups. She also offers a free recipe e-book of recipes at her site.
2. Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga
Mindfulness has become much more common in our culture over the past few decades, thanks to the work of people like John Kabat-Zinn and research at the Compassion Center at Stanford, among many other important forces.
Ten minutes of mindfulness meditation per day can make a big difference during challenging moments—as well as increase your overall sense of well- being, groundedness and self-acceptance. Locally, you can get free instruction at the Insight Mindfulness Meditation Center in Redwood City
Yoga is an effective method of slowing down the mind and opening up the body to prepare for meditation. There are countless local yoga options, including a wonderful Mind, Body and Spirit group just for moms at the JCC. There are also many excellent yoga DVDs.
The idea behind a listening partnership is that all parents need to offload their feelings, stress, past experiences, and so on, with another caring parent who also needs to release the same tensions. Whatever emotions are clouding the parent from experiencing the present moment and effectively parenting by connection can be removed and processed in a healthy, supportive manner. The conversations that listening partners have with one another are different than simple venting or responding to another parent’s feelings with stories of one’s own feelings and experiences.
4. Gratitude Journal
We become what we most often focus our minds on. With that principle in mind, establishing a gratitude journaling practice creates the environment, momentum and mental states for us to enjoy and appreciate all that we work so hard to build and create.
Each morning, set a timer for 10 minutes, and write about what you are grateful for and how you hope to express that gratitude throughout your day. If you journal at the end of your day, you can write about what happened during the day that you are grateful for.
Do this every day, even for five minutes, and you will be amazed at how different your day is and how much better you feel, as a person and as a mom.
5. Walking in Nature
Spending time in nature is one of the most important ways we can recharge our batteries and reset our minds and spirits to focus on the bigger picture and all that matters most. Teaching kids to enjoy nature is also important. Although heading to the park with the kids is a good practice, what I mean here is taking time to walk and be in nature, at least once a week.
In Palo Alto, Pearson-Arastradero Preserve is a great place for walking, picnicking and enjoying nature. Other good options include Mountain View’s Shoreline and Cupertino’s Stevens Creek County Park.
Kiran Gaind is a life coach for modern parents and the owner of Ray of Light Coaching. Drop her a line any time at Kiran@rayoflightcoaching.com.