Relationships

Mothers: Treat yourself like the star you are

Special to The TribuneMay 7, 2013 

MCT ILLUSTRATION

Everyone will be honoring Mom this Sunday. Pancakes and coffee will be delivered to her bedside. Cards will arrive from grown kids out of town.

Today she’s the star. But during the rest of the year, she’s the chief caretaker. She tends newborns in the middle of the night. She kisses skinned knees and drives the carpool. She sends birthday gifts and condolence cards. She’s the person everyone turns to when they’re in need of emotional support.

Mom’s duties extend far beyond her offspring. Hubby requires time and attention. Elderly parents need assistance if they’re ill or it's to the vet. And you can bet it’ll be Mom behind the wheel.

It doesn’t matter whether a woman is employed or at home full-time. Her caretaking duties don’t stop if she earns a paycheck.

Fortunately, most women love caring for their families. They consider the health and happiness of their husbands and children to be priority No. 1.

Some even go so far as saying, “My family is my hobby. Caring for them is what I do. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

But such undying devotion comes at a cost. Giving to others is a physical and emotional drain. Even when women adore the activity, they can still experience burnout.

It’s easy to detect the symptoms. Moms get angry and frustrated. They say and do things they quickly regret. They feel tired. They’re overwhelmed. All the joy’s gone out of their lives. Mothers then feel guilty that they’ve reached their maximum. They feel inadequate because they can’t give any more. The standards they’ve set for themselves are unrealistic. Still, they berate themselves for falling short.

They also equate self-care with being selfish. Time devoted to pleasure is perceived as excessive. They’re bad and thoughtless if they care for themselves. They should be doing things for others 24/7.

The truth is that self-care is essential for busy mothers. The only way you can keep giving is by routinely refilling your own psychological tank. Sure, it’s important to care for the family. It’s equally important to take care of you.

SELF-CARE SUGGESTIONS

• Modify your expectations. If you’re chronically stressed, you’re trying to do too much. Only do what you can comfortably manage. Don’t worry that others accomplish more than you do. Your own limits are what matter.

• Manage your family’s schedule. Kids don’t have to be in every activity. And they don’t need to start classes while still in diapers. Allow ample time for relaxation and self-entertainment. Calm is much better than pressured.

• Keep household chores in perspective. It’s good to keep your home in order. But spotless is unrealistic and adds unnecessary stress. Think “good enough” when it comes to housework. No one is going to judge.

• Say no to your children and family. They don’t need everything they ask for. Decipher what they want from what you can give them. It’s an important lesson for them to learn.

• Don’t overdo for your kids. Yes, you love them to pieces. But make them perform chores as they are able. For instance, teens should do their laundry. Grade-schoolers can feed and clean up after pets.

• Combine chores and self-care. Take a walk during your son’s karate class. Read your Kindle while your daughter has tutoring. You’ll get a few moments to yourself in the middle of a busy day.

• Exercise. Exercise gets your heart pumping and makes you feel good about yourself. Find time for 30 minutes most days of the week. You’ll be a great example for your kids.

• Find time for friends. Play bunko once a month. Join a new-moms group. Their energy and camaraderie will boost your spirits and morale.

• Have some fun. Take a class at the rec center. Shop garage sales with your neighbor. You’ll return refreshed and happy, ready to face your brood.

• Put your feet up. Got a break in the middle of the day? Take a 10-minute breather. The chores can wait for you to unwind.

• Pamper yourself. Get your nails done. Have a massage. You take care of everyone else. It’s time to return the favor. Happy Mother’s Day.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

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