Parenthood has changed you in a number of ways. The things that used to cause you stress, anxiety and heartbreak may all seem a bit trivial now. The things that you thought you wanted seem much less important. Your goals have changed. You have changed.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, parenthood rewires your brain, altering your neurochemistry to make you the perfect protector for the tiny, vulnerable little life in your arms. And while you love every minute of being a parent, you know that it’s a life of sacrifice, putting yourself second and sometimes going without. After all, that’s how our parents did it, and that’s the only way to do parenting right…right?!
Of course, nobody’s arguing that parents shouldn’t make sacrifices. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you have committed yourself to a life of drudgery and self-sacrifice. You deserve to be happy, have work / life balance, and spend a little time outside the prism of motherhood to define yourself on your own terms in social and professional contexts. When you’re on a plane that hits serious turbulence, there’s a reason why they insist that adults affix their own oxygen masks before helping children with theirs. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you simply can’t be the best parent that you can be. If you don’t make time for you, you may find that anger, frustration and resentment start to build up. Taking care of your kids means taking care of yourself!
Take time to eat properly
You’re a smart woman. You know how important nutrition is to your kids’ development, which is why you always try to take time to prepare delicious, nutritious meals for them. But if you typically eat in bites and turn to the break room vending machine when you get hungry at work, you need to start taking your own advice.
When you rely too heavily on processed sugary, fatty and salty foods, it can affect your body in a number of ways. None of them are conducive to good parenting. Firstly, it can cause your energy levels to spike and then take a nosedive, making you potentially sluggish and cranky throughout the day. The calorie to nutrient ratios in these types pf foods are likely to leave you feeling bloated and generally yucky. Perhaps most alarmingly, eating lots of processed food triggers the body’s inflammation response which is exacerbated if you’re stressed. Inflammation is a perfectly natural response to injury and sickness, but when we eat processed food regularly we can make inflammation worse and worse which increases our risk of a range of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer. So make sure you take your nutrition just as seriously as you do for your children!
Look after your vision and hearing
Being a good Mom means being forever vigilant against threats to your child’s health and safety, from frightened dogs to steep steps to their own curiosity that can put them in harm’s way. If you can’t see and hear what your children are doing, you’re not going to be able to protect them as well as you’d like, which means you need to take good care of your optical and auditory health.
Not only does it make you better able to protect your kids if you can see well and hear properly, it can also ensure that you have a healthier, happier relationship with them. When you don’t take care of your eyesight with corrective lenses it can lead to eye strain fatigue and headaches. Which can make you feel groggy and cranky when you should be sharp and alert. Moreover, your hearing is the key to good communication with your friends and family. When people have an undiagnosed hearing problem, it can cause communications with loved ones to become frustrating and difficult.
It can also make them become more socially withdrawn because it gets difficult to discern people’s voices from background chatter in a restaurant, bar or cafe, and social conversations in public places can become exhausting and stressful. As a result, it can make you become more socially withdrawn, and that’s really damaging for your wellbeing. Which brings us to…
Make time for your friends and family
Even the strongest mom needs to rely on her support network every now and then. She needs the chance to relax in the company of her friends, family and work colleagues to help her feel as though she has a life of her own outside of motherhood. Whether you parent alone or with a partner, you need to have someone who can pick up the slack every now and then and allow you to have something resembling a normal adult social life. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also enjoy a moment of quiet solitude and contemplation whether that’s catching a movie by yourself, going for a long walk in the park (an outstanding mood booster when you’re feeling down), or simply having a nice long soak in the tub.
Stop trying to take on the whole home in your own!
Most moms insist on a home that’s clean, tidy, welcoming and relaxing. Indeed, many of us simply can’t relax at home when we see that there’s mess that needs cleaning, clutter that needs to be tidied or anything out of place. While you may be a tidy Tilly by nature, that doesn’t mean that you should have to take on the whole home by yourself. Even if you’re a single parent, you can expect your little ones to help out with the chores now and then, even if they’re very young. This sets a precedent that will endure into adulthood. Helping out around the home also builds character and encourages discipline.
You’re amazing! Please look after yourself and be the parent your kids need you to be!
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
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