Photo credit: @positivelypresent
CSP Team Note: We recently talked to Dr. Warren Overbey, an OB/GYN at Greater Carolinas Women’s Center, about the importance of self-care. This is such an important topic for all of us as we focus on our children and sometimes forget to focus on ourselves. A big thank you to Dr. Overbey for taking the time for this interview.
As moms, we usually put ourselves last. How do we break this cycle?
As adults, we’re often taught to do for everybody else before taking care of ourselves. While this may be very polite and socially acceptable, it can become dysfunctional if taken to an extreme. I recommend that we all strive for balance rather than an idealized version of what we think we should be doing. For example, a good line of communication with your partner to discuss the balance of household duties and childcare can help you have a little time for yourself. You may also need to communicate this to other family members, such as your older children.
And remember to be resilient. If your schedule gets disrupted one day by external events, don’t get frustrated and give up – just go back to the plan once the problem has been addressed.
How can we lessen the guilt of putting ourselves first?
Realize that there’s a “sweet spot” of stress, meaning a little stress can make a person focus and be very efficient, but too much stress can make a person feel overwhelmed. Also realize that having a “martyr complex” is a falsehood, as you’ll get nothing for continuously depriving yourself; in fact, it can make you much less effective. In other words, to be a good parent it’s important that you take care of yourself, too.
All of us deserve some basic self-care beyond the essentials of life. Guilt is just a projection of what we think we “should” be doing, so ask yourself who’s putting that “should” in your mind anyway! Take a little time for yourself each day. Even a 10-minute walk can make a huge difference in your stress levels.
What are some tips for finding balance between work, family, and ourselves?
I recommend being sure that each member of the family participates in a few activities on their own, but that they’re limited so the family can function in a healthy way.
I see too many parents who think that if they don’t have their children signed up for every possible activity, they’re failing the kids. If your child is old enough, limit their activities by letting them decide which activities they’ll do. This takes away some of the stress from the parents, who will then have a little more time for each other and as individuals. It’ll also teach your child about decision-making and sticking to a plan once they’ve decided. You can help your younger children choose their activities, but be sure to still keep them limited.
Also, carpools and playgroups are great solutions; they let moms and dads share responsibility and free up the other parents. And expect your children, when they’re old enough, to help with simple chores around the house.
How do you think the images of false perfection on social media affect moms?
Social media can be a wonderful thing, but it can project only what people want you to see. The snapshot of their life may only appear perfect. No one has everything under control – that’s not realistic. We don’t see the day-to-day reality – the disrupted sleep, a dirty house with a sick child, a partner away on a business trip, and a project due at work – on social media.
The biggest trap is to accept what you see on social media as reality and compare yourself to it. None of us could ever measure up to this false standard – release yourself from comparison and see how liberating it is!
How do I know when I’ve reached my breaking point and need to seek help?
If you feel chronically unhappy with your life, don’t care about things, cry all the time, overeat, or just feel like giving up, you may have reached your breaking point. Other signs include losing joy for things that used to make you happy, not sleeping well when you have the chance, becoming short-tempered, or allowing your relationship with your partner to suffer.
All those things are signs that you’ve reached your breaking point. The first person to talk to is your partner or another adult family member for immediate help, and then follow up with a counselor.
What are some local resources for finding help?
Resources include your doctor or provider, as well as support groups like Mecklenburg Psychological Association, The Stone Center, and Charlotte Parenting Solutions. There are others, but those are all good places to start, as well as local psychologists and psychiatrists.