Mother’s Day can be a tough day for many people.
It can be a tough day for those of us who especially have come to appreciate our mom and no longer have her, struggling to cope with what’s called the “anniversary effect.” It can even be tough for those who are stressing trying to find the “perfect” gift that shows how much they care or those who find family time difficult. Most of all, it can often be tough for moms despite the purpose.
Mother’s Day brings to light just how much moms really do in life. It forces everyone to stop and recognize all the things moms do on a daily basis that many children, significant others, and family members often take for granted. Even with it being “their day,” moms typically don’t stop working and still put their focus on the needs of others. While noble, this can lead to burnout, exhaustion, and depression.
Moms are incredibly powerful people. But that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. They often feel like they aren’t doing enough even when they go above and beyond, which can become a vicious, draining cycle.
Moms are so well known for taking care of everyone and not having time for themselves that it has pretty much become a running joke that everyone laughs off. But self-care is no laughing matter and the most important aspect of good mental health. Moms need care and love just as much as anyone else. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.
Mothers around the world face different challenges, but some common global concerns include guilt over not spending enough time with kids, feeling overwhelmed, and frustration at being the “default parent.”
So then, how can moms better take care of themselves?
The perspective we are assuming is part of the problem. Historically, the expectation has been that mothers are not only responsible to take care of us, but they are also responsible to take care of themselves, too. This cultural belief has resulted in women being expected to be full-time parents, home managers, maybe spouses, and for most, employed as well. Taking care of themselves is at the bottom of their to-do list.
It’s important to remember that a family is not one person, that’s why responsibilities should be shared and each family member should participate in helping to take care of each other. It lessens individual struggles and strengthens bonds.
How do we make taking care of our moms a priority?
That switch would definitely be a game-changer. Perspective is everything. Caring for another is the purest act of love we can give. This is what motherhood is all about. So, making our moms our priority means living with the belief that she matters to you and you want her to feel how much you believe in her, too. It means keeping in mind that every action you make impacts another person, especially your mom because she is the one person who makes sure you are loved and cared for every single moment.
We have to show our moms we are thinking of her, not just say we are with a card and flowers. That does take a change in perspective.
What are examples we could do to show her we have had a change in perspective?
Caring can easily be a gift that we can “keep on giving” our moms while not spending a dime.
- Make a daily “I love you” call to her. Nothing says we are thinking of someone more than a moment of our time to inquire how someone is feeling today.
- Clean up after family meals. Letting Mom know you will be attending to the dirty dishes and the kitchen that evening before she gets up says you have been thinking of her. It is a gift she will treasure.
- Give her brief shoulder rubs or foot massages. Physical touch has so many neurological benefits, like relaxation and destressing, as well as the addition of your gift of time and effort.
- Plan and cook a meal or two each week, so that when Mom comes into her home, the smell of supper will warm her heart.
- Sometimes it’s hard to say what you mean out loud and writing your thoughts down over a few days helps get it all out. Simply write a letter — handwritten. Tell mom how much you love her. Include reflections on special memories you share together, what she means to you, etc. She will treasure it.
- Take the children out for a play date to the park so she can have a long nap or a bit of quiet time. Working moms are constantly in motion, physically and mentally. A bit of downtime is a genuine gift of peace.
So, if we take a few minutes to help her out, then our moms can get a much-needed break.
What would real self-care look like for those mothers who get these much-needed breaks?
It is so important for women who have been taught to take care of others before themselves to allow themselves to receive gifts from the people they are supposed to be taking care of. Sometimes the hardest perspective to change is accepting another person’s care when years and generations of training go against it.
It is also important for women to stand up for themselves. Mothers can really take care of themselves by asking for their needs to be as equally valuable to the needs of others in their lives. It is saying “I matter, too.”
So, real self-care is in changing our perspectives. We can care for our moms as much as they care for us, and moms can feel as loved and valued as we feel because of their actions. This does not sound so easy.
The simplest changes are not always easy. Beliefs and behaviors we have learned over generations take very intentional effort to change. Oftentimes these changes impact our lives in so many ways and affect so many people that change by one person will mean others will be challenged to change, too. Professional guidance may be a valuable tool for the whole family.
What else should you know about mom self-care and support for Mother’s Day and beyond?
Watch this video of family and marriage therapist Susan Harrington, founder of Maison Vie New Orleans, discuss tips on how to balance motherhood, self-care, and family support. You can also contact us to see how we can help guide you and your family through counseling sessions.