Before becoming a mother, I didn’t realize how much time I spent doing things that filled my cup.
It wasn’t until after having children that I learned how much I needed to intentionally schedule time to take care of myself. I didn’t realize how important it was to be responsible for filling my cup and taking care of my needs. And although it was challenging to create a schedule that complimented the new demands of motherhood while still tending to my heart, I’ve learned to not allow my self-care to be negotiable.
Although my educational background is in mental health, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the devastating blow of postpartum mood disorder to bring you to your lowest and to the realization that you have to be responsible for filling your cup. Not just for my sake, but also for the welfare and goodness of those who matter the most to me. Thankfully, and honestly, I can say I’m much healthier, stronge, and more whole than I was before experiencing postpartum mood disorder. I’m also more fierce and unrelenting about self-care. You can’t have a life-changing experience like that and come out as the person you once were if you yield to the healing process.
That’s why I can say with such conviction how important self-care is to your well being. It’s about growth—it’s about becoming a better person. It used to be something I took for granted, especially before children. And then, after having children, self-care became something that was placed on the back burner—I thought I could do just fine without it. I allowed everyone else’s needs and wants to come before my own.
I was delusional enough to believe that this is what a good mother does. I thought, “This is the badge of motherhood, so I just have to deal with it.” I was being the martyr of my family, but no one was winning in that scenario. And though the kids were happy and my marriage was strong, I was miserable and my family wasn’t getting the best of me. I wasn’t even getting the best of me.
I wasn’t giving my best to anyone or anything, and that had to change. That change meant digging deep in my faith, taking a hard and honest look at how I was taking care of myself, deciding to be honest about what I want, setting the plans to accomplish what I want, and then having the courage to walk it out.
I’ll never forget sitting in my car, alone, with tear-filled eyes and a heavy, depleted heart, asking myself, “What do you want?” It took courage and strength to be honest with myself and give the answers that were true to me. In doing that, I discovered more about myself and have learned so much about this journey of being our best self—a daily, heavy heaping of self-care.
This process of learning and committing to caring for yourself is fluid and requires constant adjustments and flexibility, but what makes it work is honesty, boundaries, consistency, love and support.
I want to ask you: Are you feeling maxed out? Overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities of being a wife, mother and/or business owner? Are you burdened by the pressure to have it all together, all the time, for everyone? Do you want to feel better than you feel today? Do you want to have more mental clarity, peace, and confidence in your life?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then I have to be real with you. The solution to all of this is simple. It’s just not easy.
Now, before you roll your eyes or close out this article, let me explain what I mean by self-care.
Self-care is a holistic approach of exploring, engaging and embracing your spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, relational and vocational needs as a person. Simply put, self-care means understanding the complexity of who you are and taking responsibility for meeting your needs in the best and healthiest way possible. Self-care isn’t the responsibility of anyone else but you. You have to commit to it and guard it like you would do your newborn baby. But I know you’re wondering, “How do you make time for all of this self-care?”
As a wife, mother, and business owner, the idea of taking care of yourself before anything else seems like a fairy tale for many hardworking moms. We wonder, “How do we make time for all of the responsibilities of the many different roles we navigate in just a single day?”
That somehow being a supermom is the same as being a good mom. That somehow struggling to find time for yourself will win you a trophy.
But no one is handing out trophies for the most exhausted, maxed out, irritable mom of the year. If you’re not prioritizing self-care, then your children will not look back at their childhood and be thankful that you never took time for yourself or took great care of yourself. And you won’t look back at how you’re taking care of yourself and be proud of how you neglected yourself so much for the sake of others.
Now, I get it. You should put the needs of your family as a priority in your life. And when they’re newborns and can’t do a single thing for themselves, yes, you will put in extra-long, exhausting hours. But that is a short season. The goal is to still prioritize your self-care above all else. You come first, then others.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
You can’t give what you don’t have.
If you’re not giving yourself care, then how can you truly and fully give care to others?
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that self-care is non-negotiable, let’s explore a few reasons why you may not be prioritizing it. And then let’s explore how to make self-care a priority in your life, starting today.
It’s hard to care about something that you don’t feel is worth the time and energy. That’s like asking you to prepare dinner for a family of four, while telling you that they’re not coming over to eat it. You should still prepare it, because it seems like the nice thing to do. No. You wouldn’t do that. In fact, you’d probably look at the person making the request with a confused and angry look on your face.
You might feel the same right now as I’m asking you to take care of yourself because you don’t feel like you’re worth the effort.
Maybe you’re not feeling good about yourself and you’re being critical of your every move, so it’s no wonder you don’t want to spend time with yourself. You barely know or even like the person you know. So how do we deal with this? First, you have to challenge your thoughts with deeper questions to realize just how faulty they are. If you feel like you’re not worth the effort, get specific about it. What about you isn’t worth it?
(Hint: All of you matters and is worth it, but you need to believe that.)
Then go deeper. For example, if you decide that you’re not worth the effort because you feel like you’re not that interesting, challenge that with more questions such as: what makes something interesting? And who are you comparing yourself to that seems to be more interesting? Why are you comparing your story to another person’s story?
(Comparison eats away at your confidence because it either leaves you feeling better than or less than someone, either way isn’t healthy.) What’s your story?
The more questions you ask yourself, the sooner you will see how deciding that you’re not worth it is a choice that you can change. You can choose to see yourself more positively and worthy of the effort. It’s your choice.
So instead of saying you’re not worth it, make a list of 10 things that you wish someone would notice about you that make you feel special. Also, make a list of 10 things you would say to your 16-year-old self if she were to say she’s not worth it. What would you tell her? Now, share these lists with a trusted friend and ask them to help you add more things to it, because sometimes friends see things in us that we can’t see.
I addressed this one above, but I’ll add a couple things to it here.
When you disregard your responsibilities that you have to others in an effort to pursue your wants, then that can be selfish. But when you place your needs above others so you can be a better person for yourself and for others, that’s responsible and thoughtful.
There may be times that your kids will cry because they don’t want you to go or your spouse may not understand why you need 15 minutes of meditation every morning, but that’s okay. Do the self-care anyway.
Everyone will not understand what you need and they may not know how to honor boundaries around what you need, right away. Be patient with yourself and others as you navigate this space, but also be clear, honest, and open in your communication so people know and understand your boundaries. You’ll be better for it and so will they.
What’s important is to prioritize self-care within the season of life you’re in. That may mean getting up earlier than you’d like so you have time to read and journal in the morning. That may mean spending less time watching TV so you can have time to go to therapy and work on some of your heart issues. It may mean making some adjustments in your life that may feel uncomfortable right away, but the growth that results will be worth it.
This is a common one. I hear a lot of my clients say something along these lines. This is why it’s important we ask ourselves questions and get to know who we are as a person.
When something hurts you or something makes you happy, ask yourself why.
The more we study and investigate who we are, what we like/dislike, and learn what we need, the better we can care for ourselves.
To help you get started with this, here are a few questions I want you to ask yourself to better understand what fills you up:
As you think about what fills you up, the next step would be to make a schedule to do more of these things.
You should also consider doing at least a couple things every day that fill you up, because remember—self-care is a daily commitment.
Imagine trying to fill a cup that has holes in it. As you focus on self-care, it’s also important to be mindful of the things that drain you so you can learn how to either shift your perspective about them, remove them from your life or learn a better way to deal with them.
Either way, if you’re attempting to fill a cup that’s full of holes, you’ll only find yourself more frustrated than before.
So, I want to hear from you. What are some of the reasons you put self-care on the back burner? What do you plan to do today to take better care of yourself?
Monique Melton is a business coach, relationship expert, published author of the book EntrepreFriendships, a motivational speaker and diversity advocate. She supports weddings and event planning professionals in building profitable and purposeful businesses while maintaining healthy relationships. She’s the creator of SWEET Brands, which is a business development system to strategically support business owners in building more profitable and sustainable businesses. She travels the country speaking at conferences and events on topics related to business & relationships. She’s been published in magazines, featured in blogs and podcasts and has touched the lives and businesses of people all over the world. She is a natural big-bold dreamer and a deeply rooted woman of faith. She is a proud Navy wife and loving mother to two little ones. She has a BA in social science with an emphasis in sociology and psychology and two years of graduate school education in clinical counseling from Johns Hopkins University. She believes it’s not all about your comfort, but it’s about your growth. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
Access our free Members-Only Portal + get exclusive stories delivered weekly